Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
John Leyba / The Denver Post
Coming in as a true freshman last season, Jacob Callier was happy to play a supporting role for the Colorado football team.
In preparing for his sophomore year, Callier wants more.
“I’m very determined,” Callier said this week. “I’m going for that starting spot. I didn’t come here to be a one-down player. I came here be the outside linebacker.”
Last season, Callier was CU’s best pass rusher. Although he played just 196 snaps, he led the team with 11 quarterback pressures, while adding a sack. He tied for third on the team with eight third-down stops.
CU’s coaching staff had Callier focus on being a pass rusher last year, rather than forcing him to learn the entire defense.
“It gave me time to develop but it also gave me experience on the field,” Callier said.
While his focus was on passing situations, Callier said he did learn more of the defense as the season went along and he feels confident in his knowledge of the defense now.
Callier also came into this spring leaner than he was last season. He played last season with 250 pounds on his 6-foot-2 frame, but he’s now down to 235 pounds.
While he said he would like to regain some muscle weight, coaches are talking about getting him to 225 or 230.
“I wanted to lose a lot of weight and get lean, put on that good muscle and get rid of the baby fat,” he said. “The plan is to play as fast as possible. Whatever weight I can be at and play as fast as I can, that’s the deal.”
Regardless of his weight, Callier is intent on making more of an impact next season.
“Most definitely we have to get a lot more sacks this year,” he said. “I feel a lot better, a lot more confident. I feel more confident in the role I’m playing and the role I’m trying to step in and take on.”
CU is 40 percent through spring, having completed its sixth of 15 practices on Wednesday, and co-offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini said he’s been happy with the progress on that side of the ball.
“I think we’ve made huge jumps from day one to day six, and that’s what you want to see,” he said. “You want to see a natural progression of getting better. It’s not going to be perfect, there’s going to be a lot of mistakes, a lot of young guys getting their first reps, but I’ve been really, really encouraged by how they’ve worked and come to practice and gotten better.”
That’s been particularly true on the offensive line, a group that is loaded with inexperience.
Chiaverini was the latest of many coaches and players to praise junior Dillon Middlemiss, who has made a significant jump this spring. Middlemiss has moved around the line during his career, but has mainly focused on right guard this spring and feels much more comfortable and confident than at any point in his college career.
Chiaverini added that junior guard/center Brett Tonz “is a guy that’s gotten so much better,” and said redshirt freshman center Colby Pursell “is snapping the ball really well.”
Quarterbacks on track
The Buffs’ quarterbacks have responded well to new position coach Kurt Roper, Chiaverini said.
“Coach Roper has done a really good job with them,” he said. “I think those quarterbacks are going to keep getting better.”
That includes incumbent starter Steven Montez. Chiaverini and the Buffs are expecting a lot of the junior.
“I have a higher expectation level of him because he’s played a lot of football,” Chiaverini said. “The mistakes the young guys make, I’m not going to let him get away with that.”
Montez has responded well and certainly has a leg up on his competition, but Chiaverini said Montez can’t take it easy with sophomore Sam Noyer and freshman Tyler Lytle continuing to progress.
“We’re going to play the best guy,” Chiaverini said. “When you go 5-7, all jobs are open.”
Friday will be the first of three open practices this spring. The Buffs are scheduled to practice from 8:15-11 a.m. at Franklin Field.