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Skill Players Should Salivate At MacIntyre's Plan

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Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

If new Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre works his magic, a pass-happy attack just might make for a happy Buffs fan base.

In short, MacIntyre is looking to air it out this season.

That was evident in the Buffaloes’ third spring scrimmage on April 5 in Boulder, where three CU quarterbacks threw for more than 500 yards and five different receivers caught passes of 30 yards or more.

MacIntyre isn’t just looking to revive an offense that finished 115th in the nation, averaging 17.8 points per game; he’s attempting to do so with the same roster that finished 94th in passing yards.

But optimism abounds in Boulder and a new coach brings hope. That and an offensive coordinator with a proven record. MacIntyre and new offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren helped guide a San Jose State team that finished sixth in passing efficiency with nearly 13 yards per completion last season.

The Buffs’ offense is young, but experienced in some areas. Colorado’s top rusher and receiver return this season after leading the Buffs as freshmen in 2012.

Here’s a breakdown of the Buffs’ offensive skill positions as the team refines its “pencil” depth chart for April 13’s Spring Game:

QUARTERBACK

MacIntyre is committed to the air attack despite not settling on a starting quarterback. It didn’t seem to matter which of the six quarterbacks in spring camp was under center during Friday’s practice as three Buffs tossed for a combined 517 yards and nine touchdowns.

And that’s without incumbent starter Jordan Webb, who is out after re-injuring the same thumb he had surgically repaired in the offseason.

Connor Wood, Nick Hirschman and Shane Dillon are making MacIntyre’s decision a difficult one.

Wood threw for 269 yards and three touchdowns. He even ran into the end zone on his own. Hirschman threw for four scores and Dillon added another two via the air.

Stevie Joe Dorman and John Schock appear to be the first quarterbacks out. They’ll likely be relegated to the scout team or opt to transfer.

Connor Wood, No. 2 on MacIntyre’s “pencil” depth chart, is making a case to challenge Webb for the starting spot in the fall. That is, until four-star freshman Sefo Liufau enters the mix in the fall.

It doesn’t matter who is under center, the Buffs are going to air it out this season.

“We had the highest percentage passing offense in the country last year (at San Jose State) and had a bunch, bunch, bunch, bunch of deep plays,” MacIntyre told CUBuffs.com after Friday’s spring practice.

“We’ll be able to throw the ball deep.”

RUNNING BACKS

An effective deep game opens up the run. MacIntyre’s stable of backs are young, but have experience carrying the ball.

In fact, all 12 players who carried the ball at least once in 2012 are in spring camp.

That includes Christian Powell, who led the Buffs in rushing (691 yards) last season as a freshman. He’s followed on the spring depth chart by Tony Jones (Buffs’ second-leading rusher two years in a row), Josh Ford, sophomore Donta Abron and junior Malcolm Creer.

Ford, the only senior of the group, led the ground game with 136 yards in Colorado’s third spring scrimmage.

Powell scored the unit’s only rushing touchdown. The senior was recruited as a fullback, so expect to see his 6-foot-0, 240-pound frame in both capacities.

For now, Alex Wood sits atop the depth chart at fullback. The 6-foot-2, 245-pound senior converted to fullback after hauling in 103 yards as a tight end last season. Sophomore Clay Jones also converted to fullback this spring, having played linebacker last season.

Colorado finished 108th in nation in rushing in 2012. But that was with two freshmen (Abron and Powell) and a sophomore (T. Jones) sharing 65 percent of the team’s carries.

The potential to break out exists in this potentially deep group, especially if whomever is at quarterback can establish an air attack.

WIDE RECEIVERS

The most musical words to the ears of the CU quarterbacks are simple: Paul Richardson is back.

The Buffs' top wide receiver returned to practice this spring after missing all of 2012 nursing a knee he’d injured last year. The junior ranks ninth all-time in Buffs’ history in career touchdowns (11) and 21st in career yards (1,069).

This unit is all about speed. Converted tailback D.D. Goodson might be the fastest of the bunch, said MacIntyre after the Friday scrimmage. Goodson — along with fellow junior Richardson — hauled in two touchdowns.

Keenan Canty, Tyler McCulloch and Jeff Thomas also caught scoring passes.

This group is fleet of foot, young and experienced. Only two of the dozen receivers on the spring roster are seniors — and they’re buried on the depth chart.

That leaves juniors Goodson, Richardson and Tyler McCulloch — who finished 10 yards shy of leading the team in 2012 —  two years to develop a rapport with whomever the new quarterback will be. Same goes for leading receiver Nelson Spruce. The sophomore returns after a 446-yard, three-touchdown season.

The unit’s success has MacIntyre believing he can stretch the field.

“Defensively we didn’t tackle as well as I’d like,” said MacIntyre of defense’s scrimmage performance. “But that’s a good sign that some of the guys were making them miss, too.”