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Colorado Buffaloes football confident in defense’s ability to reload

LOS ANGELES — When Jim Leavitt walked into Mike MacIntyre’s office last winter, letting his boss know about the job offer he just received, the University of Colorado head football coach was quick to respond to his defensive coordinator.

“When he told me how much he was making, I said, ‘Why are you even sitting here?’” MacIntyre told reporters Wednesday at Pac-12 media days at the Hollywood and Highland Center. “Move on.”

Leavitt did just that, accepting a league-high assistant salary of $1.15 million with Oregon, and leaving the Buffaloes with large shoes to fill in Boulder. CU ranked inside the top-20 nationally last season in total defense, turnovers gained and red zone defense on a unit that loses eight starters this fall under first-year defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot.

The Buffaloes do return six defenders with starting experience, and Eliot, formerly at Kentucky, will run a 3-4 system that mirrors CU’s 2016 approach. When asked if the Buffs have the personnel to make it flourish, MacIntyre didn’t flinch.

“We do,” he said. “We’ve recruited to it. That’s what you do. You recruit to it and rebuild.”

Fall camp, which begins Friday, will help settle the depth chart.

“We’ve got a pretty good idea, but obviously, we don’t know,” senior linebacker Derek McCartney said. “You never know who is going to surprise you. You don’t know what freshman is going to come out of nowhere and just be amazing.”

When USC took the stage on Thursday, the coach was overshadowed by the quarterback. Sam Darnold was flanked by reporters even before Clay Helton’s opening remarks at the podium.

The redshirt sophomore Heisman hopeful quarterback might be projected by many as a near certain first-round NFL Draft pick, but that doesn’t mean he’s stopped absorbing new information each day through his previous two seasons with the Trojans.

“I learned a lot,” Darnold said, and then looked around. “For example, how to deal with media.”

The attention is warranted, too, considering Darnold’s resume. He completed more than 67 percent of his passes last fall in totaling 3,086 yards through the air and 31 touchdowns. It’s the primary reason why USC was picked to win the league, per the preseason media poll released Wednesday.

“To know who your leader is right off the bat and the things that he’s accomplished help up tremendously,” Helton said. “But the thing I have really been impressed with Sam is his humbleness and his humility in the process. We all see his skill set, but how he has approached this offseason from a work ethic standpoint and trying to progress as a student of the game, our kids see that.

“Obviously, there are some grand expectations for him. But he’s welcomed those. That’s part of being a USC quarterback.”

Darren Carrington is changing his green for red, Oregon for Utah, as one of Pac-12 media days’ most polarizing topics. The former Ducks receiver who averaged 17.1 yards per reception over three seasons in Eugene was arrested July 1 on a DUI complaint, dismissed by first-year coach Willie Taggart, and is on track to enroll at Utah this fall.

“I think it’s always tough because you always want to help young people,” Taggart said. “You don’t ever want to throw them out or kick them to the curb. You want to help them reach their dreams, goals and aspirations, but in the same sense, we have rules. … You have to abide by the rules, and when you break the rules, there are consequences. Unfortunately, the consequences for Darren were for us both to move on. I wish him nothing but the best. He’s a great football player, and I hope things get right for him.”

Oregon hosts Utah on Oct. 28, and should faculty athletic representatives from both schools agree to waive the intra-conference transfer rule that would force Carrington to sit out one season, it would provide an unusual homecoming in 2017.

“It was very apparent that he would be the first to admit that he’s done some dumb things and made some bad decisions,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “But he’s got the right attitude right now and is bound and determined to put this behind him.”

Source: denverpost

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