Last week, Colorado head football coach Karl Dorrell said the Buffaloes’ revamped defense could give the outside linebackers an opportunity to “pin your ears back and go.”

A smile came across the face of Carson Wells when he was asked about that comment.

“It definitely opens it up for us to make more plays,” said Wells, a junior outside linebacker. “We’ve just got to have that dog mindset in our play every play. This defense is really designed for us to make plays. I don’t want to get into it too much but it’s designed for us to make plays and we’ve just got to go out there and execute.”

Wells is coming off a dominant 2020 season in which he led the country with 2.67 tackles for loss per game. Despite playing just six games, he tied for third nationally with 16 total TFLs. Nationally, he was one of only 15 players with at least 14 TFLs, and the others each played at least nine games.

A 6-foot-4, 250-pound fourth-year junior, Wells is the unquestioned leader of the outside linebacker crew, but it’s a group with intriguing possibilities.

“It is a position that we feel confident that we can be very productive and mainly because of what Carson is able to do with his experience,” Dorrell said. “We know that he’s going to generate some plays on his side of it.”

The Buffs, who held their fourth practice of spring on Monday, are trying to find others who can produce at outside linebacker, as well.

Last season, juniors Jamar Montgomery and Guy Thomas and freshman Joshka Gustav played in reserve roles and that trio is back this year.

“All three guys really kind of came on the scene and surprised us (last year),” Dorrell said. “They got better as the season progressed. Joshka was a guy that was really … I don’t think any of us were really counting on him being a factor in our defense last year. (Coaches were) probably thinking more on special teams but, lo and behold, he was playing as one of the key factors for us during the season.”

Thomas is not participating this spring because of offseason shoulder surgery, but Montgomery and Gustav are working on their development. Returning freshman Devin Grant is also competing this spring.

“We’re all getting better each day,” Wells said. “I think Devin had like two sacks on Monday. Joshka is coming along, too. Joshka is going to be really good for us. Jamar, too. Jamar is getting better and Guy is just trying to get healthy right now. We’ll be ready whenever fall comes around.”

This summer, the Buffs will welcome incoming freshman Zion Magalei, as well.

It’s a group that is clearly led by Wells, but now features more experience than it did a year ago, as well as some talented youth.

“We feel good about that group, we really do,” Dorrell said. “We’re trying to simplify (the adjustments), and really let our guys just play and run and go. Our mentality on the defensive side is really going to help that group be even faster, because they’re not going to have as many checks as what we’ve done the last couple of years.”

The changes and the drive to get better could make the entire group better. Wells, in particular, is aiming for even more production than he had last year.

“Just to get like 1% better each day,” he said of his objective this offseason. “Our main goal is to win the Pac-12 championship. We didn’t get that done last year. Regardless of whatever accolades each person had, we didn’t win the Pac-12. That was our goal at the beginning of the season and that’s our goal this year. And that’s what we’re striving for.”

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