CU Buffs developing depth at outside linebacker – The Denver Post

Coming from the East Coast, Khairi Manns is still learning to adjust to altitude in Boulder.

“See, I’m still catching my breath on the way up from the hill,” the Colorado outside linebacker said Tuesday after practice.

The adjustment to competing on the field has come more naturally to Manns, who is among the many outside linebackers battling in preseason camp.

“I’m enjoying it, truly. It’s a foreign process (after transferring to CU from Maine),” he said. “Everything’s new, but I’m really liking it. It’s a good different. Everybody’s just coming together day by day. Stacking days – one day at a time, brick by brick.”

Manns, a junior, is one of several outside linebackers who are new to CU but coming along as the Buffs prepare for the Sept. 2 opener at TCU.

“We’re getting better,” outside linebackers/defensive ends coach Nick Williams said. “The communication has been better, the physicality has been better. The sense of urgency, just our alignment, assignment; just overall as a group we’re getting better.”

CU was, by far, last in the country with only nine sacks a year ago, but that was with a completely different group of pass rushers (and coaches). The ability to get to the quarterback is vital and Williams believes the Buffs are developing a group that can do that.

Jordan Domineck is the leader of the group after registering 7.5 sacks at Arkansas a year ago. Because he arrived at CU in January and went through spring football, the Buffs are leaning on Domineck to be a leader. The rest of the group — Manns, Derrick McLendon II (Florida State), Deeve Harris (Old Dominion) and Taje McCoy (high school) — got to CU this summer.

“He’s been great,” Williams said of Domineck. “That’s exactly what he’s been; he’s been a guy that made it through the spring, he’s heard a lot of these calls. He’s ran a lot of these plays in the spring. He’s been great for the room. He’s awesome.”

The challenge for all of them, however, is to get in tremendous playing shape by Sept. 2.

“(McLendon) needs to get in better shape, but he’s gonna be a player for us,” Williams said. “That’s a lot of our guys’ problem: we’ve got to get in great shape. Then we can communicate and run to the ball to do the things that were asking them to do.

“Football is hard. If it was easy, all of us would do it. We’re asking a lot out of these guys, so let’s start by getting in elite, tip-top shape and then, man, you can be a better football player.”

Manns is taking that to heart and trying to get better every day.

“(Monday), I had the game-ending sack on the one minute (drill),” he said. “But, there’s no one play (that stands out in camp) because every day it’s just new plays and new moments to be made.”

It’s also an ongoing process to learn and get better. On Monday, Williams got on Manns for some mistakes, but Manns responded.

“You’ve gotta hear a message and not the tone,” Williams said. “I got on (Manns) pretty good just to see — he busted, he made some mistakes — just to see how he would respond. Man, he turned his play up a notch; his sense of urgency, his physicality. But, I want him to go and do that every time without me having to scream and yell at him.”

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With Mann, McCoy and others coming along, in addition to the experience of Domineck and McLendon, the Buffs are hoping to have a deep rotation of pass rushers throughout the season.

“Absolutely, we’re gonna rotate,” Williams said. “We’re gonna get in great shape and be able to rotate in and out for four quarters. The guys know that and there’s not one selfish guy in my room. We’re a brotherhood. We’re together.

“Depth is strength in numbers. I think that’s what we have. The guys understand that and we’re gonna rotate. We’re all gonna make plays and we’re gonna do it together.”

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