EVEN BET­TER DAYS AHEAD FOR BUFFS

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - Buf­fZone.com By Brian How­ell

boul­der» With one game left to play this year, the Colorado foot­ball team is en­joy­ing its best sea­son in 15 years, but ath­letic di­rec­tor Rick Ge­orge be­lieves the Mike MacIn­tyre-coached Buf­faloes are just get­ting started.

“I think this was a great year for our foot­ball pro­gram,” Ge­orge said. “All the ku­dos go to (MacIn­tyre) and his staff and the play­ers, but I think our best days are ahead of us.”

Af­ter en­dur­ing 10 con­sec­u­tive los­ing sea­sons, the Buffs (10-3) are No. 10 in the Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off rank­ings and No. 11 in The As­so­ci­ated Press poll. They will play Ok­la­homa State (9-3, No. 12 CFP, No. 13 AP) in the Alamo Bowl at the Alam­od­ome in San An­to­nio on Dec. 29.

For di­rect­ing the Buffs’ turn­around, MacIn­tyre has re­ceived sev­eral national coach of the year hon­ors, as well as be­ing named Pac-12 Con­fer­ence coach of the year by his peers and the me­dia.

“I’m happy about every sin­gle award he gets, be­cause he de­serves them and he’s worked hard to get them,” Ge­orge said.

“The im­pres­sive thing is the way his team, his staff and he stayed fo­cused on the next thing. They’ve done a great job with that all year. A lot of that has to do with Mike’s lead­er­ship, but it also has to do with the se­nior lead­er­ship that he had.”

The Buffs have a se­nior-laden team, es­pe­cially on de­fense, but Ge­orge is con­fi­dent that the pieces are in place to keep the mo­men­tum go­ing af­ter this sea­son.

“It’s taken us 11 years to get to this point, and I’m happy that we’ve got to that point,” Ge­orge said. “Mov­ing for­ward, it’s about con­sis­tency in com­pet­ing at that level every year.

“I know we can’t talk about specifics in re­cruit­ing, but we’re off to a pretty good start, and I see that con­tin­u­ing to get bet­ter and bet­ter every year. I’m ex­cited about our fu­ture.”

Back in the groove

With 27 days be­tween games, and fi­nals week in the mid­dle of that time, CU has had a dis­jointed prac­tice sched­ule this month. It has in­cluded sev­eral light prac­tices, and two stretches of four days off.

With fi­nal ex­ams now be­hind them, the Buffs got back on the prac­tice field Fri­day and will have a more reg­u­lar sched­ule be­fore the bowl game ar­rives.

“It’s ex­cit­ing to be out there,” ju­nior safety Afo­labi Laguda said. “I think we’re start­ing to get our rhythm back, we’re start­ing to jell again. It’s just a great time to be out there with the se­niors for the last time. It’s go­ing to be a great game on the 29th.”

While fi­nals week was men­tally gru­el­ing for some of the play­ers, Laguda said the phys­i­cal break was im­por­tant.

“It feels good to be re­cov­ered and fresh,” he said. “Phys­i­cally we def­i­nitely got a break, and that break was needed.”

Go­ing the “JC route”

Hav­ing a de­fense loaded with tal­ented se­niors helped the Buffs en­joy a break­out sea­son. But it means the Buffs will have sev­eral holes to fill next year.

While the Buffs like the young play­ers they have on the ros­ter, they added some ex­pe­ri­ence to their de­fense this past week by sign­ing three ju­nior col­lege play­ers: de­fen­sive tackle Javier Ed­wards, out­side line­backer and de­fen­sive end Chris Mu­lumba and cor­ner­back Dante Wigley.

“The JC route is im­por­tant for us,” MacIn­tyre said. “I al­ways want to sign a few JC guys every year. It brings some ma­tu­rity. It also brings guys in that are ex­tremely hun­gry that have had to go a lit­tle dif­fer­ent route. I think that’s im­por­tant.”

Andy Cross, The Den­ver Post

Mike MacIn­tyre, above, the 2016 national coach of the year, has led CU to a 10-3 record, a Pac-12 di­vi­sion ti­tle and a berth in the Alamo Bowl. “I’m happy about every sin­gle award he gets,” says Rick Ge­orge, CU’s ath­letic di­rec­tor.

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