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In-Depth Depth Chart – Defensive Line

 

Previously postedQuarterbacksRunning backsWide ReceiversTight EndsOffensive Line

Defensive Line … 

Fall “Pencil” Depth Chart:

Left Defensive End: 

Mustafa Johnson, Soph. … Terrance Lang, R-Fr. … Terrick Roberts, Soph. … Tava Finau, Fr.

Nose Tackle:

Javier Edwards, Sr. … Lyle Tuiloma, Jr. … Nico Magri, R-Fr. … Mo Bandi, Jr.

Right Defensive End:

Chris Mulumba, Sr. … Jase Franke, Sr. … Israel Antwine, Fr.

 

By the Numbers (2017):

— Jaiver Edwards … Played in 11 games; nine starts … 361 snaps … 33 tackles; 19 unassisted … one sack; two tackles for loss

— Chris Mulumba … Played in 12 games; ten starts … 463 snaps … 39 tackles; 26 unassisted … one tackle for loss; four tackles for no gain

— Jase Franke … Played in 12 games; two starts … 333 snaps … 24 tackles; 13 unassisted … one sack; two tackles for loss; three third down stops

— Lyle Tuiloma … Played in 11 games; one start … 232 snaps … 17 tackles; 12 unassisted … one third down stop

— Terriek Roberts … Played in two games … 11 snaps … one tackle

Mustafa Johnson … Played in 11 games … Ranked in a tie for second in the Valley League with 6.5 sacks, playing for Modesto Junior College … Also posted 58 total tackles and one forced fumble

 

Reasons to be excited:

Junior College fill-ins (finally) give Buffs hope

The 2017 Colorado football team had question marks along the defensive line, looking to junior college transfers to fill-in for the three departed starters from the 10-4 2016 squad.

Buff fans were hopeful that Javier Edwards would be the new Josh Tupou, plugging up the middle.

Buff fans were hopeful that Chris Mulumba would become the next great pass rushing defensive end.

It didn’t work out so well, with Colorado finishing 108th in rushing defense; 109th in total defense.

As it turned out, neither Edwards nor Johnson were ready for prime time, with Edwards (literally) not carrying his weight, and Johnson, with only two years of organized football under his belt, still learning the game.

Both players have now been with the team since January, 2017, and are showing signs of now being able to compete at the Pac-12 level.

“I’m confident. I’m real confident,” Edwards told the Daily Camera. “I feel like we’re going to be a great team and I have a good chance to help this team become Pac-12 champions.”

Of course, the weight loss has played a role in his increased confidence.

At 390 pounds, Edwards used his sheer size to be a dominant force at Blinn Junior College. Now under 340, Edwards is still a monster of a man, but more athletic.

“I feel a lot better,” he said. “I’m able to do the stunts and all the movements we have. I’m moving a lot quicker laterally and running to the ball. I’m doing a lot better than I was when I first got here.”

“His pad level has (improved) so much this fall camp,” new defensive line coach Kwahn Drake said. “He’s starting to strike more and I think that’s going to help us create that knock-back on the line of scrimmage.”

Mulumba, for his part, is doing well enough to garner national attention.

Mulumba has been named one of 36 players to the Ted Hendricks Award watch list. The Ted Hendricks Award is presented to the top defensive end in college football.

Mulumba played in all 12 games in 2017, his first season on the squad after joining the Buffs from Diablo Valley College.  He recorded 39 tackles and had four or more tackles in six games, including the last five of the season.

Mulumba was also given the team’s Ron Scott Award given to the most improved defensive lineman at the conclusion of spring practices and was named to Phil Steele’s College Football preseason All-Pac-12 third team.

The third starting position is likely to be filled by yet another junior college transfer, Mustafa Johnson.

Last season at Modesto Junior College (CA), Johnson registered 58 tackles, 6.5 sacks and earned first-team Valley League honors from the Northern California Football Conference.

Johnson signed with the Buffs last December, enrolled at CU for the Spring semester and has already made an impression on first-year defensive line coach Kwahn Drake. “He’s been really active. A fast learner who does a lot of little things right,” Drake told BuffZone.com writer Pat Rooney. “Speed and athleticism. You can drill a lot of things, but speed and athleticism is something you kind of have to have already on your own. No doubt he will help us rush the passer. He is in our pass-rushing package.”

 

Underclassmen will play … and will be effective

When you are bringing in two new – and inexperienced – junior college transfers to start along your defensive line, it is a telling story. A story that you have not recruited well at the position, and that there is little depth upon which you can’t count.

That storyline is slowly changing.

In addition to upperclassmen Jase Franke (played in 12 games; two starts; 333 snaps; 24 tackles; 13 unassisted) and Lyle Tuiloma (played in 11 games; one start; 232 snaps; 17 tackles; 12 unassisted) to help provide depth this fall, there are a pair of freshmen who are turning heads:

– One is red-shirt freshman Terrance Lang, who has the size (6’7″, 275-pounds), and is showing that he is learning the position well enough to take the field this fall.

“The good thing is he flashed quite often,” MacIntyre said of Lang. “It’s not just every once in a while. Hopefully he’ll be able to do that on Saturdays. His athletic ability is what helps him flash. He’s still a little bit raw on different techniques, but he’s so strong and powerful that he kind of makes up for it sometimes.”

 – The other is true freshman Israel Antwine. A 6-foot-4, 315-pound defensive end, Antwine is not a “typical” freshman. A dedicated weightlifter — he was the Oklahoma high school powerlifting champ — he’s been steadily moving up the depth chart. He got some time with the No. 1 defense in CU’s open-to-the-public fall scrimmage, posting four tackles (including one for loss) and also putting pressure on the quarterback.

“Izzy Antwine is what we thought he was,” head coach MacIntyre said reviewing film of the scrimmage. “He was excellent.”

 

Reasons for concern:

— The numbers are what they are … until they are different

Colorado finished 109th in total defense in 2017, giving up 450.6 yard per game (after giving up 342.5 yards per game in 2016).

Colorado finished 74th in scoring defense in 2017, giving up 28.2 points per game (after giving up 21.7 points per game in 2016).

Much of the blame fell on the defensive line, which was pushed around all season. The Buffs were 108th nationally in rushing defense, 102nd in sacks, and 111th in tackles for loss. At the end of the 5-7 campaign, Jim Jeffcoat, who had coached the defensive line for five years, was let go.

Kwahn Drake is the new defensive line coach, working with both the ends and the tackles. Drake joined Mike MacIntyre’s staff on January 24, 2018.

He came to Colorado after serving as the defensive line coach for the 2017 season at Eastern Illinois University. Other than his one year at Eastern Illinois, Drake’s resume contains two seasons as the defensive line coach at … Tulane.

That’s it.

There is a great deal of enthusiasm about Drake in Boulder, and Drake certainly brings energy and enthusiasm to the role.

But … a new coach … with no Power-Five coaching experience … coaching a defensive line with multiple question marks …

It’s a tough sell.

Athlon, for example, ranked CU’s defensive line 11th in the Pac-12, ahead of only Oregon State (which went 1-11 in 2017).

‘Nuff said.

 

Bottom Line

There are reasons to believe that the Colorado defensive line will be improved in 2018.

First, because it would be difficult for the line to be much worse. The Buffs were pushed around last fall, and for Colorado to have any chance at being a factor in the Pac-12 race, the turnaround will need to be significant.

“Our youth on the D-line is going to be excellent,” MacIntyre said, talking about Lang, Antwine, and the other freshmen, Tava Finau and Jalen Sami (who is out for the year with a knee injury).

“Going to be excellent” can be interpreted several ways, however.

It’s possible that the young defensive linemen, more talented than most of the other freshmen defensive line recruits in recent seasons, will be excellent this fall.

More likely, though, their “excellence” will have to wait a year or two.

Colorado fans, though, are hoping that the future is now, and that, with Edwards and Mulumba making huge strides in their second year in the program, the defensive line will be an asset in 2018.

And not a liability …

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5 Replies to “In-Depth Depth Chart – Defensive Line”

  1. The ol DL dilemma.

    Rushing defense since Mac arrived conference games only.
    confernce rank and yards per game

    2013 12, 244 ypg
    2014 12, 217 ypg
    2015 11, 221 ypg
    2016 6, 154 ypg
    2017 11, 242 ypg

    Last year sounds like the norm, not the anomaly.

    Yup there was some leaning. Haven’t seen a game yet that doesn’t have it’s fair share of leaning.

    They have more talent and athletic ability than they had last year. And Drake is a huge deal.

    This D-line will be much better.

    Go Buffs.

    Note: Remember what the linebacker coach said, First time in the 3-4 scheme and he made bad calls and was late in adjustments. Lotta run yardage given up because of this.

    Note 2: May be a depth issue on the Dline, but much better than last year.

    Note 3: Last year they gave up 413 yds to az, 381 yds to ASU 310 yards to Utah. Those were disasters eh? Other than those 3 the average ypg would have been 179. yup ya gotta play em all but I have big hope for the front 7 on defense.

    Note 4 Now if the frigging offense can get out of the middle of the pack in the big 12 the Buffs may have something going.

    Note 5 if you look at scoring (for/against) conference games since Mac showed up, once again the years are all in the same range. Except of course for 2016 on defense.

  2. I was at the scrimmage last weekend, and the D-Line was by far the unit that stood out the most as a red flag… They have limited athletes who work their tails off but lack talent (Jase Franke), and they have physical specimens who would simply lean on the o-linemen with zero violence, losing leverage almost immediately (Javier Edwards & Terriek Roberts). The rest of the defense and team seemed to play well, but this is very concerning if we face teams with a power run game, i.e. Stanford, Washington, Utah etc.

    1. Spot on observations Sam. Glad to see comments about the
      True determining factor for the defense this year. Based on what you saw
      Do you think the DL is sufficient to control the line of scrimmage and win the battles
      Vs. 4 league opponents this year? Or more like one or two?

    2. Thanks for the report Sam. Very scary if they do in fact resemble last year’s line. Hoping for big improvement in the next 2 weeks!

  3. I believe that in 3 years the chants of “Iz-zy” “Iz-zy” will be common place during a game. It might be before then so be prepared……

    During the spring practice before they even started the scrimmage I started noticing his number. When the scrimmage started he made his first tackle and I turned to my dad and said that guy is really playing but I have never seen him before. I was stunned to learn he was a true freshman!

    I also heard some feedback during the spring scrimmage on coach Drake. It was that the young men really like him and he does a great job teaching the guys. The previous coach was really laid back and expected them to know what to do. Drake also brings a lot of energy and intensity that they lost when Leavitt moved on and the whole defense is responding.

    My .02 is I felt a lot better about the team and especially about the d line after seeing the scrimmage. It likely won’t be perfect this year but the year after is going to be truly amazing.

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