So far this season, the Colorado defense has been a generous bunch.
Each of Colorado’s five opponents have scored at least 38 points, with four of them topping the 40-point mark. They’ve all racked up at least 413 yards, too, with each opponent gaining more than the last.
As the Buffaloes (0-5, 0-2 Pac-12) prepare to take on California (3-2, 1-1) at Folsom Field on Saturday, they are hoping dramatic changes lead to dramatic improvement.
Following a 43-20 loss at Arizona on Oct. 2 – a game in which CU allowed a whopping 673 yards – CU’s administration fired head coach Karl Dorrell and defensive coordinator Chris Wilson. Now under the direction of new coordinator Gerald Chatman, the Buffs, coming off a bye week, have taken a new approach on defense. The motto: Sound and fast.
“What we believe is that if we can find a defense that plays sound, fast and simple and flies around, they’re gonna respond,” interim head coach Mike Sanford said.
More than a week into that new approach, the difference has been noticeable.
The philosophy of the coaches going forward is to do everything possible to give the defense confidence it has lost.
“It’s definitely way more simple than the things we’ve done in the past,” linebacker Josh Chandler-Semedo said. “It’s not dumbing it down, but just making sure it makes sense to everybody across the board. Like, there really should be no confusion, especially if we stay in our (play) books. It’s really just simple.”
The general idea for CU is that simplifying the game plan allows the players to know it better. When they know it, they have confidence and when they’re confident, they can play faster.
“I was a defensive guy and there were times where you’re thinking a lot, and it’s hard to play fast because defense is all reaction,” said former CU linebacker Jeff Smart, who was elevated to a defensive assistant coaching position last week. “You have to be able to read and react to what the offense does. When you’re trying to think about what exactly it is that I have to do based on what the offense does, you just slow down.
“Trying to eliminate some of the thinking and with the knowledge of what we’re doing comes confidence.”
Many of those who have been at practice have seen a faster, more confident defense in the past week, and a few of the players on that side of the ball have expressed a better mindset.
“When things are simpler, there’s not as much thinking; you know what you have and you’re going,” said safety Trevor Woods.
The Buffs have also been doing more tackling drills, as finishing tackles has been an issue this season.
More than anything, however, the Buffs have adopted a new approach as they hope to turn around what has been a sour season.
“What I give a lot of credit to is not just coach Chatman but the defensive staff as a whole,” Sanford said. “There’s a lot of capable defensive play callers in that room.”