There are a lot of players from last year's Pac-12 South championship team that the Colorado Buffaloes are missing right now.
Of course, they are missing quarterback Sefo Liufau and their talented trio of defensive backs that are now in the NFL.
Perhaps the biggest hole created by graduation last year, however, was on the defensive line. Eight games into this year, the Buffaloes (4-4, 1-4 Pac-12) are still seeking the consistency and strength they had up front in 2016.
Replacing all defensive line starters in their 3-4 base scheme, the Buffs have had their ups and downs, but head coach Mike MacIntyre believes — or hopes — the group is improving as they head into the final four games, beginning Saturday when California (4-4, 1-4) comes to Boulder.
"I definitely feel like they understand things better," MacIntyre said Wednesday.
He said the line has seen just about every type of block and stunt and that's helping them.
"They've seen it now multiple times, they understand the tenacity you have to play with, play-in and play-out, at this level," he said.
CU ranks ninth in the Pac-12 in rushing defense, yielding 193.9 yards per game. The Buffs are one of just four teams allowing 5.0 yards per rush.
A lot of that damage was done in back-to-back weeks, as Arizona and Oregon State racked up a combined 693 rushing yards against the Buffs.
While the numbers haven't been great this season, it's certainly been a learning experience for the line.
George Frazier and Leo Jackson III are the only seniors among the main rotation up front. Juniors Javier Edwards, Jase Franke and Chris Mulumba have gained valuable experience, along with sophomore Lyle Tuiloma.
"It is getting better, honestly," said Tuiloma, who splits time with Edwards at nose tackle. "I think we had one of our best practices this week. Everybody was all in."
Tuiloma has been grateful for "more playing time than I ever thought I would get," but said he's nowhere near satisfied with his growth.
"There's always room for improvement, no matter how good you get," he said. "I expect more out of myself."
Tuiloma said he needs to get better at using his physicality, reading plays and shedding blocks. The rest of his line mates could probably improve in those same areas.
"That's one of the biggest things our D-line this year we have (to improve) is getting off of blocks and making plays," he said.
So far, the group has shown some growth, and MacIntyre hopes that continues.
"I knew they would take (some growing pains), and they'd have good moments and bad moments, but I think they're getting better and better," he said.