No team in the country is giving up more yards on the ground than Colorado.
Arizona hasn’t been much better.
As CU (0-4, 0-1 Pac-12) prepares to visit Arizona (2-2, 0-1) on Saturday (7:40 p.m., Pac-12 Networks), both head coaches believe they’ve got tackling issues to fix in order to improve against the run.
The Buffs are allowing 323.3 rushing yards per game – 63 more than anyone else in the country. Arizona ranks 125th, giving up 228.3 yards per game.
“It’s usually the same thing, which would be tackling,” Arizona head coach Jedd Fisch said about his run defense. “It’s that first tackle breaking through. The other part of it is we weren’t necessarily in our gaps. We weren’t as gap sound as we’d like to be.”
Colorado head coach Karl Dorrell has expressed the same concerns with tackling and gap integrity.
During the season, there is a fine line with trying to fix tackling issues, while keeping the players healthy.
“You still have to work on it,” Dorrell said. “That’s the thing usually, when you’re a good tackling defense you don’t need to practice it as much. It’s more scheme in terms of your concentration of practice of your opponent, but we’re having to do scheme and do some tackling things to help shore things up just because that’s the nature of where we are.
“It’s one of those necessary evils you have to do even though you’re in the middle of the season. But we need to improve. The team knows that. They haven’t squawked about it. They understand they need the work and it’s been working pretty well so far.”
Fisch said the Wildcats do tackling drills, but don’t tackle to the ground in an effort to prevent injuries in practice.
“At this point in the season, you’re in week 5, to start tackling guys to the ground … we really can’t do that,” he said.
Mixing it up
As CU tries to fix its run defense, Dorrell said there could be some changes with the defensive line and linebackers.
“We’re using a lot of different players,” he said. “We call them 1As and 1Bs in terms of splitting starting roles. We’re using all the different types of combinations, even with the linebacker position and with the D-line. You’ll see more of a mixture of a lot of guys playing consistently through the game.”
Fillip staying in place
For years, left tackle has been considered the marquee spot on the offensive line, because that is, in theory, the spot most responsible for keeping pass rushers away from a quarterback’s blind side – because most quarterbacks are right-handed.
With Owen McCown now starting at quarterback, however, the blind side has changed. McCown is the first left-handed quarterback at CU since Sal Aunese in 1988.
Despite that change, CU has not moved left tackle Frank Fillip from his spot and there doesn’t appear to be plans to do so. Junior Casey Roddick, who began the season at left guard, has shifted to right tackle the past two games and is now protecting McCown’s back.
“There was, even in the NFL a long, long, long portion of the time you put your best pass rusher on the right, or the quarterback’s left with a right-handed quarterback,” Dorrell said. “I don’t think that theory is really that much in play now in today’s football. … You really don’t need to flip tackles and stuff like that, just because you’re going against quality on the edges whether you’re on the left or right side. So, it’s not as prevalent anymore. It used to be that way with Lawrence Taylor and those guys who were always lined up on the defensive right, offensive left.”
Roster intact – for now
The NCAA redshirt rule allows players to compete in a maximum of four games and keep a redshirt year. Around the country, there have been a few players who have elected to leave their teams in recent days to keep that redshirt year before transferring. Dorrell said nobody at CU had elected to leave and nobody has asked to redshirt.
“We’re all under that impression that those things can happen at this point,” Dorrell said. “Right now I feel like our team is locked into each other. … I think (preserving a redshirt or leaving the team) is the furthest thing from all of our minds, other than that did cross my mind that it’s four games now and this could happen. But, I think the team’s in pretty good emotional shape.”
Fisch told Arizona media on Thursday that starting safety Jaxen Turner is expected to miss Saturday’s game with a shoulder injury. Turner is third on the team with 24 tackles. … CU is 10-3 all-time in Tucson, including a victory against Boston College in the 1999 Insight.com Bowl.