Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
At the end of every football season, Colorado strength and conditioning coach Drew Wilson can pinpoint where the Buffaloes need to get better.
“It’s never going to be good enough,” he said of the work the Buffs do in the weight room. “Be happy, enjoy the moments and enjoy the victories … but when I’m satisfied I’ll probably retire.”
Wilson wasn’t anywhere near satisfaction – or retirement – after last season, when the Buffs (5-7, 2-7 Pac-12) finished last in the South division.
“Getting back to work after only winning five games, you’re like, ‘We have a lot of issues that we have to correct,'” Wilson said. “It’s, what do we have to do better as a team to be more productive during the season?”
With summer workouts beginning and a new season just around the corner, Wilson is pleased with what the Buffs have done this offseason to get better.
“I think we have had a good, productive offseason,” he said. “Guys made gains all the way around, whether it be in the weight room or on the field.
“Guys are getting stronger, they’re getting bigger, they’re leaner. It’s been a good offseason.”
In reviewing last season, one point of emphasis for Wilson and the Buffs was what he called “horizontal force production.”
“It was a goal we set out to produce force moving across the field, whether running or jumping,” he said. “We weren’t as good as I thought we could be last year.”
One area that needs improvement with horizontal force is the defensive line. The Buffs allowed 5.23 yards per rush last year, ranking 110th nationally.
“It’s a high priority,” Wilson said. “It’s been brought up several times to them. The 2016 season, the year we were dominant, those three dudes (seniors Jordan Carrell, Samson Kafovalu and Josh Tupou) were something special up front and they anchored and changed the outcome of a game within the first two series. I think guys recognize that.”
This year’s defensive line includes seniors Javier Edwards and Chris Mulumba, who are returning starters. Both were newcomers to CU last year as junior college transfers.
“They definitely have improved,” CU head coach Mike MacIntyre said. “I think it’s a little bit like Samson and Josh got better (in 2016) and those guys have gotten better (this year).
“I feel you’ll see the same jump in all these guys, because they’ve been in it a year. They’ve worked at it, they understand it, they’re in better shape.”
Edwards went from 390 pounds in January of 2017 to a much leaner – and stronger – 335 now.
“He’s a stronger human being pound for pound,” Wilson said. “He’s done a much better job with everything that we’ve asked him to do.”
Like Carrell, Edwards and Mulumba, sophomore Mustafa Johnson is a junior college transfer. He had a good spring and could compete for a starting job.
“He’s farther along than Chris and Javy and JC were after their first spring,” MacIntyre said.
With versatile senior Jase Franke, junior Lyle Tuiloma and talented freshmen Israel Antwine, Tava Finau, Terrance Lang and Jalen Sami also in the mix, the Buffs feel better about that group being able to produce horizontal force this season.
Wilson said new line coach Kwahn Drake has helped the group bond and become more accountable to each other.
“They’ve become closer from that aspect,” Wilson said. “I think coach Kwahn has done a great job bringing those guys together.”
During the summer, the Buffs hope to grow even closer and get even better, especially in the trenches. The defensive and offensive lines have both had great offseasons, but it has to continue.
“I would say I’m pleased at the moment, but not satisfied,” Wilson said. “Nowhere near where we need to be. It’s positive for the future and the direction of the team. You have a bunch of hard-working kids that do a good job. They’re eager to play and that’s good.”
Headlining the group is Jermaine Johnson, a 6-foot-6 defensive end from Independence (Kan.) Community College that is ranked as one of the top JUCO prospects for the 2019 class. Four-star defensive tackle Jacob Bandes, from Pittsburg, Calif., will also be in Boulder.
Also slated to visit: current CU commit Kamryn Farrar, a linebacker from Dallas; guard Cole Birmingham of Katy, Tex.; safety Jared Hopper of Mansfield, Tex.; cornerback Jaylen Martin of Corona, Calif.; linebacker Jashua Allen of Riverside (Calif.) City College.
Redshirt freshman linebacker Jonathan Van Diest and sophomore tight end Jared Poplawski are both coming back from November knee injuries and doing well. Wilson said he believes both will be ready for fall camp, which starts Aug. 1.