During the last few games of the season, the Colorado defense got a taste of life without Isaiah Oliver.
Now, the Buffaloes have to get used to it.
On Friday, Oliver, the CU standout cornerback, announced that will forego his final year of eligibility and declare for the NFL draft.
It's a big loss for the Buffs (5-7, 2-7 Pac-12 this year), who now turn to some younger players to lead the pass defense in 2018.
Oliver missed two games with injury late in the year. With him now moving on, here's an early look at the Buffs' options at cornerback next season.
Dante Wigley, Jr. (6-foot-1, 180 pounds): He wasn't even here 12 months ago, but he suddenly becomes the most experienced corner on the roster. A transfer from Holmes Community College last year, Wigley became a starter midway through the season. He had mixed results, but showed promise. He finished with six pass breakups.
Trey Udoffia, So. (6-0, 185): In his first season of action, he started the first half of the year before an injury. He played mostly in a backup role the second half, while starting in the games Oliver missed. Like Wigley, he had mixed results, but showed some great potential. He had an interception and 10 pass breakups.
Ronnie Blackmon, So. (5-10, 175): Saw most of his action this year as a punt and kick returner, but got 20 snaps on defense, as well. He will need to have a big offseason to push for a starting job.
Kevin George, So. (6-3, 175): A transfer from Georgia Military Academy, he redshirted this year. He's got good size and could also play safety if needed.
Derrion Rakestraw, So. (6-2, 175): A converted receiver, Rakestraw played 13 snaps on defense early in the year. He's got good size and athleticism and figures to push for playing time.
Chris Miller, Fr. (5-11, 180): Redshirted this year as a true freshman. He was highly regarded coming out of high school and he's got exceptional leaping ability. If he was able to make the most of his redshirt year, he could get into the mix.
Help on the way
The Buffs currently have two cornerbacks committed to sign as part of the 2018 recruiting class.
Delrick Abrams, Jr., is from Independence (Kan.) Community College, and at 6-3, 180 has the ideal size. He will have two years to play and would instantly have a chance to compete for a starting role if he signs with the Buffs.
Kahlef Hailassie will be a true freshman. The Cosumnes Oaks (Calif.) High School standout also has good size (6-2, 185). While he may need some time to develop, CU's lack of experience could lead to him having a chance to play if he signs.
Former Buff Anthony Julmisse could become a factor, too. He was dismissed from the team this year after some off-the-field issues, but head coach Mike MacIntyre has often given players a second chance. Julmisse was a potential starter this year, and if he's able to return, he would make the competition even more intriguing.
The Mac factor
While losing Oliver leaves the Buffs with a lack of experience and without a bona fide star at corner, MacIntyre's role can't be discounted.
Certainly secondary coach ShaDon Brown has a lot to do with the success of the players at corner and safety, but MacIntyre is highly regarded as a cornerbacks coach.
"Coaching corners, he really pushes really hard," Wigley said. "I feel like he's made my game a lot better since I've gotten here."
In just five years at CU, MacIntyre has helped three cornerbacks developed into NFL players — Chidobe Awuzie, Ken Crawley and Ahkello Witherspoon — with Oliver about to become the fourth.
With an offseason to work with this group, it's a good bet MacIntyre will put in a lot of time to get his corners up to speed.