Colorado senior Ryan Moeller said the competition between the Buffs’ safeties is heated.
Colorado senior Ryan Moeller said the competition between the Buffs' safeties is heated. (Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer)

With several veterans vying for three starting spots, there are no days off for the Colorado 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 looking 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 (along with inside linebacker Rick Gamboa).

In addition to Moeller and Laguda, the Buffs have juniors Nick Fisher, Evan Worthington and Kyle Trego in the mix.

"From Day 1, 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 on the team 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's got 18 starts in his career, with multiple starts at free safety, boundary safety and Buff.

Keeping Laguda and Moeller on their toes is the group of juniors.

Fisher has just one start in his career, and played sparingly last season as a backup, but 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 up a strong spring with a good fall camp. Like Moeller, he's got the ability to play Buff or safety, and is making a strong push be in a starting role.

"It's a tough competition, but coaches told us they're going to put the best players on the field," Worthington said. "It drives me hard. I have to do everything I need to do to be successful on the field. I'm always going to give 110 percent."

Head coach Mike MacIntyre said Trego can't be counted out, either. Trego played just two snaps on defense last year, but "is really coming along," MacIntyre said.

Slot receiver Devin Ross competes against the safeties on a daily basis, and said he's enjoyed seeing the battles play out.

"They're definitely competing everyday and they're not taking any plays off and I like to see that competition in the defense," Ross said.

Ross said he worked out with Worthington every day in the offseason and was impressed by his work ethic and that Fisher has been off to a great start in camp.

"Fo (Laguda), obviously, he always comes to play," Ross said. "And, Ryan Moeller, he's the toughest guy I have to block all year."

Having so much quality depth is a good thing at safety, because it doesn't take much to lose one.

"The safety position is a position where you get dinged up a little bit, but that's also a position that those guys always seem to get caught for targeting, because that position is in that area for it," MacIntyre said. "So, you need a bunch of guys to be able to play that can play multiple spots back there, and they've been doing a good job with that."

Early against Washington State last year, the Buffs tested their depth, as Moeller was injured and Laguda was ejected for targeting. Fisher stepped in and earned player of the week honors.

Knowing they'll all be needed at some point has helped to bring the safeties together, even as they compete.

"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."

Brian Howell:, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.