Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
In his first season at Colorado, Jordan Carrell proved to be the most consistent and reliable defensive lineman on the team.
Now in his second season, Carrell is looking forward to being even better, and he knows that having Josh Tupou by his side will help.
“Josh is a big help in the middle,” Carrell said. “He takes up two guys every time. With his relentlessness, we should be a big, powerful front.”
Carrell has yet to play with Tupou, who sat out the 2015 campaign after being suspended. CU missed the 6-foot-3, 325-pound Tupou all season, but having Carrell, a transfer from American River College, was crucial. Carrell played 82.6 percent of the defense snaps, the most by a CU defensive lineman since 2007.
Tupou, who started all 24 games from 2013-2014, is a workhorse, as well. He played in 76 percent of the defensive snaps in 2014, and he’s slated to start at nose tackle this season.
Led by that duo, the Buffs boast perhaps the best set of defensive linemen they’ve had in a decade. Senior Samson Kafovalu — one of the Buffs’ best defenders during the second half of 2015 — could also start in the base 3-4 defense.
Juniors Timothy Coleman and Leo Jackson III and sophomores Jase Franke and Eddy Lopez give the Buffs quality depth. CU is also excited to see how redshirt freshmen Brett Tonz, Lyle Tuiloma and Frank Umu develop.
“The more depth you have with quality players, the better off you are,” CU head coach Mike MacIntyre said of his defensive line. “Also, you can run guys in and out when teams are playing fast and you have a break and you don’t drop off. It makes a big difference. I think it’ll make a huge difference for us in the fourth quarter, especially the run defense.”
Carrell is excited to see the difference it makes not only in his game, but in how the Buffs perform as a unit.
“I’m still ready to play as much as they need me to play,” he said. “As a starter, I don’t want to come off the field, but if I feel tired, I’m not going to be afraid to let the next man go up because I know there’s not going to be a drop-off. There’s going to be just as good.
“We have way much more depth than last year. Everybody is stronger and we’re in better shape. This offseason was a lot of help for us. We bonded as a whole, so it’s going to be a big change this year. It should be a good year for us up front.”
It should be a good year for Carrell, individually. After playing well at 280 pounds last year, he’s up to 295, and it’s what he calls “good weight.”
“He’s further ahead than he was this time last year,” MacIntyre said. “He is more powerful. He’s put on a little weight, but it’s more muscle weight. He’s been able to stay healthy and he’s still moving quick and pass rushing well. I think Jordan Carrell can be an excellent player.”
Carrell is hoping that’s true. In addition to focusing on his strength, he spent a lot of time working on his tackling, because finishing tackles was a weakness of his last season.
With more strength, better technique, and talented teammates by his side, Carrell believes this will be a better season.
“The first couple of days have gone well,” he said. “The defense is really stout, and we’re playing with a lot of confidence. We’re just all flying around the ball. Main focus right now is just keep getting in hitting condition shape and just keep getting better as a whole.”
Back to work
The Buffs took a day off Sunday after starting off camp last week with three practices in a row. On Monday, they were back to work and MacIntyre was pleased with the practice.
“It was good,” he said. “Three days in a row is kind of a jolt to the system. We came back in pads again and I thought they did well in practice. They got after it. We got all of our reps done.”
MacIntyre said all the players are done with summer school, which allows the team to practice later in the morning than they did last week. … Kicker Diego Gonzalez struggled on kicks from the left hash last year. MacIntyre said CU discovered a flaw in how Gonzalez approached the ball from the left, with his first step being off. It’s a flaw that Gonzalez has spent the offseason fixing and MacIntyre said, “He’s corrected that.”
Brian Howell: email@example.com, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.