Among the defensive linemen at Colorado, there are players who are best suited for nose tackle, and those that are best at left end or right end.

Then, there's Jase Franke.

The senior from Camarillo, Calif., is Mr. Versatility on the line and one of the most important pieces to CU's improvement up front this season.

"I've been here for a long time and I've played multiple roles throughout the D-line," Franke said. "It's a lot of fun. I've kind of seen myself as somewhat of a utility guy. If I have to go play nose, I'll go play nose for a game. If I have to go play end, I'll go play end for a game.

"I like to see myself as a team player, so I will go wherever I'm needed."

At 6-foot-3, 280 pounds, Franke is small for a Pac-12 nose tackle, but throughout his career has displayed the strength and talent to excel at any spot on the line.

Playing behind talented veterans early in his career, he was on the field sparingly, but got some good experience. Last year, he had career highs in starts (four), snaps played (333) and tackles (24).

Franke comes into this year as CU's most experienced defensive lineman, having been on the field for 527 snaps throughout his career, and is poised for his best season.

"I definitely feel a lot more mature," he said. "I know what I need to work on. Coach (Kwahn) Drake has helped me out a lot to just critique those small little details. He sees me as being a very good player, as long as I just fix the mechanics."


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Franke could find himself in a familiar role as the Buffs' super sub on the line.

Nose tackle Javier Edwards and right end Chris Mulumba, both seniors, are returning starters. Sophomore Mustafa Johnson, a junior college transfer, turned some heads in spring and could wind up starting at left end.

Junior Lyle Tuiloma, sophomore Terriek Roberts, redshirt freshman Terrance Lang and true freshmen Israel Antwine, Tava Finau and Jalen Sami could all push for playing time, as well.

With potentially 10 players fighting to get on the field, the competition is tough up front, but it's a good bet that Franke will be a significant contributor every week, even if it's not in a starting role.

"Obviously, I would like to start, but at the end of the days its, where would I fit best on the team?," he said. "The technique is very different (at each spot). It's sometimes hard to transition, but as long as I keep practicing and keep working it this summer, we should be OK this fall."

To Franke, more important than starting is to see the entire group play better than a year ago.

When the Buffs won the Pac-12 South title in 2016, the defensive line — anchored by seniors Jordan Carrell, Samson Kafovalu and Josh Tupou — played a key role. With that trio gone last year, the Buffs leaned heavily on Edwards and Mulumba, who were first-year junior college transfers, and the defensive front struggled.

"It was some big shoes to fill (last year)," Franke said. "Being the Pac-12 conference, it's very competitive, so it's a big transition coming from a junior college to a Power 5 school. I think they'll be a lot more experienced this year and I think they'll be a lot more prepared and they know what to expect a little bit more.

"We'll be a lot more mature this year."

Along with the experience and maturity, the Buffs have better young talent on the line. All of them have benefitted from the energy brought in by Drake, who is entering his first year with the Buffs.

"We just have to keep practicing our craft and perfecting it," Franke said. "I think we're doing a lot better and coach Drake definitely is helping us emphasize all the little things, so that when it comes game day, everything just comes naturally.

"Everybody is striving to step up and make themselves a better player, get out of their comfort zone. As a group, everybody wants to take it a step further this year."

That includes Franke, who is aiming for a strong finish to what has already been a great career.

"I've loved it," he said of his career with the Buffs. "I've had a great time and I got to play in a lot of cool stadiums along the way.

"Overall, I'm happy with it."

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