Buffs' Kasa eager to prove dominance

With just one sack in two seasons, Colorado's Nick Kasa has not lived up to his pre-college hype. The junior is in great shape heading into 2011, however, and hopes to make this his best season.

BOULDER - University of Colorado coaches and fans are still waiting to see Nick Kasa become the dominant player he was recruited to be.

Perhaps nobody, however, is more eager to see that dominance than Kasa himself.

Now in his third year, the junior defensive end from Legacy High School feels this will be his best season with the Buffs.

"I feel like I'm in the best shape of my life," the 6-foot-6, 270-pounder said. "I prepared really well this offseason."

So far, Kasa's two seasons in Boulder haven't come close to matching the hype he came in with. Recruited by just about every major program in the country, Kasa was widely considered one of the best high school players in America in 2009. That year, Scout.com ranked him as the fourth-best defensive end in the country.

While the attention was fun at the time, Kasa said he wishes now he could have come to college without the spotlight on him.

"I think it just kind of got to my head and confused me a little bit," he said. "I came in thinking maybe I was better than I was. I really needed to work harder and I finally realized that."

Kasa had an injury-plagued freshman year and a quiet 2010. In two seasons, he's been on the field for just 333 snaps and has recorded just one sack.

"I've been pretty embarrassed about how I played the last two years," he said. "I was really hurt my freshman year, but last year I just didn't put out enough, as much as I should have. I really put it forth in the offseason and I want to make a difference this season."

New defensive line coach Mike Tuiasosopo said he doesn't concern himself with the expectations everybody had for Kasa.

"I try not to look at that," he said. "Rather, just coach him in the role he's playing for us. We need him to step up. We need for Nick Kasa to step up in the big picture with our front. We absolutely need him to step up."

Physically, Kasa is impressive. He said he's leaner and stronger after adding muscle in the offseason.

"He looks the part, there's no question about that," Tuiasosopo said. "That's not the problem."

So, what is the problem?

"We tell all our players, consistency equals trust and equals playing time," Tuiasosopo said. "That's the equation right there. We've seen flashes (from Kasa), there's no question about that. We just would like to see those happen more often."

Quarterback Tyler Hansen has been under center many times when Kasa has been on the field. He, too, has noticed Kasa's roller-coaster play.

"There's times where he looks like a beast, he's getting up the field and getting a sack," Hansen said. "And there's times where he's getting blocked too easy."

Hansen, however, has seen a difference in Kasa this fall.

"It seems like has a different attitude going into this year," Hansen said. "The last couple of years he's just been kind of getting hurt and not been doing much. This year, he's getting out there and I'm seeing that five-star guy in him. It's good to see. Hopefully he can keep that going and stay healthy."

Tuiasosopo said Kasa is a big key to the success of the defensive line, and the entire defense.

"We need him to be a pass rusher in passing situations. We need him to be able to hold an edge for us, or set an edge for us in the run game as an end," he said. "If we can get him to do those two things, we'll be all right."

Kasa is intent on doing those things. His 2009 season was damaged by a knee injury (as well as mononucleosis). He also missed the majority of spring practice this year after spraining his knee.

Those injuries are (hopefully) behind him, though, and Kasa is eager to prove he can dominate.

"I'm going to do whatever I can to play, and the coaches will decide that," he said. "I (contributed) a little bit last year, but I'm going to do a lot of it this year - as much as I can. I know it's going to be a lot better than what I did last year."

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