Due to Colorado’s star safety Shilo Sanders’ absence from the No. 8 USC game on Saturday, the Buffaloes’ already weak secondary will be even more exposed to the Trojans.
According to sources, Sanders did not participate in practice this week and is expected to be replaced in the starting lineup by Rodrick Ward, a transfer from Southern Utah. This week, coach Deion Sanders revealed on his radio program that his son was urinating blood due to a kidney issue.
Sanders is a graduate student who began this season at Colorado after playing at South Carolina and Jackson State. With 26 tackles, a forced fumble, and an 80-yard interception return in the win over Colorado State, he has been a defensive lynchpin for Colorado.
Sanders’ departure deprives Colorado of two of its most crucial contributors, as Travis Hunter (333 snaps at WR/DB) and Sanders (312 overall) are among the team’s top three snappers.
Hunter, a lockdown cornerback who also plays receiver occasionally, is out for a number of weeks after being subjected to an unlawful hit from Henry Blackburn of Colorado State.
That makes Colorado vulnerable to Caleb Williams, the returning Heisman winner, and USC’s No. 3 national passing offense, which averages 377.2 yards per game. Williams and Sanders’ brother, Shedeur, will face off in a quarterback battle in a game that intrigues NFL front offices enough to draw 30 scouts from 21 teams.
Colorado’s pass defense allows 269.2 yards per game, which ranks 111st nationally. USC, with 228 yards per game, is ranked 68.
Ward, a backup safety who has played nine defensive snaps, 57 special teams snaps, and three tackles this season behind Shilo Sanders on the depth chart, will face a significant challenge if he gets the start at safety. Sanders is a prominent voice in Colorado politics and a major player in the secondary.
Ward has dropped into coverage on three plays this season but hasn’t been targeted as the main defender, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Xavier Weaver, the top wide receiver for Colorado, will compete on Saturday. Weaver was hurt last week against Oregon but the nature of the injury is unknown.