CU Season Preview – Defensive Line


Defensive Line


— Seniors: Jordan Carrell; Josh Tupou; Samson Kafovalu; Aaron Howard

— Juniors: Leo Jackson III; Timothy Coleman

— Sophomores: Jase Franke; Eddy Lopez; Michael Mathewes

— Red-shirt freshmen: Lyle Tuiloma; Frank Umu; Brett Tonz; Sam Bennion

— True freshmen: Terriek Roberts

bold (returning starter from 2015) … italicized (walk-on)


Reasons to be excited:

Josh Tupou is back!

Defensive lineman Josh Tupou started every game for the Buffs in 2013 and 2014. He earned All-Pac-12 honorable mention in 2014 after registering 42 tackles and three sacks, and there were great expectations for the 2015 season.

Instead, the 6-foot-3, 325-pound senior-to-be spent last fall playing a lot of rugby while also working for his uncle’s landscaping company, serving out a year-long suspension. Tupou was involved in an off-campus altercation last February, and was suspended for the 2015-16 academic year (Tupou was suspended despite the fact that Boulder prosecutors dismissed the charges against him).

Tupou has been back on campus this summer, and has been catching up on his conditioning. “From a strength standpoint I don’t think he’ll be behind,” strength and condition coach Drew Wilson said of Tupou. “It’ll be getting conditioning going again. That’s always the hard part for everybody.

“Off the look test, in a 3-4 defense, he’s what you want sitting in the middle. He looks like a strong kid.”

Line-mate Jordan Carrell likes what he sees in Tupou so far this summer. “We’re having a good summer,” Carrell told “We have a class together right now, so we’ve had a chance to bond throughout the whole offseason. We’re working hard in the PRPs (player-run practices), and it’s going to be nice to have him in the middle. He’s going to be a force to be reckoned with.”

Coach Mike MacIntyre also foresees good things from Tupou this fall. “I think he’s a high (NFL) draft choice as a 3-4 nose tackle,” MacIntyre told the Daily Camera. “With a high draft choice in there at nose tackle, I think it helps you a lot. I think he’ll be even more hungry than he would have been last year, so I’m excited about getting him out there.”

Buff fans are excited about getting him out there as well.


— Jordan Carrell is looking for a break out season of his own

No one is more excited about the return of Josh Tupou than is Jordan Carrell. A junior college transfer in 2015, Carrell was looking forward to playing with Tupou last fall, but didn’t get the chance.

Instead, Carrell started 12 of 13 games at nose tackle, playing slightly out of position. Even so, he had an impressive year, being on the field for 784 plays, or 82.6 percent of the Buffs’ total defensive snaps. It was the fourth-most number of defensive snaps on the team, the most by a defensive lineman — and the sixth-highest percentage of snaps by a defensive lineman in CU history.

Carrell finished the 2015 campaign with 52 tackles (eight for losses), six third-down stops and a team-high three forced fumbles.

This year, he figures to improve upon those numbers, perhaps significantly. With Tupou taking over the nose tackle position, Carrell can move to the outside. “I like playing the ‘three technique’ and he likes playing the nose,” Carrell told “It works out for everybody. He’s going to take on the double teams like I did last year.”

With Carrell, Tupou, and junior Leo Jackson III –  who had ten starts last fall – the starting defensive line appears to be set … and prepared for a good season.

“I have no doubt that our defense is going to be much better this year,” Carrell said. “This spring, you could already see some signs. Everything was just second nature. Last spring, we were installing a new defense (under coordinator Jim Leavitt), but this spring, we were all familiar with what we needed to do. The tempo was a lot quicker and we were able to get a lot more accomplished in every practice. That was a big change …  It’s going to be a great year”.


Reasons for concern:

There is not a great deal of experienced depth along the line

Here’s hoping Samson Kafovalu can work his way back into game shape quickly.

The defensive line already lost one player this spring, when Blake Robbins was dismissed in March after being arrested on a number of charges, including assault on two police officers.

Then, in April, Kafovalu was arrested for obstructing a police officer, his third run-in with the law since joining the tam. Kafovalu was suspended indefinitely by coach MacIntyre, but has been working his way back towards reinstatement and is now back on the team.

A redshirt senior, Kafovalu is now expected to be a starter along the defensive line for the Buffs. He played 13 games last season, recording 33 tackles and three sacks.

Other than Kafovalu, the only other upperclassmen along the defensive line other than the three starters is junior Timothy Coleman, who has two starts in his career, with seven tackles in seven games last year.

After that, the lineup is made up entirely of underclassmen.

Sophomores Jase Franke, Eddy Lopez and Michael Mathewes did see some action in 2015, recording 22 tackles between them …

… but that is not a great deal of experience to depend upon should one of the starters go down to injury this fall.


— Numbers are improving, but Buffs still have a long way to go

The influence of new defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt cannot be understated.

In one season (actually less – recall that Leavitt was hired two days before the start of spring ball last year, making it difficult to implement all of the schemes Leavitt wanted to utilize during spring practices), Leavitt helped the Colorado defense move towards respectability.

In the most important statistic – points allowed – the Buffs improved dramatically in Year One under Leavitt.

In 2014, the Colorado defense allowed 39.0 points per game, giving up at least 36 points in every Pac-12 game. Last season, the points allowed total dropped to 27.5 points per game, with the Buffs giving up over 40 points in only three games (and 27 or less in each of the last three games of the season).

And improved play along the defensive line certainly contributed.

In other areas, however, the Buffs’ defense still has work to do:

— Sacks – Colorado was tied for 67th nationally;

— Tackles for loss – Colorado was tied for 96th nationally;

— Third down conversion defense – Colorado was 94th nationally; and

— Rushing defense – Colorado was 99th nationally.

This just in … Bowl teams don’t post these kinds of rankings.


Bottom Line … The Colorado defensive line loses Justin Solis, who played in 44 games and had 20 starts during his career in Boulder, along with the oft-injured Tyler Henington. The return of Josh Tupou and, hopefully, the reinstatement of Samson Kafovalu, will more than off-set those losses.

Can the Buffs’ defense under Jim Leavitt continue its move up the statistical ladder, leading to a corresponding rise in victories?

Coach Mike MacIntyre believes so.

“I expect us to be in the top echelon in the conference in defense,” MacIntyre said at the Kickoff Luncheon in Colorado Springs. “Last year I knew we would improve on defense because we had so many guys back who played as freshmen and sophomores. This year we have basically everybody back.”

The defensive line has some real talent, but also has issues of depth and experience.

If the starters can stay healthy, and produce the numbers they are capable of, it could be an exciting fall.



2 Replies to “CU Preview – Defensive Line”

  1. Excellent work.

    Now put a place on your website where people can comment. Should be easy. Too hard to page down through a story/stories to get to the comments. Just make one spot where comments are allowed. Regardless of the story. Comments DO NOT have to be attached to the story. Call your web designer. He can probably do it in 15 minutes. Don’t make me drive all the way up there.

    Buffalo Up and make it happen

    1. Looking into it … but you’ll have to be aware that I will not allow the comment area to become a place for personal attacks (note the deletion of the first line of your reply to “Old Codger”).
      We’ll see how much it will cost me to provide such a service …

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