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Colorado 2013 season preview

Can you name the last four Pac-12 schools to produce multiple first-round picks in the same draft? The first three are obvious -- USC and Stanford in 2012 with Oregon doing so this past April. The last is inexplicably Colorado, which saw offensive tackle Nate Solder come off the board with the No. 17 overall pick and corner Jimmy Smith go 10 spots later in the 2011 NFL Draft.

So new head coach Mike MacIntyre -- who engineered a resurrection on the field and in the classroom at San Jose State -- at least has some recent history in his corner. Beyond that, the Buffaloes don't have much else. MacIntyre found and developed legitimate NFL talent with the Spartans, most notably senior quarterback David Fales, but faces a major rebuild that will require time and patience before paying off in wins and draft picks.

Top senior prospects

DE Chidera Udo-Diribe: Udo-Diribe had seven of the team's 21 sacks last season, but was largely a non-factor against elite competition. He does have some experience playing from a two-point stance. He should run and test well next spring, but needs to show the tape to match it.

C Gus Handler: Handler missed seven games last season because of injuries, but did fare well against top defensive tackles Will Sutton of Arizona State and Leonard Williams of USC. He possesses good size and power. With a lack of consistency on the offensive line, Handler must be the steady and calming influence, even as things around him inevitably go wrong.

Top underclassmen

WR Paul Richardson: Richardson, who played alongside Buffalo Bills wide receiver Robert Woods and USC star Marqise Lee in high school, is dynamic after the catch. Unfortunately, two knee injuries limited him to only nine games in 2011 and kept him sidelined for the entire 2012 season. If he can stay healthy and hasn't lost any of his open-field acceleration, Richardson could emerge as one of the best big-play receivers in college football.

P Darragh O'Neill: Born in Ireland, O'Neill had never played organized football before joining the Buffaloes as a walk-on in the spring of 2011. He quickly became one of the best punters in the nation (42.6 yards per punt, 38.8 net as freshman; 43.5 yards per punt, 39.3 net last season) and is only now learning the finer points of the position. Primarily uses his right foot, but can go rugby-style with his left. O'Neill played soccer and basketball in high school, earning all-state recognition in both sports. Younger brother Shane plays for the Colorado Rapids in Major League Soccer.

Who are the best all-time NFL players to come out of Colorado?

Three must-see games of 2013

Sept. 14 vs. Fresno State: Quarterback Derek Carr and wide receiver Davante Adams form perhaps the most underappreciated pass-catching battery in the college game and represent a brutal challenge for a Buffaloes defense that ranked dead last in the FBS in points allowed and pass efficiency defense last season. The reconfigured Colorado secondary will have nightmares.

Oct. 5 vs. Oregon: This is going to be nothing short of a whipping, with the Buffaloes playing the role of junker car to be run over by a monster truck. The last two meetings produced a combined score of 115-16 in favor of the Ducks, with running back De'Anthony Thomas totaling 147 rushing yards on nine carries and a 73-yard punt return touchdown. How much damage can the "Black Mamba" do this time as the likely featured ball carrier?

Nov. 16 vs. California: Paul Richardson set school single-game records with 284 receiving yards on 11 catches against the Golden Bears in 2011. Now that it will count in the Pac-12 standings, Richardson will try to one-up the feat against promising corner Stefan McClure.

Follow Dan Greenspan on Twitter @DanGreenspan.

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