Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE

USC Game Preview: Colorado's Defense

When the Colorado Buffaloes walk into the LA Coliseum on Saturday, they’ll do so with a defense ranked 116th in nation in total yards, which helps explain the Buffs’ 1-5 start, including a loss to Sacramento State of the FCS.

Jon Embree’s young defense is led by weakside linebacker Derrick Webb, who is tied for the team lead in tackles with 41, and defensive end Chidera Uzo-Diribe, who is sixth in the conference in sacks with six. The Buffs haven’t overwhelmed opponents with a pass rush in their 4-3 scheme, but Uzo-Diribe brings an NFL frame to the defense line. At will linebacker, Webb compliments Uzo-Diribe well, as he’s been able to make plays in the backfield so far this season, with four tackles for loss to date.

Despite both Webb and Uzo-Diribe being juniors, a lack of experience is key component to the Buffaloes’ defense considering there’s just three senior starters and two true freshman. The inexperience is glaring in the secondary, where Colorado ranks an abysmal 121st against the pass, sitting just ahead of West Virginia and Baylor for some context. In addition to giving up a ton of yards, the Buffs just aren’t forcing turnovers, as the defense has tallied just three interceptions through six games.

Kenneth Crawley, a four-star corner out of D.C. has been the heart of the secondary, despite starting from Day 1 as a true freshman. He’s among the team leaders in tackles, a dubious sign for a cornerback, and even though he’s yet to record his first interception, he hasn’t shown to be too much of a liability in pass coverage. Defense Coordinator Greg Brown told the Daily Camera last week that Crawley’s received a bigger chuck of responsibility than a typical freshman, and David Gerhardt at Ralphie Report thinks that Crawley may a chance of stopping Robert Woods and/or Marqise Lee. For a freshman on a struggling unit ranked so low nationally, that’s high praise.

Sticking with the secondary, depth issues could arise for Colorado, as corner Yuri Wright(you know, the guy with the NSFW tweets) and Paul Vigo are questionable with a concussion and foot injury respectively. Wright was expected to be a big part of this defense immediately, but he’s been blocked by Hendersen on the depth chart and Brown is opting to go with depth safeties Jered Bell and Marques Mosley in nickel packages. Vigo, who started his CU career at corner, has played both started at middle linebacker and backed up Derrick Webb on the weakside this season.

The linebacker corps are the defense’s unit of strength as Webb, plays beside two seniors, Doug Rippy and Jon Major. Rippy started the opener against Colorado State, then got the nod on the depth chart last week against Arizona State. Along with Vigo on the injury report at linebacker is Brady Daigh, who is listed as probable. Daigh, a sophomore and Rippy’s understudy, suffered a frightening neck injury last week that required he be taken off on a stretcher and as not surprisingly, it has held him out of practice this week. Nonetheless, the team still lists him as a probable backup to Rippy come gameday.

Projected Starters:
DE Will Pericak #83 or Kirk Poston #91
DT Nate Bonsu #99 or Will Pericak #83
NT Josh Tupou #55
DE Chidera Uzo-Diribe #96
MLB Doug Rippy #3
WLB Derrick Webb #1
SLB Jon Major #31
CB Kenneth Crawley #2
FS Parker Owens #13
SS Terrel Smith #41
CB Greg Hendersen #20

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