Thanks to the newly formed Big 12 conference, Colorado has one
of the toughest schedules in the country this season, with
league games against Texas A&M, Kansas, Texas, Kansas State and
a regular-season finale at Nebraska. If the Buffaloes come
through all that and improve on their 10-2 mark of a year ago,
they should climb higher than their No. 5 ranking in last
season's final poll. Slip up, though, and things could get ugly.
"The Big 12 will be a dog-eat-dog conference," says coach Rick
The Buffaloes' offense was potent in '95, ringing up nearly 500
yards per game, and it could be just as dangerous this season.
Nine starters are back, including senior quarterback and Heisman
Trophy candidate Koy Detmer, who had an amazing 189.4 passing
efficiency rating before blowing out his right knee in the
fourth week of the season. His replacement, John Hessler,
stepped in and set or tied 12 school records, many while
throwing to wide receivers Rae Carruth (1,008 yards and nine
TDs), James Kidd (4.3 speed) and Phil Savoy (49 receptions), all
of whom return. The backfield also remains intact. Last season's
leading rusher, junior Herchell Troutman (826 yards and five
rushing TDs), is joined by juniors Lendon Henry and Marlon
Barnes, who combined for 907 yards, 5.3 yards per carry and 10
TDs in 1995.
Despite that avalanche of talent, the Colorado defense dominated
during spring practice. "Any team that wins a championship wins
with defense," says linebackers coach Brian Cabral. "And this
year we have the horses to do it." Colorado is paced up front by
Greg Jones, a 6'4", 250-pound senior defensive end who led the
team in sacks (eight) and quarterback pressures (16). And after
spring practice there's no longer concern about senior
cornerback Dalton Simmons, who sat out last year with torn knee
Linebackers Matt Russell (page 68), Ron Merkerson and Hannibal
Navies provide much of the speed, savvy and fury that fuel the
Buffaloes' new 4-3 defense. "Our philosophy is, If we can get
sacks and fumbles and big hits and disrupt an offense, then
we'll give up a bomb now and then, no problem, because it won't
be enough to put the wind back in their sails," says Russell.
"We're in command. This new defense fits our style."
Now if the Buffaloes can just find a schedule maker more to
COLOR PHOTO: AL TIELEMANS If things keep falling their way, Carruth and Colorado could make a run at the title. [Rae Carruth in game]