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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

CU Buffs Football Rivals Preview: UNC Bears Beginning of New Era

After the 2019 season, the Northern Colorado football program decided to go in a different direction.

After nine years with Ernest Collins Jr., the Bears hired former Denver Broncos receiver Ed McCaffrey as head coach, turning Page into a new era.

Add in the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Bears this season basically hit the restart button on the program.

Leading up to Precision Camp, BuffZone.com will preview each of Colorado’s 2021 opponents, and in this first installment, we look at the UNC Bears.

McCaffrey was hired on December 12, 2019, and he is still waiting to coach his first game with the Bears, who have changed the roster since he last played. UNC went 2-10 in 2019 and then did not play last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Football Championship subdivision season was canceled last time and the Bears then opted to pull out of the spring season to focus on this fall.

McCaffrey doesn’t have any college coaching experience, but he is a big name who has brought some energy to the program. It has also brought some attention from transfers, as UNC has 17 players on its roster who previously played in Football Bowl subdivision schools.

“We brought in a huge number of players with FBS experience to add to our roster, and also people who love football and are in it for the right reasons,” McCaffrey said during a virtual press conference in February. “They want to have some success and they all believe that’s going to happen here and so do I.”

GREELEY, CO – OCT 07: Northern Colorado wide receiver Jaren Mitchell (13) Greeley runs during a drill during UNC Bears football practice at the University of Northern Colorado on October 7, 2020. (Alex McIntyre / The Greeley Tribune)

On the newcomer list is McCaffrey’s son, Dylan, who relocated from Michigan and is expected to start at quarterback.

“I think he gives us a wealth of experience and a ton of talent,” McCaffrey said of his son. “We also have some weapons for those who were on the team and the ones we brought. I think that is one of the reasons why they decided to pick us up at some of the other schools.

“He wanted to come home, stay in Colorado, play at UNC. As a coach, of course, I’m thrilled because he makes us so much better, but also as a father, his It is a really cool experience to be able to train a son.”

In addition to Dylan McCaffrey, the Bears drive former Michigan back to True Wilson and Washington State (Cassidy Woods), TCU (Dylan Thomas) and Akron (Jonah Morris) receivers.

Defensively, the Bears have added linebackers Xander Gagnon (from Duke) and RJ Potts (Cincinnati), defensive back Comote Kofi (from New Mexico State), and others.

UNC also has three former buffs on the roster, with defensive lineman Tawa Finau and defensive backs Urian Hudson and Dustin Johnson.

Coach McCaffrey said, ‘We have brought in all kinds of players who will help us. “Some will help us immediately. Others we have to go to our own weight room and put on and develop a little muscle. You have to be physically, mentally and emotionally strong to play at the next level.”

In April, the Bears turned a little rusty with sparring against CSU-Pueblo and Chadron State.

“Spring Ball was a good time for us,” Bears lead receiver Jaren Mitchell said in 2019 after a scuffle against Chadron State. “We have to get together, perfect our chemistry, work on the things that we need to do.”

There is much to be done at UNC, which was 28-72 under Collins, including 7-26 over the past three seasons. Initially this year also there will not be much expectations. Lindy’s Magazine projected the Bears to finish 10th in the 13-team Big Sky Conference.

The way to turn it starts on September 3 in Boulder.

“I don’t think anyone is counting on us to do anything, but when I was hired here, I was hired because I was voted on by our president and our athletic director, who said It was that they would invest in this program and they would help me create a winning culture,” said coach McCaffrey. “We prepare ourselves to be the best to give ourselves a chance to win championships. That is the goal; that goal is always Will happen. A lot of people are laughing. I hope they are not laughing at the end of the season.”

Northern Colorado Bear

Date with CU: September 3, 7 p.m., at Folsom Field in Boulder

head coach: Ed McCaffrey, first year

Chain: Colorado 10-2 . leads to

Bears in 2019: 2-10, 2-6 at Big Sky Conference-6

Offensive players to watch:

  • TE Robert Gillum, Sr., 6-5, 260 (Transfer from Illinois State; 2019: 15 games started)
  • QB Dylan McCaffrey, Sr., 6-5, 220 (Transfer from Michigan; 2019: 10-of-20, 116 yards, 1 TD)
  • WR Jaren Mitchell, so., 5-10, 184 (2019: 48 rec., 740 yards, 2 td)
  • WR Jonah Morris, Sr., 6-4, 215 (transfer from Akron)
  • WR Dylan Thomas, 6-1, 200 (Transfer from TCU; 2019: 8 rec., 121 yards, 1 td)
  • RB True Wilson, Sr., 5-10, 200 (Transfer from Michigan; 2019: 44 att., 221 yards, 1 td)
  • WR Cassidy Woods, So., 6-4, 225 (Transfer from Washington State; 2019: 6 rec., 58 yards)

Defensive players to watch:

  • LB Jess Bobo, Jr., 6-1, 221 (2019: 54 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 2 sacks, 2 INT)
  • DL Germaine Carmena, Jr., 6-5, 385 (Transfer from Coffeeville CC; 2019: 39 tackles, 0.5 sacks)
  • LB Xander Gagnon, Sr., 6-3, 235 (Transfer from Duke; 2019: 12 games, 8 tackles)
  • DB Aaron Harris, Jr., 6-0, 192 (2019: 54 tackles, 2 fumble recoveries)
  • DB Jaron Jackson, Sr., 5-10, 188 (2019: 105 tackles, 4 TFLs, 2 sacks, 3 PBUs
  • DB Comote Kofi, Sr., 6-1, 190 (Transfer from New Mexico State; 2019: 2 games, 4 tackles)
  • LB RJ Potts, Jr., 6-2, 230 (Transfer from Cincinnati; 2019: 9 games, 7 tackles)

Notable: The season-opening matchup will mark the beginning of college coaching for McCaffrey, who most recently was head coach at Valor Christian High School. … McCaffrey played receiver in the NFL for 13 years (1991–2003), including nine seasons with the Denver Broncos. With the Broncos, he caught 462 passes for 6,200 yards and 46 touchdowns, while helping them win two Super Bowls. … For McCaffrey’s three seasons with the Broncos (2000–02), his replacement coach was Carl Dorrell, who is now the head coach of the Buffs. … CU won the last meeting, 41–21, at Folsom Field on September 16, 2017. This was the first matchup between the Buffs and the Bears since 1934. … Dylan McCaffrey played 13 games at Michigan, 18-of-35 for 242 yards and three touchdowns, while rushing for 166 yards and two scores. …True Wilson was a four-time letterman at Michigan, rushing 585 yards in his last two years with the Wolverines. … Jonah Morris missed the 2019 season with an injury, but started all 12 games in 2018, making 26 passes for 381 yards.

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