There has been very little opportunity for Karl Dorrell to see his defense work together as a whole unit.
Colorado’s head coach has seen enough, however, to recognize the potential.
“When all those pieces are back and we’re ready to roll … these guys can be a really good defense in time,” Dorrell said Saturday after the Buffaloes completed their second scrimmage of preseason camp.
CU opens its season Sept. 3 at Folsom Field against Northern Colorado (7 p.m.; TV: Pac-12 Networks) and the defense is starting to come together.
During the Buffs’ first scrimmage, on Aug. 14, many key players were held out, either because of injuries or to limit the wear and tear on their bodies. On Saturday, much of the group was back, including inside linebacker Nate Landman and outside linebacker Carson Wells.
Offensively, tight end Brady Russell was among the veterans who competed Saturday after sitting out a week earlier.
“The guys that haven’t had a lot of practice time, we wanted to give them some live reps today,” Dorrell said. “Kind of give them that confidence that they’re okay, and also to get them to where we need to be when the 25 practices are up. It was good to get all those guys out there and getting some reps.”
That was particularly important on defense, which is led by Landman and Wells.
Landman, who suffered a ruptured Achilles’ tendon on Dec. 12 against Utah, has been rehabilitating all offseason. He was cleared before preseason camp, but CU has limited his reps to get him ready for the season. He is an All-American candidate going into his final season with the Buffs.
“It’s good to see Nate out there,” Dorrell said. “You can see his leadership, how confident the defense is when he’s out there.”
Safety Mark Perry said Landman does make a difference, but that other linebackers are also playing well.
“Nate just being who he is, just calling different things out, being a leader, but it’s really no drop off from him to the twos,” Perry said. “Having Quinn (Perry), Marvin (Ham), other guys in, there’s really no drop-off. .. It’s just really good being able to have a set of linebackers that you don’t see a lot of drop off between the two.”
Inside linebacker is one of several areas that Dorrell believes is deeper than it was a year ago. Throughout camp, he also commented on the improved depth at cornerback and safety.
The same is true at outside linebacker.
Wells returns after leading the country in tackles for loss in 2020, but one of the key battles of camp was for the No. 2 spot. That continues to be a daily contest between Joshka Gustav, Jamar Montgomery and Guy Thomas.
“They all are having really good camps, so it’s hard to just pick one who’s the starter when they’ve all been very, very productive,” Dorrell said. “That’s still going to be ongoing for a little while.”
The defensive line stepped up during Saturday’s scrimmage, too.
During one portion of the scrimmage, the Buffs went through third- and fourth-down short-yardage situations. Defensive tackle Janaz Jordan was one who stood out, Dorrell said.
“Defense probably won probably half of those,” Dorrell said. “The offense had a few that were real good plays, too, but I thought the interior of the line guys were really doing a great job. Janaz showed up a couple times, which is good to see because he’s starting to get in better shape and he’s running down the line of scrimmage and he’s catching people from behind. That’s a lot of weight when that’s landing on you, so he’s getting better.”
Perry, meanwhile, led the secondary with an interception during a goal-line situation. Like Dorrell, Perry is enjoying the progress being made by the entire defense.
“I feel like we’ve grown every practice really,” Perry said. “Communication has been really a key focus since the spring. You can tell it’s completely different from the spring.”
As the Buffs get more players healthy and into the mix, there is a hope that the improvement will continue into and throughout the season.
“When they’re all out there and we start to really get more familiar with each other as they play, they’ve got a chance to be really good,” Dorrell said.
Source: Read Full Article