Colorado players report to fall camp Tuesday and practice starts tomorrow. Here are the big questions facing the Buffs as they prepare for the 2015 season.
Is defensive cohesion better?
Last year, Colorado bled an atrocious 5.6 yards per run, a full yard more than the next-worst Pac-12 team. The Buffs allowed 30 rushes longer than 20 yards -- only six teams nationally surrendered more.
These ugly statistics are indicative of many things, but one in particular stood out to sports performance director Dave Forman when I spoke to him in March: Colorado players didn't communicate well in the heat of battle last season, and resulting blown assignments opened gaping holes for opposing offenses. To combat this problem, Forman heavily integrated camaraderie-building techniques into the Buffs' offseason condition program, a concerted effort to make Colorado's defense operate synchronously in 2015.
Struggles of last season's magnitude can't be pinned on just one player -- they are symptoms of a system-wide malaise. Camp will be our first chance to see if the Buffs' offseason work has yielded some positive results.
How does team strength compare to last season?
Along the lines of strengthening, it's important to remember that underclassmen composed all but one spot of Colorado's two-deep in the front seven last year. So aside from miscommunication issues, there was a pronounced lack of strength up front outside of Josh Tupou -- who won't be suiting up for the Buffs this year.
But assuming offseason work was productive, the Buffs should possess more overall physical maturity up front in 2015. They return defensive lineman Samson Kafovalu, who took 2014 off for personal reasons but came back 15 pounds stronger for an eye-opening spring session.
Camp is a chance to evaluate Kafovalu and the rest of the crew up front: Though it'll be tough to get a firm gauge on Colorado's team strength until they face an actual opponent, we'll get to conduct an early eye test.
Has Sefo Liufau's arsenal grown?
With a conference-leading 106 catches, Nelson Spruce ran the show last year, and he's expected to be alpha dog again in Boulder. But there's a strong chance that Liufau may have a more developed stable of weapons to throw to outside of Spruce in 2015. Shay Fields returns a year older after a productive freshman season, while Devin Ross can provide another lightning-fast slot threat. Most excitement, though, comes from the 20-pound offseason strengthening of Bryce Bobo, whose 6-foot-3 frame gives Liufau mismatch potential to work with.
Colorado's passing attack looks to have the tools to graduate to the next level, and fall camp will give us a good indication if they're ready to make that kind of jump.