Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
A glance at the scholarship players Colorado expects to have at safety this fall:
Tedric Thompson, Sr., 6-0, 205: One of CU’s top all-around players, he had 80 tackles and three interceptions last year, and he’s had a good spring.
Afolabi Laguda, Jr., 6-1, 200: Played a limited role last year but contributed 22 tackles. Coaches like his progress this spring, and expect him to compete for a starting job at nickel or free safety.
Ryan Moeller, Jr., 6-1, 210: A starter last season until an off-the-field injury made him miss the last six games. When healthy, Moeller is a candidate to start at free safety.
Nick Fisher, So., 6-0, 185: Saw just 57 snaps last year as a true freshman, but CU coaches love the way he is improving. He’ll compete with Laguda at nickel.
Jaisen Sanchez, So., 6-1, 195: Mostly a special teams player last year, saw just seven snaps on defense. CU safeties coach Joe Tumpkin said Sanchez is having a good spring, and while Sanchez may be fourth or fifth on the list, Tumpkin said, “We’re going to need them all.”
Kyle Trego, So., 5-11, 190: He will join the Buffs this summer after signing last month. He’s got a nose for the ball and should help provide depth.
More than five months after a moped accident ended his sophomore season prematurely, Ryan Moeller still doesn’t feel like his old self.
The Colorado free safety is getting there, however.
“I’m working towards being back and being back by the end of spring ball,” he said. “That way when we get into fall camp, it’s all cylinders.”
A former walk-on from Rifle High School, Moeller earned a scholarship and then last year earned a starting job. He was having a great season as one of CU’s leading tacklers through the first seven games.
During the week leading up to CU’s Oct. 24 game against Oregon State, Moeller was a passenger on a moped, which was stopped at a red light when it was hit by a car. Moeller suffered a hip pointer and a minor knee injury, but the serious injury was the whiplash and back problems he had after the accident.
“It was a little more serious than we anticipated at first,” he said.
Mentally, it was tough as well. Moeller had racked up 47 tackles in seven games and was one of the leaders of an improved defense, but had to sit out the last six games.
“It was pretty hard,” he said. “I definitely felt down and out. I felt lost, for the most part.”
Moeller said it took a while to get back in shape, but with the Buffs more than halfway through spring practices, he’s playing well.
“I think he’s made the adjustment very well,” CU safeties coach Joe Tumpkin said. “There were some things from the accident just to get the rust off. I think his adjustment has been fantastic. It’s been better than I expected.”
Moeller doesn’t feel like he’s quite there, and he’s still working on regaining his football acumen.
Back on the field, Moeller is competing and knows he’s got to get back to where he was — if not better — to regain his starting role.
“It’s always a fight,” he said. “As soon as you start getting complacent, you start not doing very well. As long as I’m trying, I think everything will work out. I want to give it my all to get that spot back.”
Moeller is part of a talented group of safeties, but it’s a group that has to get better.
Senior Tedric Thompson is likely locked into the starting role at strong safety, while Moeller, Afolabi Laguda, Nick Fisher and Jaisen Sanchez are also working at safety.
“I think we all have a ways to go because there’s an expectation level,” Tumpkin said. “We set a different bar from last year. We set that bar even higher.
“We have to make sure we’re following through and handling the little things. We know the Xs and Os part, we know the scheme part of it, but we have to get better at the little things — the technique, the minute situations — for us to be one of the best secondaries in the Pac-12.”
With a healthy Moeller, and several other talented players on the roster, the Buffs have a chance to be among the best groups of safeties in the conference.
Brian Howell: firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.