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Spring Practices … First Look: Defensive Line

Program Note … Spring practices will begin February 16th (Spring Game: March 17th). Leading up to spring ball, previews will be posted for each unit of the 2018 Colorado roster.

Previously posted: QuarterbacksWide ReceiversTight Ends/FullbacksRunning Backs … Offensive Line … Up next: Linebackers

The roster: 

Players lost (with 2017 season stats) … Leo Jackson III (38 career games; 22 starts … 60 tackles – 46 unassisted) … George Frazier (49 games; 11 starts … 11 tackles 8 solo) … Timothy Coleman (41 games; three starts … six tackles; six unassisted)

DEFENSIVE LINE (10 scholarship):

Seniors: Javier Edwards (NT); Jase Franke; Chris Mulumba
Juniors: Lyle Tuiloma (NT)
Sophomores: Mustafa Johnson; Terriek Roberts
Redshirt freshmen: Terrance Lang
True freshmen: Jalen Sami (NT); Tava Finau; Israel Antwine

The stats (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

 

If there was one consistent thread in the 2017 preseason magazines discussion about CU’s chances to repeat as Pac-12 South champions, it was that the loss of defensive personnel would hold the Buffs back.

What Lindy’s had to say was typical:

The Buffs ranked 19th nationally in total defense, but are replacing nine starters and are adjusting to new defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot. 

The former Kentucky coordinator must rebuild the defensive line, which loses three starters from a unit which allowed the Pac-12’s second-fewest rushing touchdowns … 

No one expected the 2017 CU defense to once again rank in the top 20 nationally in total defense and scoring defense.

But few expected such a precipitous decline.

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.

His replacement is Kwahn Drake, coming to Colorado from Eastern Illinois, where he was the defensive line coach last season.

“Kwahn is dynamic young coach that came highly recommended by many different individuals from both the NFL and college,” head coach Mike MacIntyre said.  “I’m really excited about Kwahn’s ability to teach and coach, and the energy he is going to bring to the table for us.  I know our defensive linemen are going to be really excited about having Kwahn coach them, and I too am excited about having Kwahn join our staff.”

What will Drake have to work with this spring?

The Buffs usually line up in a 3-4, with two of the three starters from 2017 returning.

Nose tackle Javier Edwards was to be the next Josh Tupou: a player who didn’t necessarily post gaudy stats, but who clogged up the middle of the line, making it possible for other players to make plays. Edwards looks the part of a nose tackle, at 6’3″, 350-pounds, but he didn’t strike fear into the hearts of opposing defensive coordinators. A junior college transfer last January, this will be Edwards’ second spring with the Buffs, with hopes for reports of improved conditioning and results.

The other returning starter is another junior college transfer from last January, defensive end Chris Mulumba. A native of Helsinki, Finland, Mulumba is still learning the game, and showed signs at the end of last season that he was getting used to Division 1 competition. Mulumba had 26 tackles on the season, with 12 coming in the final three games.

The remaining starting position may come down to a battle between two underclassmen. Sophomore transfer Mustafa Johnson joined the team this spring, having played his freshman year at Modesto Junior College (Johnson has four years to play three). At 6’2″, 285-pounds, Johnson was ranked as the No. 22 defensive tackle prospect in the nation,

Johnson will battle it out with Terrance Lang, a red-shirt freshman who sat out last season to bulk up and learn the system. Lang is 6’7″, 270-pounds, and was ranked as the No. 35 defensive end from the Recruiting Class of 2017.

With Johnson and Lang now in line for playing time, and with promising freshman Israel Antwine set to join the team this summer, it may be a make-or-break spring for senior Jase Franke and junior Lyle Tuiloma. Both have been with the team for years, but, for the past two recruiting cycles, the CU coaching staff has felt the need to bring in junior college transfers to help shore up the defensive line. It’s a new year and a new defensive line coach, so Franke and Tuiloma – who combined for three starts in 2017 when other players were injured – need to demonstrate that they are deserving of being on the field instead of the newcomers.

When the 2018 preseason magazines come out this May, it will be easy to point to the multiple defensive categories in which CU ranked 100th or worse in 2017 as justification for picking the Buffs 5th or 6th in the Pac-12 South.

If the Buffs are to rise above those expectations, improvement will have to come from the trenches. The defensive line was a weakness on the team last season, and it will be up to new defensive line coach Kwahn Drake – and his second-year defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot – to make the most of what is still a thin and unproven unit.

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7 Replies to “Spring Ball First Look: DL”

  1. 2016-2017 the defensive line 3 studs were all recruited by Embree….It is not an overstatement saying than one of theeee major MAC 2’’s failures over his . 4 years was his inability to find any beef at all for the DLine ……….
    And the predictable extreme rejoicing about the “cohesive,mature,talented O-Line”
    That never even comes close to the hype and have been very average…what good is depth when the depth sucks

  2. It’s a razor thin depth chart.

    Really need Mulumba and Edwards to take that big step in year 2 of joining the “big boy” football.

    Noel-Johnson, Roberts, and Lang are going to add some much needed talent and depth to the DL and maybe even Sami and Antwine in 2018 will see some PT in the rotation.

    Wouldn’t mind seeing more 4 man fronts (or 52 looks) to stop the run better on early downs. We have the speed at LB and hybrid OLB like Sparaco, Callier, Bennion, and others to make that happen.

  3. And,

    They need to close WDE lex Tchangam De Anza College

    and

    That Big DL who can play right away but they missed on all of them and hopefully the new guy has a secret stash and brings a couple of 6’4 325 pounders. Okay one would be okay.

    Go Buffs

    Coffee is for Closers

    1. Tchangam would be an OLB for us not a down lineman.

      We really missed out on adding another nose-tackle; maybe they will find one in the next 6 days.

    1. Carnac is a commune beside the Gulf of Morbihan on the south coast of Brittany. How un-informed are you?

      Typical you would refer to a commune.

      Carnac The Great is dead.

      Get up to speed.

      Hard to do with those old bones.

      Buffs.

      Note: And my prediction is correct

      See Ya and Get off your grass

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