A year ago, two of the biggest playmakers on the Colorado defense were safeties Evan Worthington and Afolabi Laguda.
Three games into this year, the Buffaloes' safeties — Worthington and Nick Fisher — haven't made many impactful plays, but there's a good reason for that.
The Buffaloes (3-0) are getting much more out of their defensive line and linebackers so far than they did a year ago, and that's leaving less for the safeties to do on the back end of the defense.
"Talk about our front, talk about our pressure," safeties coach and defensive passing game coordinator ShaDon Brown said. "How many times do we hit the quarterback? We're hitting the quarterback an awful lot. The quarterbacks don't have three and four seconds to throw the ball down field. That's why you don't see the safeties making as many plays as in the past.
"Last year there wasn't as much pressure, and a lot of deep balls. This year we're applying pressure to the QB, so the ball is not down the field."
A year ago, CU gave up 6.12 yards per play, and 7.15 yards per pass attempt.
So far this year, those numbers are down to 4.89 yards per play, and 6.14 yards per pass attempt. Those numbers suggest that not only are the Buffs making more plays closer to the line of scrimmage, but that opposing quarterbacks aren't throwing deep, as Brown said.
Worthington (15 tackles, two tackles for loss) and Fisher (11 tackles) have done their part when needed, but the defensive line and linebackers have been so good that there's less pressure on the safeties.
"There's other things happening up front that are good for them, but they're going to have to make some open field tackles and some one-on-one pass plays that are going to happen," head coach Mike MacIntyre said. "They're going to have to be ready for that."
MacIntyre and Brown aren't too worried about Worthington and Fisher making those plays when the time comes. For now, Brown said he's pleased with what they've done, especially with directing traffic in the back and getting the defense in and out of checks.
On the recruiting trail
With CU on a bye this week, MacIntyre and the coaches are taking the opportunity to do some recruiting. CU's assistant coaches were on the road Monday and Tuesday and left Friday after practice to go back out.
While CU and other teams are still working on their 2019 classes, there's a lot of emphasis on 2020 and even 2021 recruits.
"Mainly it's (evaluating) 2020, and the 2019s, we're seeing guys who are committed to us and going to watch them play," MacIntyre said.
The recruiting calendar, which now allows for an earlier signing date in December, has accelerated the process, making it necessary for teams to evaluate more and more players that are two or three years away from high school graduation.
MacIntyre would like to see the calendar tweaked again at some point. For years, the only signing date for football was in early February. Last year, an early signing period was added in December. MacIntyre would like to see the December period moved to July, with the February period remaining for those who want to sign late.
"I think eventually it will get to that," he said.
After the bye, the Buffs will host UCLA (0-3) on Sept. 28 at Folsom Field. ... CU wrapped up its practices for the week on Friday and will take Saturday off before returning for meetings on Sunday. ... UCLA backup quarterback Devon Modster announced Friday that he is transferring. A former four-star recruit, he started in the Cactus Bowl for the Bruins on Dec. 26. This season, the redshirt sophomore was third string and had not played in a game. ... CU has credited sophomore linebacker Nate Landman with 34 tackles so far this season. That puts him on pace for 136, which would be the most by any CU player since Jordon Dizon had 160 in 2007.