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Monday Buffs Bits: Landman, Prep For Wildcats, Balance On Both Sides

Nov 30, 2020

BOULDER — Colorado defensive coordinator Tyson Summers received yet another reminder last week why Buffaloes inside linebacker Nate Landman has become one of the best at his position in college football.

Monday, Landman was named a Butkus Award semifinalist one day after being named the Walter Camp Foundation National Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts in CU's 20-10 win over San Diego State. Landman had 11 tackles (10 solo) in the victory, including six stops at or behind the line of scrimmage, with three quarterback sacks (all on third down). 

That, though, is the kind of game CU coaches have come to expect from the senior linebacker. Summers' reminder actually came two days before the Buffs' game. 

That is when the entire CU coaching staff and players got notice late Thursday afternoon that their game against Southern California had been canceled and they would instead be playing the Aztecs. The news brought head coach Karl Dorrell and the rest of his staff into the CU Champions Center late on Thanksgiving Day to begin devising some kind of game plan for an opponent they had never scouted.

But when Summers arrived at his office, Landman was already there, eager to begin the process of digesting every bit of information possible about San Diego State.

"He was already there watching film and getting ready with questions," Summers said. "That tells you about a young man at 6:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day getting prepared for any information he can have. From a coaching standpoint, that is what you love. You love the guys that eat it up, enjoy it, and want to understand every part of it. He knew his preparation needed to be correct in a short amount of time for prep in that week."

Landman has been a key figure for the Buffs since his freshman season. He led CU in tackles the last two years and is well on his way to making it three straight seasons this year.

But he has also been a key figure in the leadership department, helping develop young players and setting an example on the field, in the weight room and in film sessions.

"He embodies everything that I envision our program to be," head coach Karl Dorrell said. "He shows commitment, toughness, work ethic and everything that allows him to play at a high level. He is a great example of what I envision this program to be in a short period of time and everyone having that type of likeness. I am very proud of what he has done."

Landman spent extra time in the offseason shoring up parts of his game that needed improving. Summers said he has become a much better perimeter player and has improved his pass rush skills as well.

"You see a guy who is able to be explosive and somebody who can play in the box well and play very effectively versus the run," Summers said. "What I have been able to see, and particularly this year, is how well he is executing in space and how well he is executing when it comes to coverage. I think he has drastically improved as a pass rusher as well."

PREPARING FOR ARIZONA: Next up for Dorrell's 3-0 Buffs is Saturday's 5 p.m game at 0-3 Arizona (FS1).

But the Buffs aren't being lured into any sense of complacency by the Wildcats' winless record. CU has dropped three games in a row to the Wildcats by a combined 16 points, with Arizona averaging more than 40 points per game in those wins.

"They are trying to get themselves right," Dorrell said. "They are a very good football team, just like they have been in past years. They have just had a little bit of a rough start … They are very capable of having any kind of explosive offensive production at any moment."

Indeed, offense hadn't been a big issue in Arizona's first two games. The Wildcats nearly beat USC before dropping a 34-30 decision, then lost a 44-27 decision at Washington.

Last week, though, starting quarterback Grant Gunnell went down with an injury on the first play from scrimmage. UA then had to turn to freshman Will Plummer, who threw for 151 yards and ran for another 49 in a 27-10 loss.

The Buffs will do their best to be ready for anything.

"They spread you from sideline to sideline," Summers said. "They have good players … No matter who is back there, they are going to have a good plan. Noel (Mazzone, offensive coordinator) always does a good job and is somebody I have been impressed with for a long time. I know coach (Kevin) Sumlin is one of the top guys at being able to throw the ball and create mismatches on people. We will have to go play at our best."

Dorrell said the Buffs must even be prepared for offensive looks the Wildcats haven't shown yet this year.

"They are at a point where they might try doing different things that they haven't shown yet," Dorrell said. "We have to be aware of those things."

BALANCE, BALANCE, BALANCE: Colorado's offensive output against San Diego State was once again a picture of balance — 134 yards on the ground and 138 in the air, with Jarek Broussard notching his third straight 100-yard game, finishing with 124 hard-earned yards.

That balance is something Dorrell has stressed since his arrival.

"We want to be a team that has the ability to run the football and has some great passing concepts," Dorrell said. "That is the style of play that is really important for us to have. … It is the same thing defensively. We have to be good against the run. We have to be good in coverage. We are making a number of positive changes and improvements in those areas on our defensive side. It is definitely working in that direction. We want a sound system of play."

EXTRA WEEK BONUS: While the Buffs no doubt would have rather played Arizona State two weeks ago then have the game canceled, the "bye" week still had its benefits. 

For starters, the extra time helped the Buffs work on some defensive deficiencies that had shown up in their first two wins. Those areas looked much better against the Aztecs, as they held SDSU's offense to only a field goal and 155 yards total offense.

"We worked on a lot of issues to try to fix some things," Dorrell said. "I think it was evident that a lot of those things were shored up. We played much better with a great coverage scheme. We felt like our front is continuing to get better and our depth is getting better up front. We feel like the process on the defensive side is really doing some very positive things for us as we work through this season. We hope to continue that trend."

NO ALIBIS: While Dorrell's team has faced a long list of obstacles since he took the job late last February, he has refused to offer excuses — and that attitude has spread throughout his team.

"From day one, the thought process in mind was this team felt like they were capable of winning and having success right now," Dorrell said. "When I had my first team meeting, we came out knowing we had to work hard, trust ourselves and what we are doing, have great preparations and not use any of the outside elements as a deterrent to our success. We don't make excuses … Everything is geared on maximizing our potential with what we have here in this building. That is the mindset the whole team understands."