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BOULDER, CO - Dec. 12, 2020: ...
BOULDER, CO – December 12, 2020: Colorado’s Carson Wells. The Colorado Buffaloes and the Utah Utes play at Folsom Field in Boulder on December 12, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

Throughout his first two season with the Colorado football team, Carson Wells flashed his potential.

This season, the junior outside linebacker has been dominant.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic causing this season to be delayed and shortened, Wells is in the midst of a sensational season for the Buffs (4-1, No. 25 in the College Football Playoffs rankings).

Wells leads the Buffs with 13.5 tackles for loss, and his average of 2.7 per game is No. 1 in the country.

“I feel healthy,” he said. “I feel like I’m learning the system a little bit more than last year. Last year, I just kind of knew what I was doing. Now I know what the whole defense is doing around me. That definitely helps a lot, so I can focus on what the offense is doing. Just another year staying in the system.”

The 6-foot-4, 250-pound Wells, from Bushnell, Fla., played in 22 games the previous two seasons, including 16 as a starter. After registering 4.5 sacks as a freshman, he had just one in 2019. While battling a foot injury, he also finished last year with 57 tackles and four tackles for loss.

This season, he’s already matched his career with 4.5 sacks, while posting 34 tackles and five pass breakups.

He credits CU strength and conditioning coach Drew Wilson for getting him ready physically this season.

“Drew helped me out this summer, and I feel good,” he said.

In the last 20 seasons, only six players at CU have had more than 13.5 TFLs in a season – and they all played at least 12 games. (Mustafa Johnson’s 18, in 2018, are the most during that span).

Wells also has at least three TFLs in four consecutive games, the first Buff to do that since Butkus Award winner Alfred Williams in 1990.

Outside linebackers coach Brian Michalowski has played a key role in Wells’ success.

“For most people it’s ‘flip the hips,’ so you like jump outside,” Wells said. “But B-Mike’s thing is more just shoulders and get your foot through, so it keeps you tighter. A lot of times you’ll see me on the inside move, I’ll just use a little bit of shoulders, two hand swipe to get off the guard or the tackle on the inside. That’s really helping a lot on the TFLs.”

Attrition inevitable

On Wednesday, the Buffs signed 17 players to national letters of intent and the coaches will now turn much of their recruiting to the 2022 class.

Recruiting the current roster is also important, and head coach Karl Dorrell knows there could be current players who decide to leave. Already, the Buffs have lost backup quarterback Tyler Lytle to the NCAA transfer portal.

“There’s going to be attrition,” he said. “There might be guys that are in our program that I’m sure might surprise us; that say, ‘I think I want to go somewhere else to play.’ I’m not going to discount that I think that could happen.

“This is a college version of free agency, so to speak, and we don’t have all the answers for when those things occur. I would not be surprised if that happens though, even with our own team, with guys that maybe haven’t played as much as they felt they should have.”

On the flip side, the Buffs will monitor players from other teams who enter the transfer portal.

“We are an attractive place,” Dorrell said. “There’s been a number of players that have reached out that have entered the portal and we can’t actually have any contact unless they (are officially in the portal). Yes, there’s been some contact at some level with a number of players.

“We’re going to continue to look for players that we think can be ideal that could help us and be really specific about that.”

In general, Dorrell said he prefers adding prep players who can be developed, but the staff will look at transfers who they believe can impact CU right away.

Notes

On Thursday, UCLA (3-3) announced that it would pass on bowl game opportunities, joining Stanford (3-2) and Washington State (1-2) as Pac-12 teams to make that choice. … Pac-12 teams need to be at least .500 to play in a bowl game. USC (5-0), CU (4-1), Washington (3-1) and Oregon (3-2) have clinched bowl eligibility. Utah (2-2) and Arizona State (1-2) could get there with wins this weekend. … Currently, the Pac-12 has four bowl spots available: New Year’s Six game, Alamo, Armed Forces and Independence.