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BOULDER, CO – October, 2020: Linebacker Quinn Perry during Colorado football practice. (Courtesy photo/University of Colorado)
CU Athletics
BOULDER, CO – October, 2020: Linebacker Quinn Perry during Colorado football practice. (Courtesy photo/University of Colorado)
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Considering his father was once the stunt double for The Incredible Hulk, Colorado linebacker Quinn Perry grew up knowing a little bit about pumping iron.

His education on physical well-being has been taken up a notch this year, however, and it’s made a big difference.

A backup with only a few snaps under his belt before this year, Perry has earned a starting role this season and is enjoying every minute of it.

“I’ve always been in the shadows in the depth chart, the last guy or whatever; overlooked,” he said. “But I know what I have to offer, I know my potential and I use that as motivation. If people kind of overwrite me, I’ve always been overwritten in my life, I’ve always been an underdog and I love to prove people wrong. That’s kind of my thing.”

Two games into this season with the Buffs (1-1), Perry has been an important part of a defense that is playing lights-out football.

In this edition of the Rewind, we look back at Perry’s rise, as well as …

  • Rebounding from A&M
  • Arias makes impact
  • Best of the Buffs
  • Notes and quotes

LEADING OFF: Perry’s jump to starter

Coming into the season, the main question regarding CU’s inside linebacker position was about Nate Landman and whether the senior All-American candidate would be fully recovered and ready to play. Coming off an Achilles’ injury, Landman has been sensational.

With Landman healthy, the other question centered on who would play next to him at inside linebacker. Transfers Robert Barnes (Oklahoma) and Jack Lamb (Notre Dame) were among the top candidates, along with junior Jonathan Van Diest, who was great in the spring.

On opening night, Sept. 3 against Northern Colorado, it was Perry in the starting lineup. The 6-foot-2, 240-pounder from Marina Del Ray, Calif., had finally earned that top spot.

SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS – December 29, 2020: Colorado linebacker Quinn Perry, right, tries to tackle Texas quarterback Hudson Card during the Valero Alamo Bowl at the Alamodome on December 29, 2020 in San Antonio, Texas.

“It was awesome,” he said. “Obviously last season I got some bits and pieces here and there. I got most of my in-game experience in the Texas game. It was good to have that under my belt in a way. To have the first start, it’s an honor. I’m very lucky to be in the position I’ve been put in, but the first snap was in front of fans for the first time. It’s kind of overwhelming, but I think once we got in our groove, it was kind of just like practice. We’re used to doing what we do, playing how we play. It was just like normal basically.”

Barnes missed the opener as he recovered from injury and wound up playing more snaps than Perry in Saturday’s 10-7 loss to Texas A&M. Perry, however, still got the start and figures to be a main part of the defense this season.

It’s been a long time coming for Perry, who graduated from Palisades (Calif.) High School in 2017 and spent two seasons at El Camino (Calif.) College. He was second-team All-SCFA Central League in 2018 and recorded 100 tackles in 22 games at El Camino. (He was also the Warriors’ punter).

Recruited to CU by former head coach Mel Tucker in 2019, Perry played in one game that season, on the kick return unit. Last year, he played 73 snaps on defense, mostly in the Alamo Bowl, which Landman missed due to injury.

Perry is a different player this year, however.

“Yeah, totally,” he said with a laugh. “Last season I was heavier; way heavier. People thought I was playing D-end.”

CU’s hiring of strength and conditioning coach Shannon Turley in January has impacted Perry, though.

Growing up, Perry learned a lot about lifting weights from his father, Manny, who was a well-known Hollywood stuntman. He was the stunt double for Lou Ferrigno in The Incredible Hulk TV series. He has worked as a stunt coordinator for years.

“My high school was never really into weightlifting, as funny as that sounds, but my dad obviously was,” Perry said. “I grew up around the gym. I grew up in the gym with my dad and his genes are obviously in me, so I guess in that way, growing up around him is a positive because I know what to do sometimes more than other people (in the weight room).”

Perry, however, didn’t see his father a lot when he was in high school.

“He’s at work so much because he works on movies, so he’d be away for months at a time,” Perry said. “My senior year of high school, I saw my dad maybe two months out of the year. …  My senior high school season, he made it to my only playoff game that we had, so I only got to see him a little bit here and there.”

Manny, however, has instilled a work ethic in his son.

“When I go home for break, he’s obviously a huge part of my development,” Perry said. “We go to the gym every day, he teaches me little tricks to work the muscle longer work and harder in certain directions. It’s definitely a benefit.”

Perry is unique in that he’s got more of a background in rugby than football. He grew up playing on the USA National Rugby team, suiting up for the U-16, U-17, U-18 and U-20 teams.

At home this summer, he was drawn back into rugby.

“When I went home for that May break, I really just tightened up my diet, worked out like crazy every day,” he said. “I played rugby, so I went to beach rugby every other day. Running on the beach is obviously good for fitness. And then obviously coach Turley’s offseason program is rigorous so that obviously helps speed, agility, weight loss. It’s all just little pieces to the puzzle. I just worked a little bit and every corner just to up my game.”

Turley’s program, centered around functional movement rather than pumping as much iron as possible, has given Perry a new perspective on training.

“We did a functional movement screening in the beginning when he first came and my number was overpowering,” he said. “In the fine print, it said, ‘Too much power, not enough control.’

“(Turley’s) philosophy is functional movement, so obviously him controlling what I can do now, I can use that power I have in a positive way. Enforce it on people when we come out of our stance to engage O-linemen and get them off. It’s obviously a way better use of my power than just being strong.”

A year ago, Perry weighed around 250 during the season. He’s now down to about 243 and said he can feel the difference.

“I’m real comfortable where I am,” he said. “Obviously, there’s room for improvement. I try to work on my body fat, get that lower and get my lean muscle mass higher. Every day, I’m working towards that, but I can definitely feel the change from where I was last season. I couldn’t keep up with running backs on wheel routes. Now it’s not a problem. So it’s obviously definitely a positive.”

With Barnes healthy and Lamb, Van Diest and Marvin Ham vying for playing time, as well, Perry will have to fight to keep a starting role. He’s more equipped to battle for it, though, and is eager to build upon his strong start to the season.

“Excited isn’t even the word,” he said. “I’m over the moon. I’ve been waiting for this opportunity my whole life.”

DENVER, CO - Sept. 11, 2021: ...
University of Colorado Boulder’s coach, Karl Dorrell, at the Texas A&M’s game on September 11, 2021 at Empower Field in Denver. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

BOUNCING BACK: Buffs keeping heads up

CU was 2 minutes, 41 seconds away from pulling off a stunner last week, but fifth-ranked Texas A&M delivered a crushing blow with a touchdown in the final minutes.

Head coach Karl Dorrell was adamant in his postgame press conference that the Buffs won’t hang their heads.

“There’s definitely some encouraging signs that this team is better than people think,” he said.

He even called me out during the postgame press conference, saying, “Brian had us winning four games this year.” For the record, I’ve always said this team could be anywhere from 4-8 to 8-4 based on a few factors and wound up settling on 6-6, so Dorrell shortchanged me a bit.

However, he sounded like a man who thinks six might be too low. At the very least, he’s using that outside perspective to motivate his team, and the players have bought in. The mood outside the locker room on Saturday was generally optimistic, despite the obvious disappointment.

“We’ve come a long way since I’ve been here,” tight end Brady Russell said. “But it’s tough when you’ve been putting in the work for five years and this is everything you work for. God blessed us with such a huge opportunity (against Texas A&M) and we had taken advantage of it for so much of the game and to watch it just slip away like that, it’s tough, but you can take a lot of positives out of it.”

Safety Isaiah Lewis said, “It’s not what we wanted, so it’s not going to be celebratory (in the locker room). But we’re going to take it step by step, we’re gonna get the process going back next week. We’re not hanging our heads, that’s for sure. We’re not hanging our heads, and we’re getting ready for the next matchup.”

How the Buffs bounce back from disappointment will be interesting to watch this week as they prepare to face Minnesota. The Buffs do have good leadership, however, and it starts with Nate Landman.

“I love this team,” Landman said after the game. “The scoreboard doesn’t reflect what we wanted, but it doesn’t shock this team (to play well against the No.5 team in the country). We knew the team we were coming out with and the ability of this whole team. We’re looking forward to next week and getting this one behind this.”

MAKING IMPACT: Arias in the mix

During his career, receiver Daniel Arias has flashed his talent, and there’s no question the 6-foot-4, 205-pound speedster has the physical tools to excel. Could this be the year he breaks out?

On Monday, we learned that La’Vontae Shenault – arguably CU’s best receiver – has been suspended indefinitely. It’s at least the third suspension for Shenault in the past year and it’s unclear when or if he’ll play for the Buffs again.

Many projected Shenault as a starter and Arias as a backup, but Arias has started both games to this point. The passing game has struggled to get going, but Arias had a career-high three catches against A&M, picking up 37 yards. Two of his catches went for first downs.

“It’s been really good,” he said of being a contributor so far this season.

During his career, Arias has caught 12 passes for 224 yards (not counting his one catch for 17 yards in the Alamo Bowl, which CU doesn’t include in career stats). He’s got big-play ability, as his 18.7-yard per catch average indicates.

Drops have been an issue for Arias at times, though, and he had a big one Saturday. Brendon Lewis connected with him on what would have been about a 40-yard pass in the third quarter, but Arias was unable to haul the ball in.

“That one deep pass, he got it to me and I should have caught that, but I’m just gonna keep working, keep getting better and keep making plays,” Arias said.

With Shenault out, the Buffs might rely on Arias more than ever.

DENVER, CO - Sept. 11, 2021: ...
University of Colorado Boulder’s Carson Wells is held while trying to get to Texas A&M’s Zach Calzada during the September 11, 2021 game at Empower Field in Denver.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

BEST OF THE BUFFS

Here’s my take on the best of the Buffs against Texas A&M:

LB Robert Barnes: Made his CU debut and played just 26 snaps, but they were impactful with a tackle, a pass breakup and a QB hurry.

CB Mekhi Blackmon: Another great game for the junior, who didn’t give up much in coverage, recorded a pass breakup and recovered a fumble in the end zone.

RB Jarek Broussard: His rushing total (51 yards) was the lowest of his eight-game CU career and he wound up missing the last quarter and a half after limping off the field in the third quarter. But, he did score the only touchdown and ran well when in the game.

CB Christian Gonzalez: He was sensational in coverage and is developing into an elite corner. He also recorded six tackles and two tackles for loss.

LB Nate Landman: He’s had bigger numbers, but Saturday might have been the best game of his career. He finished with 10 tackles, including two tackles for loss and two pass breakups.

DL Na’im Rodman: In arguably the best game of his career, Rodman was great against the run. He had just one tackle, but plugged holes and also recorded a sack.

TE Brady Russell: Caught three passes for 20 yards. Those aren’t big numbers, but Russell made a big impact as a blocker. He had several exceptional blocks on run and pass plays.

OLB Guy Thomas: If not for Landman, Thomas may have been the best player on the field for CU. He was all over the place in getting his most extensive action as a Buff, finishing with five tackles and wreaking havoc on plays that don’t show up in the stat sheet.

P Josh Watts: Had the best game of his career with the Buffs, averaging 49.0 yards on seven punts, including a career-long 55-yarder.

OLB Carson Wells: Statistically, he finished with one tackle and a pass breakup. He recorded a couple of QB hurries, as well, and made life uncomfortable for Aggies QB Zach Calzada at times.

LT Max Wray: Made his starting debut for the Buffs, played every snap and did a job overall against a good defense.

NOTES AND STATS

  • Two games into the season, the Buffs – and Lewis – have 191 passing yards. It’s the first time CU’s had a two-game stretch with less than 200 total passing yards since 2012 (193 for Nick Hirschman and Connor Wood). Overall, the 191 yards is the lowest total for a two-game stretch at CU since Games 8-9 of the 2006 season (Bernard Jackson).
  • The race to 1,000 career rushing yards is ongoing for Alex Fontenot and Jarek Broussard. Going into this week, Fontenot has 996 career yards, while Broussard is at 958.
  • In their last 13 games against Power 5 opponents, dating back to Week 6 of the 2019 season, the Buffs have averaged 20.5 points per game. Take out the 48 they scored against UCLA in the 2020 opener and that number is 18.3 in the other 12. The Buffs have been held to 20 points or less in seven of those 13 games (to be fair, six of those came in 2019 when Mel Tucker was head coach).
  • Third down is often called the money down, and Saturday was a good example of why. Through two-and-a-half quarters, A&M was 1-for-10 on third downs. During the last 21 minutes of the games, however, the Aggies were 7-for-10, including 2-for-2 on the game-winning drive. CU, meanwhile, started 4-of-6 (5-of-7 when counting a third-down A&M penalty that moved the sticks for CU), but went 0-for-8 during the last 36 minutes.
DENVER, CO – September 11, 2021: University of Colorado Boulder’s Brendon Lewis gets past Texas A&M’s Jaylon Jones for a long gain during the September 11, 2021 game at Empower Field in Denver. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

Head coach Karl Dorrell on CU not using RPOs with QB Brendon Lewis much in the second half after having success in the first half: “It was just that we wanted to do more things. We still did those things and I think what they ended up doing is giving them the handoff more than the keep. I think that’s what most (defenses), if you’re running that type of RPO system, they think the quarterback is the one that’s hurting you so they want to make sure they guard the edges better, and then you have to hand it off.”

Dorrell on whether the defense was fatigued near the end of the game: “No, I thought (the defense) was great. Shoot, their best receiver was a running back today. We had great coverage most of the day. The running back made a couple nice plays and that was the difference in the game. I think they were just as tired as we were. So I don’t think it’s an issue about being tired. They executed a little better than what we did.”

Tight end Brady Russell on how QB Brendon Lewis was after the game: “He’s really good mentally. He’s a warrior. I was talking to him on the last drive. He was composed, he was calm; he has great poise. Even though he took some shots, he was still battling the whole time.  I think as a freshman quarterback, he was doing everything that was asked him and we need to help him more protecting, and not letting the people get to him in the pass rush. Even when he was running the ball, he took a couple of shots. We can’t let that happen to our quarterback.”

Outside linebacker Carson Wells on the defense staying inspired as the offense struggled: “Those are our brothers. I mean, at the end of the day, we’ve got to pick them up. And we know if they’re having a rough day, we’ll pick them up. And same thing with us. If we’re having a rough day they’ll pick us up the same way.”

Quarterback Brendon Lewis on the mood in the locker room: “Definitely something to build on, but we don’t take consolation. I feel like and we all feel like we should have won that game.”

COMING UP

This week, the Buffs face an opponent they haven’t seen in a while: Minnesota. CU has played – and defeated – the Gophers three times in the past, but they haven’t met since Sept. 19, 1992. The matchup this week, at Folsom Field, will kickoff at 11 a.m. on Saturday (TV: Pac-12 Networks).