We are going to get to know the enemy of the week a little better by asking a few disorganized questions to Jack Barsch of the Ralphie Report. While my interview skills remain unrefined Jack did a great job to help me out and give some outstanding info on Colorado. Let's check it out!
Don't Warrior Bout It: "I think a lot of people are underestimating what Colorado can do. They seem to have pieces in place to be a real threat in the PAC-12. What are you expectations of the Buffs this season?"
Jack Barsch: "Pretty much the same as last year, a more competitive team than the previous iteration. The difference between the two years is that change should translate to wins. As Coach MacIntyre likes to quote often, the method he goes by for rebuilding is "lose big, lose little, win little, win big". This next year should be the starting point for phase three. Expecting a bowl game from a team that won 2 games the previous year may be a little much, but this PAC-12 team will finally look like just that- A PAC-12 team. The improvement of this team in the past 3 years is enormous. I expect them to win more than 5, be competitive in almost all, and give a team a scare that they shouldn’t. The Buffs will be experienced this year, with upperclassmen all over the roster and the young guns having a good amount of game experience. They’ve almost run out of excuses this year, and it seems like it could be a turning point of a season. But maybe that’s the Kool-Aid talking."
DWBI: "Sefo Liufau has shown flashes of greatness. What have the coaches been saying about Liufau’s progression in the offseason? Has he made the right adjustments to take the next step in his development? What can Hawaii do to throw this dynamic duo out of sync?"
JB: "Well, as I’ve said before, Sefo Liufau’s mistakes are unfortunately much more glaring than his best qualities. His 15 interceptions are a lot easier to remember than the times that he’s picked people up in the huddle, or gotten up after an excruciating hit, or stood up for a teammate. The guy just gets it as a leader, and his stat line was great last year, other than the, you know, times he had a pick six. Sefo needs to make progress cutting down the turnovers, which coaches say he has this summer, and he needs to put more velocity on throws outside the hashes, which coaches also tell us that he has done. He’s a tireless worker, and the only thing stopping him from improvement will be the mental aspect. Sefo has all the right leadership qualities, and a lot of physical tools. He just needs to get over the mental stuff in his game.
As for stopping Liufau and Spruce, there’s not much you can do. Consistent pressure will help, but Liufau is tough as they come. You can double Spruce, but they’ll move him around and it’s hard to do that all game with the other weapons on the field. Sefo will get his, and Spruce will get his, the best thing you can do is force mistakes and limit scoring opportunities and after the catch yardage."
DWBI: "Sefo Liufau and Nelson Spruce get all the attention but is there someone else on the offense that Hawaii should keep an eye on?"
JB: "Yes, and my answer will be Shay Fields, though most of the fanbase would say Phillip Lindsay. Fields is a supremely talented sophomore who has speed to burn and did a lot of work this offseason to prove that speed isn’t all he has. He is extremely polished and this offense is tailor made for his skill set. With all the focus on Spruce, Fields is going to have plenty of opportunities to get yards and TD’s, and this is the first chance he has to showcase all the work he’s done. As for Lindsay, he’s way too hyped NOT to have a good game. Phillip has speed, toughness, and a little bit of wiggle. Much like the rest of the team, he benefitted from the offseason putting on pounds. Lindsay also could have a big impact on special teams as the kick returner, he got close on a few last year. Both of these guys could play well on Thursday, and Hawaii fans should look for #s 5 and 23."
DWBI: "The defense last year was not good for Colorado, allowing over 400 yards of offense per game. What have the Buffaloes done to address this problem in the offseason? How has new defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt changed the defense? Who should Hawaii gameplan for on Thursday? What weaknesses remain that could be exploited come gameday?"
JB: "Well, you answered the first question with your second. The biggest change from last year to this year is Jim Leavitt. Kent Baer’s system was much too basic and simple for my taste, and seemed way too passive for the Conference of Champions. Make no mistake, almost every defense, other than maybe Stanford’s, is going to give up a lot of yards in the PAC, but CU got absolutely gashed on the run last year.
That was undoubtedly the biggest focus of the offseason and they did plenty to address. Three new starters along the defensive line (which should line up in a 3-4 this year) may seem like a bad thing, but it was replacement by merit, not necessity. Jordan Carrell, the junior college All-American, mans one DE spot, and he should be one person to gameplan for. He gets in the backfield with regularity and has a great motor. All of this goes back to the man in charge, however, and it’s hard to find a better DC than the man who build K-state’s D from nothing, then literally raised USF from the ground to #2 in the country, and then coached arguably the best position group in pro football (49ers LB). Leavitt’s resume is staggering, and his enthusiasm and fire has already affected this team. He just knows how to get the best out of players, what else can you ask from a coach?
Kenneth Crawley in the secondary should also be accounted for, expect a subpar night from whatever receiver is lined up next to him.
As for exploiting weaknesses, why go away from what worked last year? Until proven wrong, Hawaii should just run the ball as much as possible. The Buffs were definitely not great up the middle last season, and the Bows should try to exploit that."
DWBI: "Game prediction?"
JB: "I never like doing these because anything I say just seems wrong to me, but I’ll go with my homer prediction this time. CU should come into this game pissed off and ready to win… now. Like at the tip-off. Buffs roll 42-20. Should be a fun one to watch!"
It sounds like UH will have their hands full with Colorado come kickoff. I hope the score isn't 42-20 because I don't want to start the long weekend off on the wrong foot.
Much Mahalo's to Jack. I think I need to send him some chocolate covered macadamia nuts or something. He really helped me out with this whole thing. Along with Jack I would like to thank Jon Woods for setting this Q&A up. Check Jack and Jon at the Ralphie Report.
You can also follow Jack, the Ralphie Report and Jon Woods on Twitter:
Jack Barsch: @JackBarsch
Ralphie Report: @RalphieReport
Jon Woods: @WoodrowWilson
Stay tuned for the gameday preview!