In 2019, Colorado Football is looking to cement a new legacy. If the end of the 2018 season is any indication, the Buffs do not want a sour taste left in their mouths for a second consecutive year. In fact, over the last two seasons, the men clad in black and gold have had little to be excited about. Since an immensely successful season in 2016 which saw the Buffs rise from the ashes, they have returned to the Pac-12 South basement. In 2017 and 2018, the Buffs finished 5-7 and were left feeling disappointed. Last season, it appeared that Colorado had rekindled their 2016 magic. Mike MacIntyre and company raced out to a 5-0 start before the wheels fell off. The Buffs had seven opportunities to secure their second bowl appearance under MacIntyre. Perhaps the lowest point in 2018 was a 41-34 overtime-loss to Oregon State on October 27. The Buffs held a 31-3 lead heading into the third quarter, but decided to take their foot off the gas. The loss matched their biggest blown lead in program history.
The 2018 season would be best described as a season of missed opportunities. However, among all the chaos, a bright spot emerged. Junior Laviska Shenault Jr. was a dynamic player for the Buffs last year. In nine games, Shenault tallied 86 receptions for 1,011 yards and six touchdowns. The Texas-native was also a threat on the ground as he racked up 115 rushing yards as well as five touchdowns. Unfortunately, a turf toe injury kept him sidelined for three games in 2018. His absence affected the Buffs as he was the key to success in their Wildcat formation. As a rusher and a receiver, he helped keep opposing defenses off balance. A player of Shenault’s caliber hadn’t been seen in Boulder in quite some time. As the 2019 season approaches, there is hope that Colorado Football will trend upwards.
When MacIntyre was fired following a horrific finish in 2018, it became clear that athletic director Rick George knew CU had the potential to compete in the Pac-12 with the right coach. On December 5, 2018, Mel Tucker was hired to be the 26th head coach in school history. He previously spent the last three years as the defensive coordinator at Georgia. During his time in Athens, Tucker was instrumental in developing a defense that ranked in the top 20 during his tenure. Recently, his Georgia defensive unit held the Alabama Crimson Tide scoreless in the first quarter of the 2018 SEC Championship. This marked the first time that Alabama had not scored in the first quarter all season. Meanwhile, the Buffs’ defense has been maligned since Jim Leavitt left to be Oregon’s defensive coordinator in 2016.
If Tucker is able to replicate his success at Georgia, the chance for Shenault to breakout in 2019 is a real possibility. One of the downfalls for the Buffs during MacIntyre’s tenure was the inability to make in-game adjustments. Given Shenault’s play-making abilities, Tucker and his staff need to ensure he is involved in all facets of the game. If he can stay healthy, the Buffaloes are capable of having a special season next year. The dawning of a new era for Colorado Football begins August 30 against in-state rival Colorado State. Under Tucker’s tutelage, Shenault and the Buffs have an opportunity to put Colorado Football back on the national map in 2019.