Every week throughout the 2016 season, the Colorado football team knew what it would get from its defense line.
Jordan Carrell, Samson Kafovalu and Josh Tupou were not only stout up front, but reliable. Week in and week out, that trio — all seniors — showed up to play.
With all three now gone, the Buffaloes face the task of finding not only a new set of starters, but some quality depth behind them.
"We still have a ways to go," defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said after spring football. "(Senior Leo Jackson III) is the only one with any game experience, so when the lights come on, some of those guys are going to have to get used to playing in that environment, but I think we have a group of guys to work with."
Technically, Jackson isn't the only defensive lineman with game experience, but he's got a lot more than anyone else on the roster and will be counted on as a leader up front.
"I expect a lot out of him," defensive line coach Jim Jeffcoat said.
Jackson started 10 games in 2015, was the top lineman off the bench last year and worked this spring at left defensive end — the spot manned by Kafovalu last year.
Senior Timothy Coleman will also be a leader up. He's on the smaller side (6-foot-3, 255 pounds), but often plays like he's bigger because of his strength. Junior Jase Franke is the only other player with much experience and he'll fight for a starting job after being a backup the past two years.
All three could help the Buffs this year, along with several others. Junior college transfers Javier Edwards and Chris Mulumba will battle for starting roles, as will George Frazier, Lyle Tuiloma, Frank Umu and others.
"We have talent; it's just inexperienced," Jeffcoat said.
BuffZone.com is previewing each position group for the Buffaloes. In this installment, we take a look at the defensive line.
Position: Defensive line
Returnees: Timothy Coleman (Sr., 6-3, 255); Jase Franke (Jr., 6-3, 280); Leo Jackson III (Sr., 6-3, 275); Terriek Roberts (Fr., 6-6, 265); Lyle Tuiloma (So., 6-3, 320); Frank Umu (So., 6-4, 315).
Additions: Javier Edwards (Jr., 6-3, 350); George Frazier (Sr., 6-2, 280; will split time between tight end and DL); Terrance Lang (Fr., 6-7, 265); Chris Mulumba (Jr., 6-4, 280); Jalen Sami (Fr., 6-6, 320)
Losses: Jordan Carrell (graduated); Samson Kafovalu (graduated); Eddy Lopez (switched to tight end in offseason); Brett Tonz (switched to offensive line in spring); Josh Tupou (graduated)
2016 recap: The trio of Jordan Carrell, Samson Kafovalu and Josh Tupou combined for 41 of the 42 starts on the defensive line last year (Leo Jackson III started at USC in place of Kafovalu, although Kafovalu played most of the game). With Tupou at nose tackle and Carrell and Kafovalu at the end spots, CU had a stout front that was solid against the run most of the year. The opposition's average yards per rush (4.03) was the lowest against CU since 2010. That trio combined for 148 tackles, 9.5 sacks (5.5 of those by Carrell) and 33 quarterback pressures. Leo Jackson III and Timothy Coleman were the top players off the bench and were solid when given a chance to play. Jase Franke was productive in his limited playing time (11 tackles in 76 snaps). Brett Tonz, Lyle Tuiloma and Frank Umu combined for just 37 snaps played.
2017 outlook: The front line will certainly have a new look this year with all three starters gone from a year ago. The Buffs are not devoid of experience, however. Jackson started 10 games in 2015 and has racked up 49 tackles in 840 snaps since transferring to CU from a junior college two seasons ago. Coleman has played 399 snaps in his career, and Franke, who has been a backup nose tackle, always seems to make the most of his time (25 tackles in 194 snaps). All three of them were solid in the spring, but the Buffs may need them to step into bigger roles this season. Frazier began playing defensive line (where he played a bit in 2014) to provide some depth. Tuiloma and Umu both had great offseasons and shared the award for most improved defensive linemen. The key to this group, however, could be addition of junior college transfers Javier Edwards and Chris Mulumba. Edwards is a big nose tackle in the Tupou mold, and impressed many of his teammates and coaches in the spring with his strength and athleticism. Mulumba, who will turn 25 during the season, was a national judo champion in his native Finland and also served a year in the Finnish army after high school. He will certainly push for a starting job in the fall. Lang could also push for a starting job, but the Buffs are still awaiting his arrival and hope he will be here this season. Sami could be the nose tackle of the future, but the late bloomer appears to be on track to grayshirt, delaying his arrival until January.
Brian Howell: firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.