Although lightly recruited out of high school, and only moderately looked at coming out junior college, Mustafa Johnson had confidence he could play well in Division I football.
Two games into his career with the Colorado Buffaloes, however, he's surprising even himself.
A sophomore transfer from Modesto (Calif.) Junior College, Johnson earned a starting job at defensive end in preseason camp and has been the most disruptive defensive lineman for the Buffs (2-0), who play New Hampshire (0-2) in Saturday's home opener.
Johnson has 16 tackles, a team-high 2 ½ sacks, two other tackles for loss, four third-down stops (second only to linebacker Nate Landman), and a fumble recovery. He also tipped a pass that Landman picked off in the opener against CSU.
"All of this is a new shock to me because it's a high level, the crowd was loud, I'm not used to any of that stuff," he said. "I normally don't fold under pressure, but I wasn't expecting to make as big of an impact as I am right now.
"I'm doing well, I have a lot to learn, a lot to get better at and without my teammates and all the other guys ... I wouldn't have any of those things, so it's all definitely a team effort."
Born in Aurora, Johnson moved to California before his freshman year of high school. He was only 250 pounds coming out of high school and didn't get many looks from recruiters. Before getting to MJC last year, though, he had bulked up to 285 and racked up 6 ½ sacks.
Now, the 290-pounder is making plays for the Buffs, despite some mild adjustments.
"The tempo of the game, it was a big change going from high school to junior college; and from junior college to this level, it's been like no other," he said. "It was a huge change, and I felt that I've been able to keep up with it and play at this level.
"I was a little nervous coming into the first couple of the games, but now that I got to get the jitters out a little bit, I'm a little more confident and ready to play."
UNH QB still out
New Hampshire quarterback Trevor Knight, voted by Colonial Athletic Association coaches as the preseason offensive player of the year, is still out this week for the Wildcats.
Knight was injured early in the Wildcats' opener and has not played since. He threw for 3,433 yards and 26 touchdowns in 2017.
Without Knight, the Wildcats have scored just 10 points in two games. But, CU head coach Mike MacIntyre expects them to be better this week.
"They are an extremely disciplined and sound football team," he said. "You can see how well coached they are. Defensively, they're very good at their scheme. They've done a good job on defense throughout the years.
"Defensively is where they're really playing well. Offensively, I think they'll start clicking. It's very similar to a Nebraska-style offense, a UCLA-style offense."
Chris Miller is likely to make his debut on defense this week. The redshirt freshman has been one of CU's best cornerbacks when healthy, but battled a hamstring issue in fall camp.
Although Miller was healthy last week, MacIntyre said, "He wasn't quite ready. We weren't able to practice him enough at corner to throw him out there in Nebraska for the first time. If he would have been healthy the whole time, he would have been playing quite a bit. He's healthy now. He'll play this week."
Miller did get into the game on special teams against Nebraska.
Receiver Jaylon Jackson continues to recover from a foot injury that has sidelined him this season. Like Miller, he has yet to make his CU debut, but MacIntyre said, "He is supposed to come back and practice next Wednesday and go through the off week and see how he feels. Hopefully he'll be back for UCLA or Arizona State." ... UNH senior receiver Neil O'Connor posted his eighth career 100-yard receiving game last week.