Those who have been around the Colorado football program in recent years can tell there's a difference in the Buffaloes.

Even without pads on, as the Buffs paraded through Balch Fieldhouse on Friday, it's evident that they are bigger.

During the annual Boulder Chamber Colorado Football Kickoff Luncheon on Friday, head coach Mike MacIntyre told the audience that the added size and strength, especially in the trenches, is one of the reasons he's excited about this year's team.

"I really like this team, and I'll tell you why," MacIntyre said. "I like our D-line and our O-line. You always say it starts up front. Well we've got the dudes now. When you see them, they're big, they're strong. We've got a lot of (returning) starts. Starts really matter a ton on the offensive line; more than you think. They have to be a seasoned group. They also have to be extremely nasty and tough, and we've got those dudes."

Former University of Colorado head coach Bill McCartney takes a photograph with Betty Hoover, left, and her twin sister Peggy Coppom during the 2016 CU
Former University of Colorado head coach Bill McCartney takes a photograph with Betty Hoover, left, and her twin sister Peggy Coppom during the 2016 CU Buff Kickoff Luncheon on Friday at the Balch Fieldhouse on the CU campus in Boulder. (Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer)

MacIntyre also mentioned the experience and speed on defense, the experienced playmakers on offense, and returning kickers on special teams.

"This year, I do have confidence in this football team, extreme confidence," he said. "I have confidence because of our staff. I have confidence because of our players. And, I have confidence because of what we've been talking about with these guys and they've bought into it."

Several fans in attendance said they are excited and optimistic about this CU team.

Athletic director Rick George also threw his support behind the team as he addressed the audience. George spoke for about 10 minutes, highlighting the athletic and academic success of the program, but closed by praising MacIntyre and the football team.


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"I'm really excited about what coach MacIntyre and his staff are doing on the football field," he said. "The way they're developing this program and where we're going with this program, there's an excitement in this community and in Buff Nation about this football program and where we're headed.

"I think this is going to be a great year for the CU Buffs."

McCartney making strides

After a solid season in 2015, outside linebacker Derek McCartney has added 10 pounds of muscle in hopes it'll make him a better pass rusher.

"I got a lot stronger in the offseason, so that's been helping me out a lot, and I've been improving my pass rush every day, which has been good, and just in my run-stop ability," said McCartney, who is now 6-foot-3, 250 pounds. "(Camp) has been good for me."

McCartney had five sacks last season (second on the team to Jimmie Gilbert's six), but as a defense, the Buffs generated just 28. Increasing that number has been a main focus, McCartney said.

"Last year, looking back at film, you can see where we had a lot of missed opportunities, because the pass rush wasn't there," McCartney said. "Me and Jimmie have been working a lot, along with all the other guys, and we're going to be a lot better this year.

"It's crucial. Our secondary is great, but if we can't get to the quarterback in a short amount of time they're going to struggle because you can't cover someone forever."

McCartney said he's confident he and his fellow rushers will provide more support to the defensive backs this season.

"It's really great seeing how much we've improved, all the potential we have and we're just really excited to get going," he said.

Notable

Last year, the Buffs sold 17,124 season tickets for football and associate AD/chief marketing officer Matt Biggers said the school is nearing that number again with the home opener three weeks away. About 90 percent of season ticket holders renewed their tickets for this season. ... Student ticket sales should increase in the next few weeks with students back on campus, but as of now, the Buffs are about 1,000 tickets ahead of where they were at this point last year, Biggers said.

Brian Howell: howellb@dailycamera.com, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.