In their quest to get better as an overall defense, the Colorado football team has a long list of improvements to make this season.
Near the top of that list is generating more pressure on the quarterback. Colorado struggled to do that last season, with only 19 sacks and 54 quarterback pressures.
Leading up to fall camp, which begins Aug. 1, Buffzone.com is previewing each position group for the Buffs. In this installment, we take a look at the outside linebackers, a group that is lean on experience, but will be counted on to do their part in the collective effort to improve the pass rush.
"We don't have a lot of guys with playing time, but I think we have talent at that spot," defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said.
True sophomore Jacob Callier is the only outside linebacker on the roster that played for the Buffs last season, recording one sack and a team-high 11 pressures in 196 snaps played.
Callier was used as a pass-rush specialist last season, but was leaner in spring and ready to take on a bigger role in helping to set the edge in the run game, as well as rushing the quarterback.
"Jacob has the most experience and had the most production, and he had a good spring," Eliot said. "He had a really good spring."
There's no shortage of competition for the starting job, however.
Junior Nu'umotu Falo is back after being dismissed from the team last summer, and he's eager to prove himself again. He's actually the most experienced player of the group, having logged 373 snaps in a backup role during the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Playing both inside and outside linebacker, Falo has 1.5 career sacks.
While Callier and Falo bring some experience, the Buffs are likely going to need some newcomers to step up. Junior college transfers Alex Tchangam and Shamar Hamilton (who missed last year with a knee injury) and redshirt freshman Carson Wells will all push for playing time.
Perhaps the most intriguing player in the group is junior Davion Taylor. Yet another junior college transfer, Taylor is slated to play the "Buff back" position, which is an outside linebacker/safety hybrid.
At 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds and possessing sprinter speed - he ran a 10.51-second 100-meter dash for the Buffs' track team in spring - Taylor could be a key to the whole defense.
"He can cover, he can run," Eliot said. "He's thick and strong and he'll be physical. The one thing I like about Davion is he's really an attention to detail kind of player, and he's really smart. He brings a lot to the table."
Eliot is hoping the whole group brings a lot to the table, despite the lack of experience going into the season.
"That position is still up on the air, but I think that we have some guys that have some ability, which is critical," he said.
Position: Outside linebacker
Returners (2017 statistics)
Jacob Callier, So., 6-2, 230 (5 tackles, 1 sacks, 11 QB pressures)
Nick Edridge, Fr., 6-3, 215 (walk-on)
Nu'umotu Falo, Jr., 6-2, 240 (back after dismissed from team before 2017 season)
Shamar Hamilton, Jr., 6-5, 230 (sat out 2017 season with knee injury)
Davion Taylor, Jr., 6-2, 220
Alex Tchangam, Jr., 6-3, 250
Carson Wells, Fr., 6-4, 245
Sam Bennion (left football to focus on academics)
Terran Hasselbach (graduated; 13 tackles, 3 QB pressures)
Michael Mathewes (graduated; 10 tackles)
Derek McCartney (graduated; 57 tackles, 5 sacks, 5 QB pressures)
Dante Sparaco (transferred to Montana State)
2017 recap: The Buffs missed Jimmie Gilbert, who had 10.5 sacks in 2016 before heading off to the NFL. Senior Derek McCartney had a productive season in his return from a knee injury, finishing second on the team with five sacks and nine third-down stops. Jacob Callier, a true freshman, was a used in passing situations and, despite playing in just 22 percent of the defensive snaps (196 of 885), he led the team with 11 pressures and was third with eight third-down stops. Terran Hasselbach and Michael Mathewes provided some solid depth in setting the edge, but neither recorded a sack.
2018 outlook: There's been a lot of turnover at this position in the past year, but talent is there for CU to get some solid production. Typically, the Buffs play with one outside linebacker and the "Buff back." Davion Taylor is the favorite to start at Buff, where the now-graduated Ryan Moeller excelled last season. Taylor is bigger and faster than Moeller and could be more of a versatile player in that role. Callier followed up a solid freshman year with a good spring and he could be ready to play more. Nu'umotu Falo has flashed some play-making ability at outside linebacker in the past and believes he's more focused after some adversity. He was dismissed from the team a year ago, but returned in January. Redshirt freshman Carson Wells has flashed his talent in practice and was impressive during the spring game. Junior college transfer Alex Tchangam arrived this summer, and is an intriguing addition. He's a beast in the weight room and was impressive during his time at De Anza College. Junior Shamar Hamilton hopes to get in the mix after sitting out the 2017 season with a knee injury.