In his first round of recruiting with the Colorado Buffaloes, head football coach Mel Tucker has made it clear what he sees as the foundation for the roster.
"I love big guys," Tucker said Thursday during a press conference about his first signing day at CU. "Big guys that can move people, that are strong at the point of attack, that love to play the game."
Tucker, hired earlier this month to get the Buffaloes on a winning track, signed 17 new players Wednesday, the first day of the early signing period, which ends Friday. The new class of Buffs includes a variety of positions, but it's the emphasis on the lines that jumps out.
On the offensive line, the Buffs added 6-foot-4, 285-pound Austin Johnson from Highlands Ranch High School; 6-7, 290-pound Valentin Senn from Austria; 6-6, 270-pound Jake Wiley from Eaglecrest High School; and Modesto (Calif.) Junior College transfer Va'atofu Sauvao, who is listed at 6-3, 320, and could compete for a starting job at guard right away.
In recent years, CU has signed leaner offensive linemen with the idea of putting weight on them once they get to campus. Tucker is looking for guys who already have the girth.
"This is what we're looking for," Tucker said as highlights of Johnson plowing through defenders were shown on a nearby screen. "We have to be stout in the trenches. We have to be able to move people. We have to be able to run the ball on our terms."
Same goes for the defensive line.
CU's class includes 6-foot-2, 295-pound Na'im Rodman from Lakewood, Calif.; 6-5, 320-pound Austin Williams from Tifton, Ga.; 6-4, 260-pound end Jeremiah Doss; and 6-4, 305-pound Janaz Jordan. Doss and Jordan (who Tucker said is probably closer to 315 or 320 pounds) were teammates at Hinds (Miss.) Community College.
As clips of Williams were shown, Tucker said, "He brings that aggressive, nasty attitude that we need to have to be able to control the line of scrimmage."
Tucker talked of finding linemen who play until the "echo of the whistle" and finish plays.
With nearly half of this week's signees being players who will line up in the trenches, there appears to be a new philosophy in Boulder.
Former head coach Mike MacIntyre and his staff recruited a lot of talented skill players, especially at receiver and defensive back, but his teams often struggled up front.
Tucker's approach, however, is to build the team from the inside-out.
"I think the game is played and won or lost in the trenches," Tucker said. "First and foremost, we want to be stout in there. We want to have size and strength; we want to be physical. Obviously, we want to have balance, so we have to have great skill, as well. But the lines ... that's where it starts."
That's not to say CU doesn't already have some talent in the trenches.
New defensive coordinator Tyson Summers said Thursday that defensive linemen Mustafa Johnson, Israel Antwine and Terrance Lang were the first players that jumped out to him as he watched film. Freshman nose tackle Jalen Sami has turned some heads in practice, too.
The Buffs also have a talented, but young, crew of offensive linemen, starting with center Colby Pursell and tackle William Sherman, who were starters as redshirt freshmen this year. Big things are also expected of freshmen Frank Fillip, Jake Moretti and Casey Roddick. The group could be led by seniors Aaron Haigler, Tim Lynott and Brett Tonz, who all have plenty of starting of experience.
Although there's a solid foundation of linemen already on board, Tucker's first recruiting class will build the depth, talent and strength of the Buffs up front.
"You always need big guys," he said. "You never want to be short on big guys. That can become a huge problem for you."
That's not a problem Tucker wants, and with this class, the Buffs are taking steps towards becoming strong at the line of scrimmage.
"I feel like we have tough guys on our roster (already)," he said. "The major reason and why you recruit is to enhance and improve your team. The cupboards are not bare here. There's an element of toughness on our roster right now and we're going to promote that. I feel like we already have that on our team and we're just going to add to it."