Coming up a win short of a bowl game wasn’t exactly what the Colorado football program had in mind for the first season of the Mel Tucker era.
Tucker, who recently wrapped up his first year as the Buffaloes’ head coach, seems to have the program going into a positive direction as the 2020s begin, but it was perhaps fitting to see the decade end in yet another disappointment.
On Wednesday, the calendar flips to 2020 and begins a new decade, which should bring a measure of hope to CU fans. After all, the 2020s have got to be better than the 2010s, right?
From 2010-19, CU posted a dismal 44-80 record, a .355 winning percentage that is the worst for any decade in program history.
At a time when reaching a bowl game is easier than ever, the Buffs managed to get there just once in the 2010s. The last time the Buffs played in fewer than three bowls in a decade was in the 1950s – when there were never more than 18 bowl teams in a season (there were 80 this year). By today’s standards of winning six games to become bowl eligible, the Buffs would have gone to the postseason eight times in the 1950s.
The 2010s saw the Buffs go through four head coaches (six counting interim coaches), two athletic directors, a conference shift – from the Big 12 to Pac-12 – and just one winning season.
Despite the struggles, the Buffs were represented by several exceptional players during the 2010s.
Three quarterbacks set the program’s career passing record – including Steven Montez in the 2019 finale. Seven of the top nine receivers in CU history, in terms of career catches, played during the decade, as did two of the top three rushers. There were also an impressive bunch of defenders (mainly from the 2016 team).
When the decade began, Joel Klatt was the all-time leader passer in CU history, Michael Westbrook the all-time leader receiver and Rashaan Salaam was second in rushing. Now, all rank fourth. The career lists are sure to change in the next 10 years, as well.
With the door closing on the 2010s, Buffzone.com has selected an all-decade team for the Buffs, honoring some of those great players who wore the black and gold over the past 10 years.
Quarterback – Sefo Liufau (2013-16): Liufau, who started a CU record 40 games at quarterback, was the only quarterback to lead the Buffs to a bowl game in the last decade. He was the heart and soul of the 2016 team that won the Pac-12 South title and finished 10-4. He closed his career with nearly 100 CU records, including career passing yards (9,568) and total offense (10,509) – marks that were broken this year by Steven Montez.
Running back – Phillip Lindsay (2014-17): The Denver native was the first player in CU history to rush for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons, and he closed his career No. 2 on the Buffs’ all-time lists for rushing yards (3,707) and rushing touchdowns (36). He also set records for all-purpose yards (5,760) and yards from scrimmage (4,683), became the first running back in CU history with 100-plus catches (110) and racked up 976 receiving yards. He’s topped 1,000 rushing yards in both of his NFL seasons with the Denver Broncos.
Running back – Rodney Stewart (2008-11): Ranks third in CU history with 3,598 rushing yards and second in both all-purpose yards (4,828) and yards from scrimmage (4,567). Began his career in the previous decade, but in 2010-11 he totaled 2,172 yards and 14 touchdowns rushing, along with 74 catches for 861 yards. He led the Buffs in rushing and receiving in 2011.
Receiver – Paul Richardson (2010-13): Big-play specialist who battled injuries, but when he was healthy he was explosive. He ranks fifth in CU history in catches (156), seventh in receiving yards (2,412), third in receiving touchdowns (21) and averaged 15.5 yards per catch. He’s had 143 catches in six NFL seasons.
Receiver – Laviska Shenault (2017-19): Arguably the best all-around player at CU in 25 years, he is skipping his senior year to turn pro but leaves CU ranking eighth in catches (149) and 11th in receiving yards (1,943). He added 276 rushing yards and scored 18 total touchdowns.
Receiver – Nelson Spruce (2012-15): Maybe the most sure-handed receiver to ever play for the Buffs, he closed his career with CU and Pac-12 career records for catches (294). He also holds CU records for receiving yards (3,347) and receiving touchdowns (23) and is the only player in Buffs history with over 100 catches in a season (106 in 2014).
Tight end – Ryan Deehan (2008-11): He closed his career as one of the most productive tight ends in CU history, with 64 catches for 723 yards. Both numbers rank seventh among CU tight ends.
Tackle – David Bakhtiari (2010-12): Started 33 games in his three seasons and was a two-time second-team All-Pac-12 performer before leaving CU early for the NFL. Now in his seventh season with the Green Bay Packers, he’s one of the best left tackles in the NFL, earning All-Pro honors in 2018 and being named to his second Pro Bowl this year.
Tackle – Nate Solder (2007-10): Played just one season this decade, but that year was remarkable. A three-year starter, he had his best year in 2010, when he was the first tackle in CU history to earn consensus All-America honors and was a finalist for the Outland Trophy. A first-round pick by the NFL’s New England Patriots in 2011, he won two Super Bowls in seven years with them. He has started all 32 games with the New York Giants the past two years.
Guard – Ryan Miller (2007-11): One of the most highly touted recruits in CU history, the Columbine High School product was selected as a third-team All-American by the Associated Press during his senior year with the Buffs. He started a school-record 47 games before becoming a fifth-round draft choice of the Cleveland Browns in 2012. He played four seasons in the NFL.
Guard – Daniel Munyer (2011-14): He started the final 36 games of his career, including his junior and senior seasons at right guard. Also made six career starts at center. In all, he played in 43 games with 39 starts and twice earned All-Pac-12 honorable mention. A five-year NFL veteran, he is currently on the practice squad with the Tennessee Titans.
Center – Alex Kelley (2013-16): A rock in the middle of the line during his final three seasons, he started at center for 38 of CU’s 39 games from 2014-16, missing one with an injury. At one point, he started 26 games in a row. He anchored the line during the Buffs’ Pac-12 South title season in 2016. That season, he recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown – the first touchdown by a CU lineman in 21 years.
Defensive line – Jordan Carrell (2015-16): A junior college transfer, he was very good in 2015 and dominant in 2016. During his two years at CU, he had 103 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. He was a seventh-round draft choice of the Dallas Cowboys in 2017.
Defensive line – Mustafa Johnson (2018-current): His 2018 season was perhaps the most dominating season by a Buffs’ defensive lineman in the decade. That season, he had 73 tackles, 18 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. He had 34 tackles and 4.5 sacks during an injury-plagued 2019.
Defensive line – Will Pericak (2009-12): The classic blue-collar, workhorse on the line, the Boulder High School graduate started all 49 games of his career (a CU record) and broke the record for most games played by a defender. He finished with 207 tackles and three blocked kicks and was honorable mention all-conference three times (once in Big 12, twice in Pac-12). He has spent time with seven NFL teams since leaving CU.
Defensive line – Josh Tupou (2012-16): CU’s best nose tackle during the 2010s, Tupou made 45 career starts, including 41 in a row to close his career. He missed the 2015 season with a suspension, but came back with a dominant 2016, with 49 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 10 pressures and seven tackles at or behind the line. He recently completed his third season with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Linebacker – Jimmie Gilbert (2013-16): An exceptional pass rusher, Gilbert ranks sixth in CU history with 20 career sacks. He had 10.5 of those in 2016, when also had 51 tackles and 14 tackles for loss. In the past 13 years, he’s the only Buff with at least nine sacks in a season.
Linebacker – Addison Gillam (2013-16): Injuries plagued the latter part of his career, having to miss 11 games in 2015, but when he was healthy he was fun to watch. He finished with 270 tackles, 26 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks. He was a unanimous first-team freshman All-American in 2013 (119 tackles, seven tackles for loss, three sacks). Finished his career with a strong 2016 season, coming off the bench for 66 tackles and four sacks.
Linebacker – Nate Landman (2017-current): Still has a year to play and he’s proving to be one of the greats at a position that has featured a lot of greats at CU. During the past two seasons, he’s had 260 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, six sacks and three interceptions. He was named first-team All-Pac-12 this season.
Linebacker – Kenneth Olugbode (2013-16): A leader for the South champion team in 2016, he had 130 tackles, seven tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, two interceptions and a huge fumble return for touchdown that season. During his career, he played in 41 games, with 36 starts, and racked up 299 tackles. He led the Buffs in tackles twice, joining Landman as the only players to do that in the 2010s.
Cornerback – Chidobe Awuzie (2013-16): Could make a case for him being CU’s best overall player of the decade. He played all over the secondary during his four seasons as a starter. He finished with 273 tackles, and set CU records for most tackles for loss (26) and sacks (nine) by a defensive back. He earned all-Pac-12 honors twice and just finished his third season with the Dallas Cowboys, who selected him in the second round of the 2017 draft.
Cornerback – Jimmy Smith (2007-10): He only played one season for the Buffs in the 2010s, but may have been the best pure corner to play at CU in the last decade. In 2010, he earned first-team All-Big 12 honors. He allowed just 11 completions during his final two seasons at CU. A first-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens (No. 27 overall) in 2011, he’s in his ninth season with them. He helped the Ravens to a victory in Super Bowl XLVII.
Safety – Anthony Perkins (2008-11): Although he battled injuries late in his career, Perkins put together a great career with the Buffs. He had 236 tackles, including a career-high 17 in his final game, a 17-14 upset at Utah in 2011. A local product who played at Northglenn High School, he spent the 2019 season coaching cornerbacks at Colorado State.
Safety – Tedric Thompson (2013-16): The most dominant safety of the decade for CU, Thompson had a nose for the football. He finished with 13 career interceptions (fifth in CU history), and had 246 tackles and 34 pass deflections. In 2016, he had 75 tackles, 18 pass breakups and seven interceptions and was first-team All-Pac-12. He’s in his third season with the Seattle Seahawks, who drafted him in the fourth round in 2017.
Placekicker – Will Oliver (2011-14): One of the most prolific kickers in CU history, he is second all-time in scoring (279) and field goals made (50) and first in extra points (129). He was 129-of-131 on extra points, including a school record 102 in a row, and 50-of-69 on field goals.
Punter – Alex Kinney (2015-19): Closed his career with a school-record 96 punts that landed inside the 20. He’s second at CU in total punting yards (10,979) and his average of 41.9 is 10th in school history.
Kickoff returner – Marques Mosley (2012-15): He only held the kick return job for one season, in 2012, but that’s the best season by a Buff in the decade. He had 549 yards on 21 returns (26.1 average), including a 100-yard touchdown.
Punt returner – Nelson Spruce (2012-15): Nothing flashy about him as a punt returner, but as he was a receiver, he was sure-handed. From 2013-15, he had 31 returns for 196 yards (6.3 average).
Snapper – JT Bale (2016-19): One of only three snappers in the decade – and one of only five in the past 18 years – he snapped the ball 488 times, the most by anyone in CU history. He played in 49 career games and was recognized as one of the top snappers in the country by Phil Steele’s College Football.
All-around – Beau Bisharat (2016-19): Played running back and tight end during his career, but really shined on special teams. CU had a grading system for special teams and his 98 points are the second-most all-time (and the most in the past 20 years). He had 39 career special teams tackles.
QB – Steven Montez (2016-19)
RB – Alex Fontenot (2018-current), Travon McMillian (2018)
WR – Shay Fields (2014-17), Scotty McKnight (2007-10), Devin Ross (2013-17)
TE – Sean Irwin (2013-16)
OT – Jeromy Irwin (2012-17), William Sherman (2018-current)
OG – Kaiwi Crabb (2011-14), Tim Lynott Jr. (2016-19)
C – Gus Handler (2011-13)
DL – Josh Hartigan (2008-11), Leo Jackson III (2015-17), Samson Kafovalu (2012-16), Chidera Uzo-Diribe (2010-13)
LB – Rick Gamboa (2015-18), Drew Lewis (2016-18), Jon Major (2009-12), Davion Taylor (2018-19)
CB – Isaiah Oliver (2015-17), Ahkello Witherspoon (2014-16)
S – Ryan Moeller (2014-17), Parker Orms (2010-13)
PK – James Stefanou (2017-current)
P – Darragh O’Neill (2011-14)
KOR – KD Nixon (2017-current)
PR – Ronnie Blackmon (2017-18)
SN – Ryan Iverson (2010-13)
AA – Arthur Jaffee (2008-11)
QB – Tyler Hansen (2008-11), Cody Hawkins (2007-10)
RB – Michael Adkins II (2013-17), Tony Jones (2011-14), Christian Powell (2012-15)
WR – Bryce Bobo (2014-17), Tony Brown (2018-19), Toney Clemons (2010-11), KD Nixon (2017-current)
TE – Nick Kasa (2009-12), Brady Russell (2018-current)
OL – Ethan Adkins (2009-11), Arlington Hambright (2019), Jack Harris (2011-13), Gerrad Kough (2014-17), Stephane Nembot (2012-15), Colby Pursell (2018-current)
DL – Javier Edwards (2017-18), Juda Parker (2011-14), Jalen Sami (2019-current), Justin Solis (2012-15), Forrest West (2009-10)
LB – BJ Beatty (2008-10), Derek McCartney (2014-17), Douglas Rippy (2009-12), Michael Sipili (2006-10), Derrick Webb (2010-13)
CB – Delrick Abrams Jr. (2018-19), Jalil Brown (2007-10), Kenneth Crawley (2012-15), Greg Henderson (2011-14)
S – Jered Bell (2010-15), Afolabi Laguda (2015-17), Mikial Onu (2019), Ray Polk (2009-12), Evan Worthington (2014-18)
PK – Diego Gonzalez (2014-16)
P – Davis Price (2016-19)
KOR – Phillip Lindsay (2014-17)
PR – Jay MacIntyre (2015-18)
SN – Wyatt Tucker Smith (2014-15)
AA – Jordan Murphy (2013-15)