Jonathan Van Diest’s ankles haven’t felt good the past two years.
It was watching himself on film, though, that really led him to do something about it.
After a winter of speed training, the Colorado junior linebacker is feeling good as the Buffaloes go through spring practices.
“I think I feel a difference, personally, and what prompted that was just watching film the last two years,” Van Diest said. “I’m a hard worker, I work my butt off, but just getting frustrated watching on film from having ankle issues. I just felt like my running form got stiff, and I just feel like I kind of lost what it felt like to be the athlete I was. I can see it on film.”
An all-state selection at Cherry Creek High School, Van Diest joined the Buffs in the fall of 2017 and earned a spot in the starting lineup going into the 2019 season. He started the first five games, but has been in a reserve role ever since — aside from two spot starts in 2020.
Although Van Diest has compiled 30 regular season tackles in only 255 defense snaps the past two years — plus five tackles in the Alamo Bowl in December — he never felt right, so he spent the offseason working with a speed coach.
“I knew what was wrong; I just didn’t know how to fix it on my own,” he said. “So I had to find someone and get that work in. I personally think it’s gotten better. Still a long ways to go, but I feel like I can run again. I feel athletic, which is great. It makes the sport fun.”
With senior Nate Landman out this spring because of a ruptured Achilles’ tendon, Van Diest is the most experienced inside linebacker on the field. He’s competing this spring with Oklahoma transfer Robert Barnes — who played a lot at safety with the Sooners — fellow junior Quinn Perry, and freshmen Marvin Ham II, Zephaniah Maea and Alvin Williams.
Defensive coordinator Chris Wilson said last week that Van Diest is in good shape and stepping up as a leader.
“I have to know what everyone’s doing,” Van Diest said. “I feel confident enough to lead that. It makes the game fun when you play fast.
“It’s not just me but everyone’s together, and we’re helping each other.”
Although Landman is at practice and in meetings, Van Diest and the other linebackers can’t rely on his knowledge on the field. That’s helping them develop a bit more.
“It’s Quinn and I on the field more, so making these calls and leading the defense,” Van Diest said. “We are put into that role of trusting ourselves and even leaning on each other to lead the defense. … It’s definitely challenged us to lead the team and I think we’re stepping up to that challenge.”
Settled in at TE
Matt Lynch made the transition from quarterback to tight end while at UCLA in 2019 and now feels comfortable there. A graduate transfer from UCLA, Lynch is heading into his second season as a walk-on with the Buffs.
“Going to this past season, my second year (at tight end), it was just tight end everything,” the Legacy High School graduate said. “Going into it now, I’ve got a tight end brain, but I still think a little bit like the quarterback; getting a little bit more physical, just working on my game as a tight end.”
Lynch played sparingly at UCLA, but caught one pass in 2019. Last season, despite battling an injury that cost him two games, he played 157 snaps, caught two passes and got his first career start in the Alamo Bowl.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic leading the NCAA to grant players an extra year of eligibility, Lynch is taking advantage of the opportunity to extend his college career.
“It’s been good, being around the guys for a whole other year,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting it, but I’ll take it. Any chance that I can get better, an opportunity to develop myself as a tight end I’m all about, so it’s been fun.”
Competing for the CU track team, Buffs safety Mark Perry won the 100-meter sprint on Saturday at the CU Invitational, clocking in at 10.65 seconds. Receiver Dimitri Stanley was second, at 10.85. … Head coach Karl Dorrell has been pleased with true freshman cornerback Tyrin Taylor, who graduated high school early and enrolled in January. “Tyrin Taylor has done some really good things, so that depth is really going to help us on the defensive side,” Dorrell said.