“Heated” competition keeping safeties busy
BOULDER» With several veterans vying for three starting jobs, there are no days off for the University of Colorado’s safeties.
“It’s heated,” senior Ryan Moeller said of the daily competition in practice. “Everyone is hungry, and it’s great to see, because you don’t want to see anyone getting complacent. We have so much fight and so much competition on the field.”
CU’s experience and maturity at safety could be a huge boost to a defense hoping to once again be among the best in the Pac-12.
Moeller and fellow senior Afolabi Laguda are the most experienced of the group. In fact, they represent two of the three returning starters on CU’s entire defense, joining inside linebacker Rick Gamboa.
In addition to Moeller and Laguda, the Buffaloes have juniors Nick Fisher, Evan Worthington and Kyle Trego in the mix.
“From Day One, it could be anybody going out there with the ‘ones,’ so you really have to pay attention, because we watch the film closely,” Fisher said. “If one guy messes up, we have two other guys who can come in for your spot. Just be smart at safety right now.”
Laguda started all 14 games last season at free safety and finished second among the Buffs with 80 tackles. He may wind up taking over the starting job at boundary safety, where Tedric Thompson — now with the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks — excelled last year.
Moeller made nine starts at “Buff” back, which is a hybrid of a nickel back and outside linebacker. It’s a position tailor-made for Moeller, who can also play either safety position. He has 18 starts in his career, with multiple starts at free safety, boundary safety and Buff.
Fisher has made only one start in his career and played sparingly last season as a backup, but he earned Pac-12 defensive player of the week honors after a win against Washington State.
Worthington is back from a year-long suspension and followed a strong spring with a good preseason camp. Like Moeller, he has the ability to play Buff or safety and is making a strong push for a starting role.
CU coach Mike MacIntyre said Trego can’t be counted out, either. Trego played only two snaps on defense last year but “is really coming along,” MacIntyre said.
Having so much quality depth is a good thing at safety, because it doesn’t take much to lose one.
The safeties realize they all will be needed at some point this season, and that has helped to bring them together.
“If you asked everybody, I think they’d be more OK with making sure they’re doing the right thing for the team and the right thing for themselves versus ‘I want to start, Coach,’ ” Moeller said. “I think that (selfish) mentality has left. Everyone wants to start, but more or less it’s the team camaraderie than it is an individual person.”