Spring Practices Analysis – Defensive Line

Colorado has concluded its spring practices, with three of the 15 practices open to the public, including a “Spring Showcase” which featured a glorified scrimmage instead of a Spring game.

While information has been limited, there have been notes and quotes aplenty. Over the next few weeks, we will review each unit on the team, along with analysis as to whether Buff fans should be C+ … Confident; C … Cautiously optimistic; or C- … Concerned.

 

Previously postedQuarterbacksRunning backsWide Receivers and Tight EndsOffensive Line

My gradesQuarterbacks: C … Cautiously optimistic … Running backs: C- … Concerned … Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: C+ … Confident … Offensive Line: C- … Concerned

Your Grades (from polls) … Quarterbacks: C … Cautiously optimistic (60%) … Running backs: C … Cautiously optimistic (64%) … Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: C+ … Confident (53%) … Offensive Line: C … Cautiously optimistic (52%); Concerned (45%)

Defensive Line

Notes

In the 2017 season opener, two-thirds of CU’s defensive line were playing in their first-ever games at Colorado.

Their first-ever games of FBS football, for that matter.

Nose tackle Javier Edwards and defensive end Chris Mulumba both came to Boulder via the junior college route (Blinn College and Diablo Valley College, respectively).

Expectations for the new Buffs was mixed, as were their first year results. Mulumba started ten games in 2017; Edwards nine. Mulumba finished with 39 tackles (26 unassisted), with half of a sack and another tackle for loss. Edwards, meanwhile, posted 33 tackles (19 solo), a sack and two tackles for loss. The third member of the starting lineup was Leo Jackson, who had 60 tackles (46 unassisted), with a team-best 5 1/2 sacks and five tackles for loss.

The overall production from the defensive line, though, saw a clear decline from 2016. Colorado finished the 2017 season 108th in rushing defense, 102nd in sacks; and 109th in total defense.

The spring “pencil” depth chart indicates that the 2018 lineup will have some similarities to the 2017 group, with Edwards and Mulumba remaining as starters, with departed senior Leo Jackson replaced by yet another junior college transfer, Mustafa Johnson.

More of the same?

Buff fans hope not.

There is now better depth along the line to challenge the current starters … and a new defensive line coach to try and improve the overall results.

 

Quotes

… “He’s passionate from when he steps on the field to when he walks off the field; really before he gets on the field,” head coach Mike MacIntyre said of new defensive line coach, Kwahn Drake. “He’s doing an excellent job with them. I’ve seen an improvement from the first day to now. His energy and his knowledge is really paying off.”

… “One of the biggest things about defensive line play is being able to mix and match guys so you can have depth,” Drake said. “We know at that position, guys get banged up very, very easily just through the trenches and the roughness of the position.

“As long as we can move guys around and play guys at all three positions, that’s going to give us that overall depth as a defensive line.”

… “He’s excited and we like to work now and it’s fun,” Mulumba said of Drake. “He’s trying to bring the energy to us. Every morning, he’s hyped. We work extra; we go extra before practice and after practice and spend a lot of time with him watching film.

“We really needed it. You can tell by the players, they are happy and they want to work and want to practice.”

… “He’s done some really good things,” defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said of junior college transfer Mustafa Johnson. “He’s a really quick-twitch guy who is fast and explosive. Mustafa has the size to do both — he can play inside and also be a pass rusher.”

In his one year at Modesto, Johnson finished with 58 tackles and 6.5 sacks. While he does indeed have the ability to get to the quarterback, he said his preference is playing the run, where is powerful frame and low center of gravity make him tough to move.

“I’m good at holding my gap, maintaining what I need to do,” Johnson said. “I’m a run stopper. I’m going to stay in my gap and not get moved. I definitely can rush the passer when I need to and get through there, but first of all, I’m a run stopper.”

Javier Edwards arrived at CU in January of 2017 as a transfer from Blinn College in Texas, and at the time of his arrival, he had about 390 pounds on his 6-foot-3 frame.

By the time the football season rolled around, he was about 360 and won the starting job at nose tackle. He had his good moments, finishing with 33 tackles and a sack, but was too often pushed off the line by opponents. He also struggled with fatigue at times.

This spring, Edwards is just under 340 pounds and feeling much better than at any time during 2017.

“It’s a good feeling when you wake up in the morning and you see the body changing,” he said. “It motivates you to keep going right.”

On the field, Edwards is hoping to make a bigger impact at nose tackle, and he’s already seeing the benefits of his weight loss.

“It definitely makes me feel like I can play more,” he said. “I can do more things, I can be more versatile. I just can help the team more.”

 

Analysis … 

If the current depth chart holds, there will be three former junior college players starting along the defensive line for CU against Colorado State in August.

While that doesn’t speak well of CU’s recent recruiting, there is hope, as there was no shortage of defensive linemen in camp. CU’s current roster shows ten defensive linemen. That includes nose tackles Edwards, Lyle Tuiloma and Jalen Sami; defensive ends Mulumba, Terrance Lang and Terriek Roberts; and four players listed simply as defensive linemen — Johnson, Jase Franke, Mo Bandi and Nico Magri. Add to that two more linemen scheduled to report for fall camp, and there are bodies a-plently.

Now, can new defensive line coach Kwahn Drake get better production out of this group than did Jim Jeffcoat last season?

Perhaps Javier Edwards, with 50 fewer pounds to carry around, will become force in the middle Buff fans are hoping for.

Perhaps Chris Mulumba, who showed signs of improvement late in the 2017 season, will continue to move forward in his development.

Perhaps Mustafa Johnson can have an immediate impact.

Perhaps it will be Terrance Lang who makes a name for himself in 2018. A redshirt freshman, Lang has added weight and strength, showed an ability to get to the passer, play the run and simply make plays.

“Terrance Lang made jumps on some days, not as big a jump on other days — but he flashed,” was Mike MacIntyres’s description. “Carrying the extra weight, he’s flashed.”

We’ll see.

As “Dandy” Don Meredith used to say on ABC’s Monday Night Football, “If ‘if’s’ and ‘buts’ were candy and nuts, we’d all have a Merry Christmas.

Grade … C- … Concerned … 

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2 Replies to “Notes and Quotes – DL”

  1. This is a tough one. This group is far deeper than it was a year ago. There is no shortage of large bodies in the 3-4 set now. We have 2 returning starters out of 3 which is never a bad thing. We had a JUCO come in during the spring and take over the 3rd spot and look like an absolute upgrade there. Our starting 3 should for sure be a lot better than last year. That can’t be a bad thing. Then again we were not good a year ago so that isn’t saying much.

    The starters should be much better but the backups might be where things have really improved the most. We have Franke, Roberts, and Tuiloma back and there is no way they will be worse so our backups are already better by virtue of being returners. The exciting part for me is the addition of 2 really studly freshmen in Lang and Antwine. Those 2 guys make this a whole new unit in my opinion. They give us the elite level athleticism we have maybe been lacking. Jalen Sami had an outstanding spring to add to that.

    I will also give this group a C only because we just don’t know how much more improved they will be. We know they will be better but good enough to be a top 6 unit in the league? That is the hope. There is a lot to look forward to here and I am excited.

  2. I am gonna give the dline a “C” Because:

    Well just because and because of the new D-line coach and because the Linebackers will be much better, inside and out, and because the depth is pretty good and because the O will be better overall, and because the DC has a year under his belt, and because they frigging need to be better. Need is a powerful force.

    Go Buffs

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