On the morning of a 1994 game against Oklahoma, Buffaloes
quarterback John Hessler, a third-stringer at the time,
overslept and missed a team meeting. Coach Bill McCartney didn't
notice Hessler's absence, but quarterbacks and receivers coach
Rick Neuheisel did. When Hessler finally arrived at Folsom
Field, Neuheisel gave him an earful, and the redshirt freshman
didn't play in the Buffaloes' 45-7 rout.
Neuheisel is now in his third season as head coach at Colorado,
and his starting quarterback, should he show up on time, will be
Hessler. "I've been called a slacker before," says Hessler. "I
don't get stressed out about it. A lot of people take things too
seriously. Things aren't always going to go your way, but if you
stick it out, things usually work out for the best."
Hessler stuck it out last season as perhaps the most-heralded
backup quarterback in the nation. He made a name for himself in
1995 by stepping in for injured starter Koy Detmer in the fourth
game of the season and passing for 1,861 yards in leading the
Buffaloes to a 6-2 record the rest of the way. Last year,
though, Hessler was back on the sidelines and attempted only 23
These days Hessler is so valuable to Colorado that one of its
biggest worries is how the team would fare if anything happens
to him. Projected backup Jeremy Weisinger, a sophomore, is out
for at least eight weeks after dropping a free weight on his
right leg and breaking his fibula. Either redshirt freshman Adam
Bledsoe, the younger brother of New England Patriots quarterback
Drew Bledsoe, or sophomore walk-on Gabe Leonard will slide up to
No. 2. After watching the two young quarterbacks in spring
practice, Neuheisel surmised that it was as if they were "trying
to pass Algebra 4 without having taken Algebra 1 and 2."
Clearly, the onus is on Hessler to stay healthy, and on the
line, led by guard Melvin Thomas, a 6'3", 305-pound Outland and
Lombardi Trophy candidate, to protect him.
With Hessler at the controls, the nation's 10th-best passing
attack (303.5 yards per game in '96) should remain potent.
Senior wide receivers Phil Savoy (43 catches, 652 yards, three
touchdowns) and Chris Anderson (21 catches, 344 yards, two
touchdowns) are back. Further, sophomore Marcus Stiggers, a
speedy 5'7" wideout, should become more of a factor.
The Buffaloes need to drastically improve their running game,
which ranked No. 62 in the country a year ago. Expect Colorado
to depart from its single-back alignment on occasion and
experiment with some two-back sets. Whatever the formation,
tailbacks Herchell Troutman (804 yards, four touchdowns) and
Lendon Henry (539 yards, six touchdowns) will probably get the
bulk of the carries.
Defensively, Colorado has seven returning starters, led by the
two Ryans: former walk-on Ryan Black, a hard-hitting strong
safety who led the team with 154 tackles last fall, and Academic
All-America nosetackle Ryan Olson, who had 8 1/2 sacks and
flourished in the Buffaloes' stunting and blitzing 4-3 scheme.
Not to be overlooked--especially if his shirttail comes
untucked--is the team's defensive MVP in the Holiday Bowl last
season, 6'5" end Nick Ziegler, who has his last name tattooed
across the small of his back in three-inch-high old-English
--KELVIN C. BIAS
COLOR PHOTO: PHIL HUBER THE BUFFALOES WILL TRY A TWO-BACK ALIGNMENT TO HELP TROUTMAN (5) BREAK FREE [Herchell Troutman in game]
37 Colorado's road wins over the past nine seasons, the most in
Division I-A during that span. The Buffaloes lost seven and were
tied once over that stretch.
TWO GAMES TO WATCH
SEPT. 13 AT MICHIGAN The Buffaloes return to the scene of the
Kordell Stewart-to-Michael Westbrook Hail Mary touchdown pass
that gave them a 27-26 victory in 1994.
NOV. 28 VS. NEBRASKA Colorado hasn't beaten the Cornhuskers
since '90 and knows it won't win another national title until it
Passing John Hessler Sr. 12 comp., 23 att.,
174 yds., 0 TDs
Rushing Herchell Troutman Sr. 804 yds., 4 TDs
Receiving Phil Savoy Sr. 43 catches, 652 yds.,
Tackles SS Ryan Black Sr. 154
Interceptions CB Toray Davis Sr. 2
CB Damen Wheeler Soph. 2