When Coach MacIntyre stepped foot into Folsom Field for the first time, he accepted the biggest challenge of his entire life. Colorado, a once proud football program, had been reduced to rubble under the supervision of Dan Hawkins and Jon Embree.
There were no pieces to salvage, no restoration project to undergo. Only one option remained, clear away the demolition and start fresh. Rebuilding such a program can’t be done overnight, but that fact doesn’t guarantee much patience among this proud fanbase.
Patience, of course, is a virtue. A virtue not held among many in the sports world today. No matter how daunting the task, today’s expectations demand instant results. MacIntyre hasn’t met the mark.
In three seasons, the Buffaloes have seen the clock hit zero 27 times in Pac-12 play. Just twice, the score next to their name exceeded that of the number next to their opponents’. 2-25 in conference play has predictably caused a stir among Colorado fans thinking out loud (very out loud) about whether or not Mac has worn out his welcome in Boulder. Athletic director Rick George quickly silenced any doubt as the 2015 came to a close at a disappointing 4-9, ensuring that MacIntyre would be back in 2016 with a goal of finally turning this team into a winner.
Despite the lack of tangible results (ahem, wins) MacIntyre has undoubtedly improved the production on the field.
The year before MacIntyre took over, the Buffs posted a -30.5 scoring margin on the field, the 2nd worst mark among Power 5 programs in the past decade. That has since been improved in every year since, culminating in a -3.1 scoring margin this season, an improvement of nearly 4 touchdowns per game.
In Pac-12 play, that 2012 team was outscored by 30.67 points per game, in 2015, that number has been drastically reduced to 12.67 points per game, the lowest in MacIntyre’s tenure. Progress is being made, but is that enough?
The skeptics will argue that losing is losing, which admittedly rings true. After all, that same 2012 football team did manage to win a conference game as well, matching Colorado’s conference win total this year. At some point, being close is no longer a sign of progress, it is a sign that MacIntyre can’t get these kids to close. In five of nine conference games this year, the Buffs either held a lead or were tied in the 2nd half, they held on to win just one. In another conference game that didn’t fit that criteria, they had the chance to take the lead on the games final drive, they failed then too. Of course, in every instance, the Buffs were the less talented team on the field, which obviously makes it more difficult to execute down the stretch of games.
This is where MacIntyre must improve. Yes, he has succeeded in improving the overall talent in his short time in Boulder (as evidence by the aforementioned scoring margin improvements), but our recruiting classes are still housed in the caboose of the Pac-12 recruiting train, and that just isn’t good enough. Just because we’re now attached to the train doesn’t mean that we’re gaining the necessary ground.
Here is how the Buffs have fared amongst their Pac-12 peers in recruiting rankings since Mac’s arrival.
- 2013: 12th in team rankings, 12th in average stars
- 2014: 10th in team rankings, 10th in average stars
- 2015: 11th in team rankings, 10th in average stars
- 2016: 12th in team rankings, 12th in average stars
In Mac’s defense, this year’s class is unusually small, so the team rankings is not only not surprising, it is pretty much inevitable. What isn’t acceptable though, is the average stars rating. At 2.5 average stars, this would rank as MacIntyre’s worst class at Colorado. In lieu of quantity, it is ultra-important to land big time recruits, and he has not successfully attracted sufficient quality to date. In fact, not only is this class currently the worst at Colorado since his arrival, it would rank as the lowest average stars of any Pac-12 team during that timeframe.
Of course, average stars is a flawed measurement tool (it rates a 5.7RR 3* as the same value as a 5.5RR 3*, which is less than accurate), but not useless enough that we shouldn’t be concerned that it ranks as the worst Pac-12 recruiting class in recent memory. Using average RR rating, the 2016 class currently would rank 2nd out of Mac’s 4 classes, but considerably behind last year’s class (5.494 vs. 5.467). Essentially that means this year’s class is landing a better overall “average” recruit than in MacIntyre’s 2013 and 2014 classes, but not 2015. Comparing this class to the previous decade, the 5.467 average RR rating would also exceed the 2006 (Barnett to Hawkins transition) and 2011 (Hawkins to Embree transition) classes as well. Simply put, it ranks below average in comparison to a recruiting decade that I wouldn’t exactly label as fire-emoji worthy.
With the recent news of 4* S Craig Watts choosing to reopen his recruitment, the Buffs are now in danger of failing to sign a 4* recruit in back to back classes for the first time in the Rivals era. That realization is the exact opposite of what Buffs fans want to hear. Highly touted commits Johnny Huntley and Anthony Julmisse have recently announced they won’t be taking other visits, but they’ve poked around long enough that holding off on a celebration might be a wise approach. In MacIntyre’s tenure, the Buffs are the only program in the Pac-12 to fail to sign multiple 4* recruits. In fact, every other program has signed three such prospects. Shay Fields represents the Buffs lone 4* commit, in the 2014 class.
It could be argued that this Colorado coaching staff is the most talented we’ve had in Boulder since the Barnett era. Jim Leavitt has been an absolute behemoth on the recruiting trail, and new WR/Co-OC Darrin Chiaverini has made more waves during a recruiting dead period than many of the guys on staff have done in years on the job.
They are putting the finishing touches on one of the finest indoor practice facilities in the entire country, complete with a full length practice field, therapy access, recovery pools, recruiting lounges, barber shop, and a mammoth weight room.
So where is the disconnect? Given all of these factors, the current results in this class are not acceptable, not anymore. We have the pieces in place to expect more, there are no more built-in excuses to explain our downtrodden results.
Luckily, this year’s results are not final. There is still time to finish strong and find ways to bring bigger fish into Boulder. This weekend, the dead period disappears, and a large group of visitors will make their way to Boulder. The buzz around the potential to finish this class is definitely palpable, but this fanbase is starving for results. No more “close but no cigar.” These kids are coming to campus, it is time we convinced them they were home.
Sure, we all see the progress, but now we’re ready for real results. #CUin16.