“Heated” com­pe­ti­tion keep­ing safeties busy

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

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.”

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