2014 Colorado Spring Football Preview: Buffaloes look to improve run defense

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Buffs hope to build around linebacker Addison Gillam after a fantastic freshman season.

Colorado look to be headed in the right direction after a full year under Mike MacIntyre, but they still have a long, long, long, way to go before they can be a true contender in the Pac-12, and they have a huge number of deficiencies that they need to start addressing this spring if they want to keep improving. Of all of those problems, none probably needs to be addressed more than Colorado's inability to stop opponents' running games, so improving up front on defense will be their biggest issue to address this spring.

The Buffaloes gave up 208 yards rushing per-game in 2013 - far and away the most of any team in the Pac-12 and among the worst in the entire nation. Along with that, they also had the fewest sacks of any Pac-12 team with just 17. So clearly, the Buffs have some serious issues up front on defense, and they lose defensive end Chidera Uzo-Diribe, who led the team in sacks with just four.

It might seem encouraging that the Buffs return five of seven starters in their front seven , but they have that age old curse of struggling programs where experience doesn't necessarily mean much since they are just returning the same players who struggled the previous season. Junior defensive tackles Josh Tupou and Justin Solis are back as starters along with depth guy Tyler Henington. Tupou and Solis have great size as both tip in at 320 and if their development this spring will play a big part in how well the Buffs hold up against the run in 2014.

One the edges, the Buffs lose standout Uzo-Diribe, but he was more of a weapon in pass defense with his pass-rushing skills. Without Uzo-Diribe, the Buffs would really benefit from experienced ends Juda Parker and Samson Kafavalu stepping up their games this spring, but unlike defensive tackle, they have some young talent waiting in the wings that could overtake the more-experienced stalwarts in the spring. Sophomores De'Jon Wilson and Jimmie Gilbert are the kind of athletes that the Buffs hope to continue filling up their roster and could give the Buffs more athleticism in their run defense on the edge up front.

The Buffs have a quickly-proven asset at linebacker in sophomore Addison Gillam, who was one of the Pac-12's leading tacklers in 2013 and looks like he will be the leader of Colorado's defense for a while. The Buffs will actually need to start getting more out of their more-experienced linebackers starting this spring, as seniors Woodson Greer III and Brady Daigh could really improve the Buff's run defense if they can form a solid unit around Gillam and might be the most important key to the Buffs shoring up their run defense.

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