CU Buffs notes: Derrion Rakestraw ready to step into starting role

Junior safety could get starting nod in place of injured Aaron Maddox

When the Colorado football team visits Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz., on Saturday, it will do so without one of its better players on defense.

CU head coach Mel Tucker isn’t going to dwell too much, however, on not having Aaron Maddox in the lineup against 24th-ranked Arizona State.

Cliff Grassmick/Staff photographer
Colorado’s Derrion Rakestraw could start in place of the injured Aaron Maddox.

“It’s just next man up,” Tucker said. “Football unfortunately is a game of injuries. That’s the nature of the game. Guys get banged up and the next guy has to step up.”

Maddox suffered a severe laceration to his left leg during Saturday’s 30-23 overtime loss to Air Force and is expected to miss four of five weeks.

His replacement on Saturday could be roommate and fellow junior Derrion Rakestraw, who relieved Maddox in the fourth quarter on Saturday.

“You hate seeing one of your teammates go down like that; it’s terrible, but you have to step up and go in there and make plays,” said Rakestraw, who registered two tackles in the fourth quarter against Air Force.

Rakestraw made two starts in 2018 and is likely to get the nod on Saturday. He’s been praised in the past by defensive coordinator/safeties coach Tyson Summers for his work ethic and knowledge of the defense.

Going against Air Force last week was different, of course, but Rakestraw believes he’ll be ready against the Sun Devils.

“I feel like this week I’ll be a lot more comfortable out there, running our base defense and things we’re used to,” he said.

If Rakestraw does start, he’ll be working next to Mikial Onu, who has started all three games. The two worked next to each other at times during fall camp as the safeties battled for starting positions.

“(Rakestraw) is a player that has some experience,” Onu said. “He’s going to play well. He’s ready. Biggest thing for him and the biggest thing for us in the secondary is continuing to communicate, continue to try to be physical. We have all the trust and confidence in him that he’ll make plays.”

Former backup quarterback Sam Noyer or sophomore Isaiah Lewis could get some playing time at safety, as well.

Eyes on Shenault

After a breakout season in 2018, CU receiver Laviska Shenault has been the focal point of defenses this season, particularly against Colorado State and Nebraska.

CLiff Grassmick/Staff photographer
Laviska Shenault during the weekly CU football press luncheon.(photo by Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

Last year, Shenault scored all four of CU’s touchdowns in a 28-21 win against ASU and smiled when asked if he thinks the Sun Devils will focus on him this week.

“I definitely expect that,” he said. “But, that’s why it’s a team sport, not an I sport. We have the guys that can do it. Anybody that comes in, they all can get the job done. Everyone has to execute.”

Eliminating mistakes

CU was flagged for a false start four times against Air Force, adding to a growing list of procedure penalties against the Buffs.

A week earlier against Nebraska, the Buffs had penalties for a snap infraction, illegal substitution and ineligible man downfield. They also had three delay of game penalties in that game.

“It’s been a point of emphasis for us,” Tucker said. “We have some things we think are going to help us to eliminate those types of penalties. Those are self inflicted wounds, death by inches, paper cuts. They all add up to making it hard to be successful against really good teams.”

Ready for the heat

The high temperature in Tempe on Saturday is supposed to be near 100 degrees, which means it will likely be in the low 90s by the time of the 8 p.m. kickoff.

Tucker isn’t concerned about that having an impact on his team, though.

“This is an all-weather football team; that’s what we have to be,” he said. “Heat or rain or snow, it shouldn’t matter.”

Nevertheless, Tucker said it is important for the Buffs to be hydrated, not only on Saturday, but in the days leading up to the game.

Buffs fined

The Pac-12 officially notified CU late last week that it would be $25,000 for fans rushing the field after the Buffs’ 34-31 overtime win against Nebraska on Sept. 7.

In 2016, the conference implemented a rule that schools would be fined for court or field rushes. The fine is $25,000 for a first offense, $50,000 for a second offense, and $100,000 for a third offense.

Notable

CU has been flagged for 19 penalties this season, with 14 going against the offense. Only two have gone against the defense, with three coming on special teams. … CU is 3-5 all-time in Pac-12 openers, including 2-1 the past three years. … This season, the Buffs have outscored the opposition 51-24 in the fourth quarter. … Outside linebacker Carson Wells (concussion) is listed as day-to-day. He has missed the last two games.