Takeaways From Buffs Vs. Ducks
BOULDER — With a 1-8 record and three games remaining — all against teams ranked in the nation's top 25 — it's not easy to identify many bright spots for the Colorado Buffaloes.
Saturday's latest defeat, a 49-10 loss at the hands of No. 8 Oregon, even added injury to insult. Colorado freshman wide receiver Jordyn Tyson, who has emerged as one of the best young players in the Pac-12, suffered a "significant" injury in the fourth quarter and the immediate prognosis was not good.
But Tyson isn't the only Colorado player who has shown promise over the last few weeks. CU has a number of other young players who are receiving their baptism under fire and will benefit from that experience in the next few years.
Thus, our takeaways from Saturday's game:
1. Player development will be key down the stretch. Not to suggest coach Mike Sanford and his staff will sacrifice the playing time of older players in favor of simply getting younger players some valuable snaps.
But CU coaches have done a good job over the last four weeks in developing players who could be impact contributors in the future. Along with Tyson, the group includes defensive back Simeon Harris, linebacker Aubrey Smith and offensive lineman Van Wells — all freshmen — as well as sophomore O-lineman Gerad Christian-Lichtenhan, redshirt freshman receiver Jack Hestera and sophomore linebacker Mister Williams.
These are just a handful of the players who could be significant contributors next year if all goes well. Which brings us to …
2. Player retention. Sanford has made it clear that a critical component of CU's future will be convincing those young players to stick with the program.
Sanford and his staff have done a good job in making sure CU players are aware of the benefits of playing in Boulder, and they are also doing what they can to actively improve those prospects. Colorado coaches are still actively recruiting — both newcomers and current players — and their influence will be important over this last month of the season.
3. Trevor Woods is rapidly becoming a foundational piece of the puzzle. CU's sophomore safety is developing a reputation as a big hitter with excellent instincts who can produce momentum-changing moments.
Woods had 10 tackles — nine solo — and a forced fumble against the Ducks. For the season, he has 77 tackles, two forced fumbles, an interception and a pass breakup.
Woods will be a critical cog in CU's defense over the next couple of years, both as a playmaker and leader.
4. J.T. Shrout has to take the next step at quarterback. Since the day he arrived on campus, there's been no doubt about Shrout's arm talent. The transfer from Tennessee can sling it. Now, Shrout must develop the finer points of playing the position.
It's easy to forget that Shrout has a grand total of six collegiate starts — a half a season — under his belt. But down the stretch, his completion percentage (currently just 44.5) will be watched closely, along with his ability to go through his progressions and take a little off his fastball when necessary.
Shrout no doubt has the physical tools. If he can develop the finer points of the position, he can be a competitive piece of Colorado's quarterback puzzle in the future.
5. Nobody remaining on CU's schedule is unbeatable. Late Saturday night, the Cal team that Colorado beat in overtime pushed USC to the limit before finally succumbing, 41-35. Cal also took Washington to the wire earlier this year.
No doubt, the Buffs will have to produce their best performance of the year to be in any of their three remaining games. But with nothing to lose, they have a chance to make some memories worth taking with them.