Despite a lot of youth sprinkled throughout the depth chart and challenges created by the coronavirus pandemic, Colorado defensive coordinator Tyson Summers is pleased with how his crew is playing in the early stages of preseason practices.
On Monday, CU held its ninth practice and Summers said the Buffs’ defense is showing the potential to be improved from last season.
“I think we’ve got an opportunity to have a good defense this year,” said Summers, entering his second season with the Buffs. “A lot of that has to do with a lot of returning guys. We’re still really young, particularly in secondary … but we do have a lot more experience, we have a lot more confidence.”
Much of that confidence comes from the amount of experience coming back, but also in how the Buffs handled the offseason.
“We’re really trying hard to just focus on the details,” Summers said. “We’ve tried to be able to cut back the playbook a tremendous amount. I think we took great advantage of our offseason and obviously some of the challenges that COVID created. We were able to maximize that. We spent a tremendous amount of time as a staff, being able to work together and be able to have meetings with the players. (Head coach Karl) Dorrell had a fantastic schedule for us.”
A year ago, Summers worked for a defensive-minded head coach in Mel Tucker. Now that the offensive-minded Dorrell is leading the program, it’s possible there’s more of a Summers stamp on the defense, but he said it’s really a collective effort by the staff.
“We’re really excited about the defense we have in place,” he said. “The opportunity to be able to be here with coach Dorrell and the defensive scheme that we got up, it’s not Tyson Summers by any stretch. It’s really all of us. We’ve got a fantastic defensive staff.”
Outside linebackers coach Brian Michalowski also returns, as does quality control coach Bryan Cook. The additions of Demetrice Martin (cornerbacks), Brett Maxie (safeties), Chris Wilson (defensive line) and William Vlachos (quality control) strengthens the staff, Summers said.
“I think our staff has done a great job of being able to bond with the players, and I think we’re headed in the right direction,” he said.
CU returns nine full or part-time starters, including defensive linemen Mustafa Johnson, Terrance Lang and Jalen Sami; inside linebackers Nate Landman, Akil Jones and Jonathan Van Diest; outside linebacker Carson Wells; cornerback KJ Trujillo; and safety Derrion Rakestraw.
In all, the Buffs return 16 players on defense who played at least 160 snaps in 2019.
On Saturday, the Buffs conducted their first scrimmage of the preseason and Summers saw the experience on display.
“The first thing that jumped out to me is what I’ve noticed, not just in the scrimmage, but through our first eight or nine practices, which is a large amount of growth and maturity from our players,” he said. “I think they’re running to the ball and I think that we are doing a nice job, particularly in the secondary, of closing down some lanes and being able to prevent some explosives in there.”
Certainly there are some kinks to work out, particularly as the new staff learns to work together on game day mechanics. Working in newcomers is a process, too.
Overall, however, Summers is encouraged by the start.
“I went back and watched the film and I saw a lot of guys with the ability to make plays and you were able to see guys that were in position to make plays,” he said. “It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out.
“The beauty of this group right now is it’s a very unselfish group. We talked about wanting to be an elite defense and trying to take our game up to a new level. Right now we’re really trying to talk about the accomplishments that we’ve had as a defense and control what we can control.”
Pac-12 game protocols
On Monday, the Pac-12 announced the minimum thresholds to play a game this season. To be able to play, a team will need at least 53 scholarship players available, including at least seven offensive linemen, one quarterback and four defensive linemen.
Each school has to provide a position-by-position roster to the Pac-12 before the season. If a team falls below the thresholds, it has the option to still play, but if the game is not played, it would be rescheduled or declared a no contest.
Games can also be rescheduled or declared no contest if a team does not have the ability to isolate new positive COVID-19 cases or to quarantine high-risk contacts; has the inability to perform testing within Pac-12 medical guidelines; there are campus-wide or local COVID-19 rates considered unsafe by local public health officials; the inability to contact tracing adequate with local requirements; or the inability for hospitals in the area of the home team to accommodate a surge in cases.
The Pac-12 also released its tie-breaker procedure for this year. That is available at Pac-12.com. … The Buffs will be on the field for practice No. 10 on Tuesday. They have a closed scrimmage scheduled for Saturday.