On a Colorado defense loaded with question marks coming into this season, perhaps the biggest concern about that side of the ball was the Buffaloes' front line.

Last year, nose tackle Josh Tupou and ends Jordan Carrell and Samson Kafovalu were rock solid for the Buffs in the trenches.

That trio played the vast majority of snaps on the line, but all three were seniors, leaving the Buffs to essentially rebuild up front this season.

Two games in, the Buffs are rotating more players up front and finding enough success to keep defensive line coach Jim Jeffcoat pleased with the progress.

"They've risen to the challenge," he said. "Every game is a different game and we have to progress and get better each game; they're trying to and they know I'm going to push them to get better."

Leo Jackson III, the top reserve a year ago, has taken his game to another level to lead the charge up front. In 120 snaps, he's already got 16 tackles and four sacks. Playing twice as many snaps last year (254), he had 16 tackles and no sacks.

"His intensity has risen and he's really worked on his technique," Jeffcoat said. "He's been with me for three years. He understands exactly what I want and how I want it done and that helps him."

Jackson was expected to be the leader of the defensive line, and Jeffcoat said it's been rewarding to see him delivering early on.


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"It's really fun (to see)," Jeffcoat said. "He's a great kid; one of my favorite people in the world. I'm very proud of him, but he knows that each game we have to get better and he's doing that. He continues to work on his technique and he works hard in practice. I can only say positive things about him."

Outside of Jackson, the Buffs have given playing time to several others.

Junior college transfers Chris Mulumba and Javier Edwards have joined Jackson as starters, while Jase Franke, Lyle Tuiloma and Tim Coleman have also played up front.

"(Jeffcoat) stresses to us every time he has a chance to sub somebody in he's going to do it because it keeps all of our D-linemen engaged into the game," Tuiloma said.

While the rotation is necessitated by the fact that the Buffs aren't as experienced up front as they were a year ago, it also allows them to "stay fresh and be physical up there like we want to be," according to head coach Mike MacIntyre.

Jeffcoat also believes that rotating multiple players promotes competition and keeps the players ready.

It's also allowing several quality players a chance to play, Tuiloma said.

"Honestly, our D-line, we really have some dogs," Tuiloma said. "It's not about us competing against each other, it's us going out there and practicing hard. We know we're all going to play. There's only six or seven of us that's going to play and we're all going to get reps and we're all going to put in to the win. We have some dogs on defense that I think can do big things year."

Jackson's already doing big things, while the others are getting there.

Jeffcoat said Franke "is my security blanket" because he can play any spot on the line. After playing just 76 snaps last year, Franke has already played 57 this year, with seven tackles.

Tuiloma "has made a big jump," according to Jeffcoat, who added, "He's going to make an even bigger jump as the season progresses."

Mulumba has displayed his toughness and strength up front and Jeffcoat said that from the first game to the second, "there was a tremendous improvement."

Edwards, meanwhile, has had mixed results. The 6-foot-3, 350-pounder is replacing Tupou at nose guard, and while he's made seven tackles, he's been pushed around a bit by a couple of all-conference centers.

Jeffcoat isn't concerned, however.

"The big thing with him is he was dinged up a little bit earlier (in camp)," Jeffcoat said. "Every game and every day he's working to get better. In the coming weeks, you're going to see what the real Javier looks like.

"Not everybody comes in and is automatically going to show out. It's going to be a process and he's working through it and I'm proud of him. I'm proud of how hard he's working and proud of the things he's doing."

To this point, Jeffcoat's been proud of the entire group, which will get even stronger this week as senior George Frazier returns from a two-game suspension.

"(Among the group), you'll see marked improvement from last week to this week, and the next week and next week they'll get better and better," Jeffcoat said.

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at howellb@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.