In the nearly two months since he was hired as Colorado's defensive line coach, Kwahn Drake hasn't stopped smiling.
The 32-year-old, in his first job at a Power 5 school, has an infectious personality and a level of energy that the Buffaloes have needed on their defense.
"It's going great. I'm enjoying it," Drake said this week as he completed his 10th practice of the spring with the Buffs.
The players are enjoying it, too.
During their disappointing 2017 season (5-7, 2-7 Pac-12), the Buffs had a rough time in the trenches. CU's defensive line was routinely beaten in the run game and struggled to generate much of a pass rush.
In the offseason, the Buffs elected to not retain former line coach Jim Jeffcoat and hired Drake, a highly regarded up-and-comer in the coaching ranks.
This spring, the reviews have been positive.
"He's passionate from when he steps on the field to when he walks off the field; really before he gets on the field," head coach Mike MacIntyre said. "He's doing an excellent job with them. I've seen an improvement from the first day to now. His energy and his knowledge is really paying off."
Defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot smiled when asked about the passion Drake brings to the practice field.
"Kwahn's very energetic," Eliot said. "He has a great relationship with the players, he's an excellent technique coach. I've been very impressed with him."
As was the case a season ago, the defensive line will be critical to the Buffs' success, and Drake is charged with getting his crew to play better than it did last fall. To do that, Drake is stressing the importance of depth and versatility.
"One of the biggest things about defensive line play is being able to mix and match guys so you can have depth," Drake said. "We know at that position, guys get banged up very, very easily just through the trenches and the roughness of the position.
"As long as we can move guys around and play guys at all three positions, that's going to give us that overall depth as a defensive line."
CU returns two of its three regular starters up front — seniors Javier Edwards and Chris Mulumba — while also returning top backups Jase Franke and Lyle Tuiloma.
Edwards, who started nine games as nose tackle, has dropped about 20 pounds this offseason, to 339, and is looking to lose more. That has allowed him to be more versatile up front.
Mulumba, meanwhile, has continued his overall progression. The regular starter at right end last year, he was arguably the most improved player on the team from the start of the season to the end.
"I'm getting better every day," Mulumba said, adding that his fundamentals and understanding of the defense are improved.
This spring, the Buffs also have freshman Terrance Lang, who redshirted last fall. At 6-foot-7 and 270 pounds, Lang has the prototypical build for an end, and Drake said Lang is "being molded now that he can play both (sides). You'll see us do some different things with him athletically."
The addition of junior college transfer Mustafa Johnson has been huge for the Buffs, too. No player on the line has been talked about more this spring than Johnson. Drake said Johnson can play any position up front.
True freshman Jalen Sami, a 6-6, 320-pound nose tackle, has turned heads, as well.
Of course, the true test of this group will come in the fall, but Mulumba said Drake has already made a difference.
"We work more on technique now, different techniques," Mulumba said. "He's explaining our technique and the way we see the game. He's more detailed and he helps to play faster."
The biggest difference, however, is in the overall mood of the group, which seems to have taken on some of Drake's passion.
"He's excited and we like to work now and it's fun," Mulumba said. "He's trying to bring the energy to us. Every morning, he's hyped. We work extra; we go extra before practice and after practice and spend a lot of time with him watching film.
"We really needed it. You can tell by the players, they are happy and they want to work and want to practice."