Tedric Thompson has always had a nose for the ball.
Somehow, the Colorado senior finds himself in the middle of things, whether it's against the run or against the pass. He even came up with a massive blocked field goal in overtime to help the Buffs defeat rival Colorado State, 27-24, last season.
Having Thompson back for his senior year is huge for a Colorado defense eager to take another step forward. With 139 tackles, six interceptions and 13 pass breakups to his credit over the last two years, Thompson is a leader on the CU defense.
"When you really look at production, compared to anybody else in the secondary, he's neck-and-neck there with (cornerback Chidobe Awuzie)," CU safeties coach Joe Tumpkin said. "When you look at the interceptions, you look at the pass breakups, you look at the balls thrown at Tedric, he was very productive in that sense."
Aside from Thompson, the Buffs return experienced players in Afolabi Laguda and Ryan Moeller, and talented sophomore Nick Fisher. That group will be counted on to anchor the back of the defense.
Before the start of preseason camp in August, BuffZone.com will take a look at each position group for the Buffaloes. In this installment, we take a look at the safeties.
Returnees: Cameron Beemster (Jr., 5-11, 200; walk-on); Nick Fisher (So., 6-0, 185); Afolabi Laguda (Jr., 6-1, 200); Ryan Moeller (Jr., 6-1, 210); Jaisen Sanchez (So., 6-1, 195); Tedric Thompson (Sr., 6-0, 200);
Additions: Daniel Talley (So., 6-2, 215; walk-on); Kyle Trego (So., 5-11, 190; transfer from Diablo Valley College)
Losses: Jered Bell (graduated); Marques Mosley (graduated); Evan White (dismissed from team)
2015 recap: Colorado's secondary had a very good year in 2015, ranking fourth in the Pac-12 in pass efficiency defense, and the safeties played a big role in that. Thompson is one of the top players in the Pac-12 and he had his best season (80 tackles, three INTs). Moeller was a starter the first half of the year, but a moped accident caused injuries that ended his season six games early. Luckily for the Buffs, they were able to replace Moeller with sixth-year senior Jered Bell, who was exceptional. Laguda played a key backup role, and Fisher got a small taste of playing (57 snaps) during his true freshman year.
2016 outlook: For the Buffs to finish in the top four of pass efficiency defense again, this group is going to have to play as good, if not better, than last year. As good as he was in 2015, Thompson said he was not satisfied with his season. He has put in a lot of work this offseason to be even better and he'll be a fixture at strong safety. Thompson has the maturity, leadership skills and talent to be one of the best safeties CU has seen in a long time and he's a legitimate All-Pac-12 caliber player. Moeller is likely to regain his starting spot at free safety after missing the last six games of the 2015 season. He was CU's leading tackler at the time of his injury and the Buffs were pleased with how he played during the spring. He seemed to pick up where he left off. A former walk-on, Moeller doesn't make big impact plays like Thompson does, but he's a smart player who is a great asset against the run and pass. Losing Bell will be big for the Buffs, especially if injuries hit. They like the players they have, but they don't have Bell's experience. Fisher and Laguda are both capable of playing safety and helping out at nickel. Both just need to get more experience on game days and prove they can be relied upon consistently. Trego will add good depth, as he transitions to Division I football. Unheralded out of high school, he had a great JUCO season last year. How he handles Pac-12 football remains to be seen, but he's shown great ability on film to be around the ball a lot. Sanchez tore his ACL during the spring and will miss the season, but is sure to be a factor in 2017 and beyond. Beemster and Talley are both walk-ons who could help in a pinch if needed.
Brian Howell: email@example.com, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.