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Tyson Summers out as CU Buffs defensive coordinator

Buffs ranked 77th nationally in scoring defense this season

Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer
BOULDER, CO – December 12, 2020: Assistant coach, Tyson Summers. The Colorado Buffaloes and the Utah Utes play at Folsom Field in Boulder on December 12, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
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Tyson Summers’ run as defensive coordinator at Colorado is over.

BuffZone.com sources have confirmed a report by ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg that Summers is being let go by head coach Karl Dorrell. According to sources, Summers informed players Tuesday morning.

Several players reacted on social media with surprise or displeasure that Summers was out.

Safety Isaiah Lewis, arguably the most improved player on defense this season, wrote on Twitter, “Forever thankful for helping me develop my defensive knowledge. Much love coach.”

Summers, 40, was hired in December of 2018 by former head coach Mel Tucker and retained when Dorrell was hired as head coach in February.

Summers had one year remaining on the three-year contract he signed two years ago. He earned $500,000 annually in base salary and will be owed the remainder of his contract by CU. That amount would be mitigated if Summers were to get another job this year.

This is the second staff move of the offseason by Dorrell, who has elected not to renew the contract of strength and conditioning coordinator Drew Wilson, who had been with the program for five years.

Under Summers’ direction this season, the Buffs showed overall progress, but had some mixed results during his tenure.

After giving up at least 30 points in his first nine games as coordinator, Summers’ defense yielded 30-plus points five times in his last nine games, while holding the opposition to 14 or less in the other four games.

This season, the Buffs ranked 77th nationally in scoring defense (31.7 points per game) and 76th in yards allowed (420.3). Those numbers took a major hit in the Buffs’ 55-23 loss to Texas in the Valero Alamo Bowl, when CU was missing several players because of injuries and COVID-19 protocols.

During the five-game regular season, the Buffs allowed 27.0 points and 376.8 yards per game.

Even with the bowl game, the Buffs improved their rankings from 2019, when they were 95th in points allowed (31.8) and 104th in yards allowed (441.9).

CU’s defense showed improvement late in the 2019 season and carried that over to most of the 2020 season. This past year, the Buffs made significant progress in several categories, including third downs, red zone and tackles for loss.

One of the worst teams in the country in 2019 on third downs (125th, 47.44 percent), the Buffs ranked 13th this year (31.76 percent). They were 65th in the red zone in 2019 (83.72 percent scoring rate) and jumped to 42nd this year (80.0 percent).

The Buffs also ranked seventh nationally in tackles for loss (8.17 per game) this year, compared to 123rd in 2019 (4.33 per game).

CU improved dramatically in its pass defense this year, ranking 33rd in opponent QB rating (126.00) and 18th in completion percentage (55.6). Last year, the Buffs were 121st in both categories (154.68, 65.8 percent).

Against the run, the Buffs saw a drop from 61st (153.58 yards per game) in 2019 to 84th (181.17) this year. Texas did most of that damage, with 303 yards on 40 carries.

Summers came to CU after spending the 2018 season as a quality control coach with Tucker at Georgia. Summers was the head coach at Georgia Southern from 2016-17 and was the defensive coordinator at Colorado State in 2015. His only other season as coordinator came in 2014, at Central Florida.

Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports and The Athletic reported that defensive line coach Chris Wilson could be a potential replacement for Summers.

Hired by Dorrell in February, Wilson has been rumored to be a candidate for other jobs this offseason. A long-time coach in the NFL and with several Power 5 programs, Wilson’s career includes a two-year run as defensive coordinator at Mississippi State from 2011-12, as well as 2010 as co-coordinator.

From 2010-12, Mississippi State ranked top 35 nationally in scoring defense each year. The Bulldogs were 71st in 2009, before Wilson got there.