| FTBL BAMA vs Colorado

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University of Colorado Team Preview

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BAMA vs Colorado in the Independence Bowl
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Intro



The Colorado Buffaloes come into the Independence Bowl seemingly experiencing many of the same issues their counterparts the Crimson Tide have experienced this year. While both teams feature identical 6-6 records and even have new head coaches (BAMA's being a little newer than Colorado's however) the biggest issues tend to do with consistency, or a lack thereof. Just like the Crimson Tide, this year's Colorado team has experienced its share of ups and downs that are largely due to having a new coach, a new philosophy, and new players.

Those three ingredients taken together are rarely a blueprint for immediate success. In a whacky season that saw a young Buffs team struggle with and lose games against the likes of Iowa State and Kansas State, while at the same time pulling off the unthinkable by defeating Oklahoma in September, just a week after the then undefeated Sooners dropped 63 on hapless Tulsa.

What does something like this tell the average fan about Colorado? I don't know what it tells you but it gives me the impression that the Buffs are the football equivalent to a "streak shooter". The streak shooter is a guy that can go 0 for the field for most of the game and then suddenly light it up to the point where one wonders if they could miss if they tried. The streak shooter, while possessing limitations and flaws is also the ultimate gambler and the picture of confidence. This makes the streak shooter, or in this case, the Colorado Buffaloes football team, a very dangerous opponent and not one to be taken lightly.

While youth has its limitations it has its advantages as well. The Buffaloes are young and hungry and a win against BAMA in Shreveport will decide whether or not this group of kids finishes the year with momentum (and a winning record) or wondering what might have been.


The Coach


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Coach Dan Hawkins

Coach Dan Hawkins finished his second regular season as head coach at Colorado after having spent five years at Boise State University in Idaho. While Hawkins' coaching record at Colorado is a lackluster 8-16 one must remember that in Hawkins' first season the Buffs went 2-10. To say that Colorado is turning the corner and building a solid program under the Hawkins is probably a bit of an understatement. A win in the Independence Bowl could be the icing on the cake this year for this rebuilding program.

In Hawkins' five years at Boise he compiled a 53-11 record and an impressive 31-game winning streak in both conference play (WAC) and at home. During his tenure Boise shared or won 4 WAC titles. Only four other coaches in Division 1-A football have won more games in their first 5 seasons than Dan Hawkins did at Boise State. Colorado fans are hoping for similar success under Hawkins.

Offense


The offense is young in key positions, but improving. No player better represents the improvement more than quarterback Cody Hawkins. As you may have guessed, Cody is the son of head coach Dan Hawkins. As a redshirt freshmen Hawkins was thrown into the Big 12 fire this season and his improvement over the course of the season was notable. One of the key stats to look at is Hawkins' interception numbers for 2007. During his first 8 games Hawkins was seemingly throwing it more to the other team than to his own as he racked up 14 interceptions. In the last 4 Buffalo games though Hawkins threw just one pick to go along with 6 touchdowns. He finished the season with 19 touchdowns, 15 picks, a completion rate of 56.4% and almost 2,700 yards.

Like BAMA, Colorado also features an offense lead by a couple of solid tailbacks. Senior Hugh Charles gets the majority of the carries but he'll share time with freshman Demetrius Sumler.

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Hugh Charles/CUBuffs.com

Charles is a workhorse tailback who finished the regular season with 989 yards rushing on 185 carries. His 2007 numbers ensured that the senior back would become only the 7th Buffalo player all-time to lead his team in rushing three consecutive seasons. His 2007 game high in yards came against Big 12 foe Kansas State where Charles ran for 171 yards on only 22 attempts. He topped the century mark 6 times during the 2007 season.

Spelling Charles will be freshman Demetrius Sumler. The young running back didn't put up the numbers (only 351 yards and 4 scores) that his teammate Charles did, but he does appear to be the heir-apparent at the position. While playing his high school ball in San Diego, Sumler was considered by Rivals.com to be the 48th best running back in the nation and one of the top 100 prospects coming out of California. Scout.com also listed Sumler in their top 100, while PrepStar and SuperPrep named Sumler to their All-West and All-Far West teams respectively.

After finishing his prep career as San Diego's all-time leading rusher Sumler has 3 years of college left to make his way up the Buffaloes all-time rushing list.

Have we mentioned that this team is young in a number of key areas? Well the receiving corps is no different as the depth charts are studded with underclassmen and the team's leading receiver happens to be a redshirt freshman.

Scotty McKnight finished the regular season as the team's leading receiver, hauling in 43 passes for 488 yards and 4 scores. Quite an accomplishment for a young man that suffered a broken ankle during spring practices. Like his teammate Demetrius Sumler, McKnight played his prep ball in California and garnered PrepStar All-Region honors despite playing in only 6 games as a senior. His final numbers were solid as he hauled in 43 passes for almost 700 yards and 8 touchdowns.

Assisting McKnight in the receiving corps will be Dusty Sprague and Patrick Williams. Sprague finished his senior campaign tied with Williams with 27 receptions. Only McKnight (43) and tight end Tyson DeVree (28 ) had more.

The team's use of double tight end sets has allowed senior tight end Tyson DeVree to prosper in the passing game this season. DeVree finished second on the team with 28 receptions while his 6 scores lead all receivers. Where DeVree is most valuable is on third downs. During the regular season DeVree hauled in exactly half of his receptions on third down. He also converted 9 of those into first downs and 4 of his catches went for touchdowns.

Often one of the keys to a successful season is having a good, experienced offensive line. despite a lack of depth, Colorado has that with this unit, lead by a trio of upperclassmen in Tyler Polumbus, Edwin Harrison and Daniel Sanders.

Polumbus and Harrison are seniors and anchor the line. Polumbus actually played a total of 893 offensive snaps this season (leading the unit). He's played in 39 games during his career, starting the last 24 of them. Harrison took over a starting spot this season after appearing in 10 contests last year. He was also a solid special teams player, participating in all 12 games.

Sanders, only a junior, is a standout linemen who was one of only 46 players named to the Dave Rimington preseason watch list. The Rimington Award honors the nation's best center. Sanders played in all 12 regular season contests this year and finished second to Polumbus in offensive snaps played with 883. He also graded out at over 80% in 8 of those games.

Defense

The Buffaloes defense is a unit that has been inconsistent and all over the statistical map this season and it is reflected in the team's ranking of 78th nationally in scoring defense. Oddly enough in games against solid teams like Kansas and Florida State the unit played well giving up only 19 and 16 points respectively. However, the same unit has given up 30 or more points on 5 occasions this season, including a paultry 55 and 51 points to Missouri and Nebraska. Even hapless Iowa State managed to beat the Buffs, dropping 31 on them in the process. Success for Colorado in the Independence Bowl will be determined largely by which defense shows up against Alabama in Shreveport.

The front four is where Colorado could really make things tough on the Tide. The Buffs defense ranks 32nd nationally against the run, so it's likely that BAMA running backs Terry Grant, Glen Coffee and Roy Upchurch will find the going tough, atleast early on. The player most likely to make life rough on the Crimson Tide front line is defensive tackle George Hypolite.

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George Hypolite/CUBuffs.com

The junior is widely regarded as one of the top defensive linemen in the country and as an interior linemen is expected to go early in the NFL draft if he opts to come out this year. As a sophomore Hypolite earned Honorable Mention All-Big 12 by the conference coaches. He'll likely garner more hardware for his trophy case this season. In 12 games the junior tackle tallied 44 tackles (5 tackles for loss) and his 6 sacks was tops for the defense. He also ranks second on the team with 7 quarterback pressures.

Brandon Nicolas, Alonzo Barrett and Maurice Lucas will team with Hypolite across the front. Statistically the nose tackle Nicolas leads the group as he finished the season with 37 tackles and 3 quarterback sacks. Barrett and Lucas combined for over 60 tackles and 3 sacks as well.

The linebacker corps might just be the best single unit on the Colorado team. They are certainly the glue that holds the Buffs defense together and are lead by standout senior Jordan Dizon

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Jordan Dizon/CUBuffs.com

The senior Dizon lines up as Colorado's weakside linebacker and is one of the best in the conference at the position. He's already been named the Big 12 Conference Defensive Player of the Year by the coaches and is a finalist for the Butkus Award. Lindy's, Street and Smith's, and Athlon publications named Dizon to their Big 12 preseason list for 2007. Dizon averaged over 13 tackles per game this year and finished the season leading the team in the category with 160 total tackles.

Brad Jones and Jeff Smart round out the linebacker corps. Smart finished the season ranked third on the team in tackles with 80, while Jones finished with 72 stops. Jones also had 2 sacks while rushing from his outside SAM position.

The secondary has a couple of solid players in cornerback Terrence Wheatley and safety Daniel Dykes, but that hasn't helped keep the unit out of the cellar in terms of national rankings. To win the Independence Bowl more will be expected from a group that finished the regular season ranked 101st in the country against the pass.

Wheatley is a solid cover corner and one of the best in the Big 12. His 14 career picks ranks him among the elite in Colorado record books. The problem right now for Wheatley however is a fractured big toe that sidelined him for the team's final regular season game against Nebraska. He's expected to be fine for the bowl game, but just how much of a recovery he makes may go along way in determining the outcome of the game. In the bowl game he'll likely be matched against BAMA's D.J. Hall. If Wheatley is not 100% Hall and Tide quarterback John Parker Wilson could potentially have a huge day.


Specialists


Wheatley also serves as the team's primary kick returner as well. He returned 37 kicks for 919 yards during the regular season at a 24.8 yards per return average. Lining up along side Wheatley will be Hugh Charles. While Charles had an impressive 26 yards per return average he only had the opportunity to return 14 kicks. Punt returns are handled primarily by senior wide receiver Chase McBride. McBride finished the season returning 33 punts for 316 yards with a long of 43 yards.

The kicking game is in hands, or should we say the feet, of two very solid kickers in Kevin Ebarhart and Matt DiLallo. The placekicking is handled by the senior Ebarhart who converted 15 of 23 attempts on the season. Most impressively is his 100% conversion rate from beyond midfield. The senior kicker hit both attempts from beyond the 50 yard line with a season long of 54 yards. His big leg is a weapon that the Buffs are not above exploiting when given the opportunity. In 2007 Ebarhart attempted 12 kicks from outside of the 40 yard line while hitting 8 of them.

Sophomore Matt DiLallo handled the punting duties and finished the season with a solid 40 yards per punt average. DiLallo showed a penchant for pinning the opponent deep. Of his 61 punts 22 of them were downed inside the opponent's 20 yard line.
 
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