The vaunted Colorado Buffaloes secondary is not the only area where the new to-be-determined CU defensive coordinator will have to rebuild in 2017.
While CU's Dec. 29 date in the Alamo Bowl will mark the final game together for a decorated group of defensive backs led by senior cornerback Chidobe Awuzie and senior safety Tedric Thompson, it also will be the final game together for three seniors who have provided a formidable front line in ends Samson Kafovalu and Jordan Carrell in addition to tackle Josh Tupou.
"We're just thankful for another opportunity to go out there and play the sport that we love," Carrell said. "Playing in December, that's something we've never done before. For it to be our last game as seniors we want to make a statement, and we want to set up next year for the younger guys with a great win."
Those younger guys expected to fill the roles up front for the Buffs feature an eclectic assortment of experience levels.
Tops among them is junior defensive end Leo Jackson III, who started 10 games last year while finishing with 33 tackles and two sacks. Jackson's playing time dropped appreciably this season — he logged 586 snaps last year but has been on the field for 254 this year heading into the Alamo Bowl — yet he still figures to be in line to resume a starting role at one of the end positions in 2017.
"(Bowl practice) is a great look for the young guys. It's really good to see what they can do because they really haven't gotten looks in two years," Jackson said. "The team is going to be on us next year. That's the main thing right now, grinding and getting bigger and stronger, trying to make sure we fill those roles even better than they left it."
While Jackson has appeared in all 13 games this year, the backups at the other two spots — Tim Coleman (end) and Jase Franke (tackle) — have appeared in 12 games apiece. Coleman, though, has participated in more than double the number of snaps as Franke (174-76) while posting 12 tackles and one quarterback sack.
Also expected to fill the pending void up front are two of the newest Buffaloes, junior college signees Javier Edwards and Chris Mulumba. Mulumba, a 24-year old end, and Edwards, a tackle, could slide into starting roles as immediately as spring practice, with both players set to join the Buffs for the second semester after the bowl game.
Given the expectation the Buffs will continue their 3-4 defensive look regardless of who takes over for Oregon newcomer Jim Leavitt at defensive coordinator, the new signees could prove as vital to filling the holes up front as anything occurring in CU's extra bowl practices.
"Now you get to see them a little longer, and I tell all the young guys it's going to be very competitive and it's going to change in the sense that Josh, Jordan and Samson won't be here," defensive line coach Jim Jeffcoat said. "So there will be some spots, but don't assume you're just going to get it. You have to work for it.
"(Edwards) is a very athletic big man. At about 325 he ran a 4.9 (40-yard dash). He's very gifted in the same way as Mulumba. Both very athletic big men that can run. That's the thing we need."