In the trenches

A look at CU's projected defensive line in 2018:

Coming back

Javier Edwards, Sr., 6-3, 350

Jase Franke, Sr., 6-3, 280

Chris Mulumba, Sr., 6-4, 280

Terriek Roberts, So., 6-6, 270

Lyle Tuiloma, Jr., 6-3, 310

Newcomers

Israel Antwine, Fr., 6-3, 290

Tava Finau, Fr., 6-3, 260

Mustafa Johnson, So., 6-2, 285

Terrance Lang, Fr., 6-7, 250*

Jalen Sami, Fr., 6-6, 320

Graduating

George Frazier, 6-2, 280

Leo Jackson III, 6-3, 275

* Lang redshirted this season

There's no question that Colorado's defensive line struggled this season, but give credit to head coach Mike MacIntyre and his staff.

They've taken the first steps in fixing the problem.

Colorado (5-7, 2-7 Pac-12 this season) signed 20 players to national letters of intent this week, including three defensive linemen to add depth and talent to that position group.

"We were able to find some guys that we thought could really help us," head coach Mike MacIntyre said. "We definitely think that's an area that we can keep improving in."

This season, CU allowed 208.0 rushing yards per game, ranking 109th nationally. While the linemen are not solely responsible for that, they were too often pushed around and it's an area that needs to get better.


Advertisement

CU's base 3-4 alignment featured three new starters this year - Javier Edwards, Leo Jackson III and Chris Mulumba. Behind them, the Buffs used a trio of players that didn't have much game experience on defense: Jake Franke, Lyle Tuiloma and George Frazier, who split his time between offense and defense.

While Jackson (who started most of 2015) had a solid year, the overall inexperience up front was often evident.

There is reason for hope as the Buffs look ahead to 2018, however.

Jackson and Frazier are graduating, but the other four contributors are back, and the Buffs are counting on them to be better.

Edwards and Mulumba were juniors this year, but they were first-year Buffs after transferring from junior colleges.

Mulumba, who was born and raised in Finland, came to CU in January having not played football since 2015. He won a starting job, but had some expected growing pains. By season's end, he may have been the most improved player on the team.

"I feel good about Chris and the strides that he made," defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said. "You'll really see some good things from him next year."

Edwards, a 6-foot-3, 350-pound nose tackle, lost more than 30 pounds from January to the start of the season, but wasn't as polished as the Buffs believe he can be by next season.

"He lost a lot of weight when he got here and played good in spurts, but like Javier and I talked, he's got to get in better shape, lose some more weight," MacIntyre said. "He told me, 'Coach I can play a lot better.' I said, 'I expect you to play a lot better.' Our job is to keep working with him on that area."

Franke and Tuiloma provided good depth and they'll be upperclassmen ready to compete for starting roles. The Buffs also hope sophomore Terriek Roberts can get to the next level and fight for playing time.

The Buffs are hoping for good things out of their new linemen, as well, with five players being added to the mix.

"We had some guys that played last year that were young in their time and we feel like adding these guys to it, we'll be able to rotate guys in and be more stout on the defensive line and be able to affect the run game and affect the passing game better," MacIntyre said. "I'm excited about these guys."

Mustafa Johnson is the latest JUCO transfer up front, and the Buffs believe he can fight for a starting role immediately.

The Buffs have bolstered their defensive line with six JUCO transfers since 2015, but they have been lacking in their recruitment of high school defensive linemen. That area is trending up, however, with four additions since February.

The 2017 class included Jalen Sami, a 6-6, 320-pound nose tackle who will finally join the team in January after grayshirting. That class also included Terrance Lang, a 6-7, 250-pound prospect who spent the year redshirting and turning heads on the practice field.

"That kid is going to be a special kid," running back Phillip Lindsay said. "There's not many kids that are going to be like him."

CU added two more prep prospects this week, with former Oklahoma State commit Israel Antwine and versatile Tava Finau. Both appear to have the physical tools to compete for playing time next fall.

Of course, just adding players doesn't automatically make the Buffs better. As with Edwards and Mulumba, it could take some time for the newcomers to develop.

The Buffs, however, appear to be on the right track in improving their defensive front.

Now, it's up to the coaches to develop the talent on board and figure out the best way to help them succeed within the scheme.

Antwine and Finau will arrive in the summer, but the rest of the group will participate in spring drills, giving the Buffs what they hope is a jump start on a better 2018 for the defensive line.

"Definitely having these guys here in the spring, and a couple of the freshmen that we think are physically fit to go and play, we'll hopefully be better up front," MacIntyre said.

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