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Who IS the Buffs most important player?

Ryan Koenigsberg Avatar
July 17, 2015


This afternoon, David Lombardi and ESPN Pac-12 Blog, who provide good coverage of the conference, ran a piece titled, “Most important player: Colorado Buffaloes.”

Well right off the bat, it did it’s job, I clicked.

First off you see the rules for their most important player pieces:

1. Quarterbacks are ineligible.

2. “Most important” doesn’t equal “best.” (Note: Sometimes the most important player is the best player.) I think we can all agree that a season ago, players like Mike Bercovici and Jerry Neuheisel proved how very important they were to their respective teams.

3. Even if they were the most important, they’re QBs and therefore ineligible (see rule No. 1). Keep up, guys.

Good rules, if not for the QB being ineligible, most of the teams choice for most important player would be obvious, especially the Buffs, but that was where my agreement with the article came to an end.

Their choice for the Buffs most important player was Nelson Spruce, I didn’t agree, but I understood the selection. It was the first paragraph of the “Why” section that inspired me to write a response.

“Sure, we could have tried to go the artsy route here. We could have picked someone else before going on to explain why they’re more vital to Colorado’s prospects than Spruce. But that would have been a major reach. The Buffs need to improve in so many facets of the game, but most of that advancement — such as fixing what was far and away the Pac-12’s worst run defense — is reliant upon a large group of players. Spruce is the one man on Colorado’s roster than can change the course of a game himself. He is the Buffs’ most important player, and it really isn’t up for debate.”

Never seen myself as the artsy type, but I say it is up for debate, and I shall chose to debate it.

Let me start by saying that this in no way a knock on Nelson Spruce as a player, he is a heck of a receiver, and probably the best player on the Buffs, but he is not the most important.

When I think most important player, I think irreplaceability, if the Buffs lost this player, where is the biggest drop off? It’s not at wide receiver, I can tell you that. With guys like Shay Fields, Bryce Bobo and Devin Ross all able to play on the outside, and Donovan Lee and Jay MacIntyre giving the Buffs talent in the slot, the wide receiver position would not be doomed if the Buffs were to not have Spruce at their disposal.

So where is it, who is it?

To me, and this may be scary for Buffs fans, it’s Addison Gillam.

As many know, Gillam put together one of the best freshman seasons in Colorado history in 2013, but last season he was riddled by injuries and sickness. He lost a ton of weight, and seemingly lost a step as well. Gillam’s sophomore slump was a big reason the Buffaloes had one of the worst run defenses in the country.

Mike MacIntyre recently told Vic Lombardi of CBS 4 that Gillam was back over 220 pounds, and back to looking like himself on the field. Colorado better hope so, because the man who was a decent stop-gap in Gillam’s absence last year, Brady Daigh, has graduated. Now the “depth” behind the one-time freshman all-american, is nearly non-existent, or at the least, largely unknown.

Options include:

Christian Shaver – A sophomore who ha slimmed down to move out of the defensive end role he played last year and help with depth at this position, is he fast enough to play LB in the Pac-12?

Deaysean Rippy – A junior with all the physical tools, but a player whose name had nearly been forgotten until Jim leavitt got on campus. Apparently Leavitt has revitalized the once highly coveted recruit, but is he merely another offseason all star?

Grant Watanabe – a player whose film I loved in high school, but spent the last year gray-shirting and recovering from a plethora of injuries, including torn ligaments in his foot. Is he back at full strength?

In other words, it’s Gillam or pray one of those guys has a breakout year.

If Addison Gillam can get back into top form, the Buffaloes defense has potential to hold it’s own, if he doesn’t, the defense as a whole takes a huge hit. For that reason he is the most important player on this team.

Honorable mention:

Justin Solis – Before getting suspended for the season, Josh Tupou would have been very high on this list because of a lack of depth behind him. Solis is that depth. The Buffs need Solis to have a big year to try and cover up the huge hole that Tupou left in the middle of the line. It also should be noted that the lack of Tupou in the middle makes Addison Gillam even more important.

Tedric Thompson: While the depth behind Thompson isn’t as bad as the other two positions, Thompson’s worth was extremely obvious last year. He proved to be the best playmaker on the defense, leading the team in interceptions despite not playing the full season.

Again, Nelson Spruce is a great player, one of the best receivers in the country, but him being the most important player on the team is certainly debatable.

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