Josh Tupou reached out to shake hands with a couple of reporters after practice on Thursday and said, "It's been a while."

Yes it has, but the senior defensive tackle is glad to be back on the practice field with the Colorado Buffaloes.

Suspended last summer from school and, therefore, the team, after an off-the-field incident in the spring of 2015, Tupou rejoined the Buffs in May and was on the practice field with them when they opened preseason camp on Thursday morning.

"It's pretty exciting to be back," he said. "It's been real exciting ever since I got back in May, seeing the progress the guys made over the year I was gone, how much better they got and bigger they got in the weight room and on the field."

CU's best defensive lineman in 2014, he earned All-Pac-12 honorable mention that season. He's played in 34 career games, including starting every game in 2013 and 2014.

During his year away from the team, he returned home to California, working in landscaping, playing rugby and "just tried to do whatever I had to."

Although the Buffs were not in pads on Thursday, Tupou said he felt comfortable getting back on the field.

"I feel a little rust with the eyes, reading blocks and stuff," he said. "But, not too much with tackling, because with playing rugby, it's kind of similar to football."

Tupou is listed at 6-foot-3, 325 pounds, which is slightly heavier than his past playing weight. He wouldn't reveal his actual weight when asked on Thursday, but said it's "still a work in progress."


He also said he wants to lose some weight so he's in better condition to play more snaps.

CU coaches aren't concerned about Tupou's weight or conditioning at this point.

"Usually big guys, it takes them a little while into camp and after we get the pads on they start going against each other, but he'll be ready to roll," head coach Mike MacIntyre said.

Defensive line coach Jim Jeffcoat said Tupou is "farther along than we anticipated" and he's confident Tupou will physically be ready to play. Jeffcoat is eager to see how the senior does as the starting nose tackle.

Defensive tackle Josh Tupou earned earned All-Pac-12 honorable mention in 2014.
Defensive tackle Josh Tupou earned earned All-Pac-12 honorable mention in 2014. (Cliff Grassmick / Daily Camera)

"He gives you that big body that can overpower centers," Jeffcoat said. "Physically, they're going to have a hard time trying to block him and they're going to have to occupy him with two or three people, which helps everybody else."

Tupou, who has yet to play in coordinator Jim Leavitt's 3-4 defense, may not accumulate a lot of statistics at nose tackle, but said that's not his goal.

"Nose is like a big position for someone to be really physical, so I like my role," he said. "If it limits my stats, I'm fine with that, as long as it's helping our team win and defense get better."

Last year, Tupou watched from afar as the defense did get better, but he also watched the Buffs suffer through another disappointing season that included numerous close losses.

"It was just hard to see that I couldn't be out there with them," he said.

There was never a doubt he was coming back, though. He put in the work to make sure he got one more chance to play for the Buffs.

"I just learned to be more appreciative of what this opportunity means," he said. "I went home and there are a lot of people who don't have this opportunity.

"I committed here four years or five years ago, and I knew I was going to come back to this school and finish off, especially with the guys that are left from my class. I wanted to finish with them."

Brian Howell:, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.