Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Every time Colorado sophomore Carson Wells sits down in a meeting with his fellow outside linebackers and new position coach Brian Michalowski, he knows what’s coming.
“Every meeting starts with a Power Point and that’s the first slide,” Wells said, referring to the Michalowski-led slogan, #YearOfTheSack. “He came up with that. It’s funny.”
Originally hired as a quality control coach, Michalowski, 29, is diving into his new job with both feet and eager to help his position group thrive in the CU defense.
“It’s kind of fun to try to create an identity with these guys,” Michalowski said of the social media hashtag he came up with for his group. “That’s the trait we need to have, because it’s expected that we have to stop the run, we have to make tackles and we have to run to the ball and make plays, but rushing the quarterback, that’s what they get paid millions to do in the NFL. It’s teaching these guys techniques and making them believe. I think belief is the first thing to do to create a winning culture, just get buy-in. I try to create some excitement.”
Throughout the whole CU program, there is a measure of excitement this offseason because of head coach Mel Tucker taking over. Tucker, who came to CU after two years as the defensive coordinator at Georgia, is working to instill an attitude of toughness and he hired a staff of coaches to help him do that.
Michalowski spent last season as a defensive analyst at Georgia, working closely with Tucker and new CU defensive coordinator Tyson Summers. Michalowski was hired on Jan. 7 as director of quality control for CU’s defense, but in February was promoted to outside linebackers coach — his first full-time on-field coaching job at a Division I school.
“I’ve always been a guy that tries to do the best in the position I’m in,” Michalowski said. “I was given an opportunity to interview for the outside linebacker position and I was prepared for it. I was ready for it and I’m excited to coach these guys.”
Despite Michalowski’s relative youth and inexperience, Tucker is excited about what he brings to the staff.
“He’s very detailed, he’s very energetic, has great relationships with his players, very organized in his teaching,” Tucker said. “He’s super smart; he’s a really intelligent guy. He’s a young guy who is hungry, cares about kids and loves football.”
For Michalowski, the excitement goes beyond simply the opportunity. Four practices into spring, he’s excited about the group he’s working with at CU, and near the top of that group is Wells.
Coming off the bench the majority of last season as a redshirt freshman, Wells finished with 34 tackles, while leading the team with 13 third-down stops and finishing second with 4.5 sacks. He also added six quarterback pressures. From start to finish, he was one of the team’s most improved players.
“Last year’s experience definitely helped,” said Wells, who is 6-foot-4 and around 250 pounds this spring. “We had nine weeks in the weight room (this offseason) and that definitely helped, too. I feel a lot bigger, a lot stronger.”
Michalowski has been impressed early on with Wells.
“His football IQ is really good,” Michalowski said. “He’s very coachable. He doesn’t say much; he just goes out and puts the work in. He’s an exciting player to coach because he’s going to continue to develop. He’s so young, but he plays like he has so much experience. I’m really excited to see what he can become just through his work ethic.”
Michalowski said he’s also been impressed with senior Nu’umotu Falo who is “a good first, second-down player and he’s really developing as a pass rusher.” Senior Alex Tchangam has also caught Michalowski’s eye, as has Jacob Callier, who is coming off a shoulder injury that ended his 2018 season prematurely. Callier returned to the practice field Monday and “had an impressive day,” Michalowski said.
This offseason, Michalowski is trying to make each of the outside linebackers complete, three-down players, he said, “So we can have a room of guys that are interchangeable. And we can throw guys in and keep them fresh and have guys go out and make plays.”
Those plays, of course, include racking up sacks, and Michalowski will be pleased with each one the Buffs can get.
Contact staff writer Brian Howell at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/BrianHowell33