This spring, the Buffs will be looking to replace all three starting defensive linemen from last year. There is no shortage of options, however. Here’s a look at who the Buffs are projected to have up front this year:
Timothy Coleman, 6-3, 255
Leo Jackson III, 6-3, 280
Javier Edwards, 6-3, 350
Jase Franke, 6-3, 280
Eddy Lopez, 6-3, 315
Michael Mathewes, 6-4, 255
Chris Mulumba, 6-4, 280
Brett Tonz, 6-3, 290
Lyle Tuiloma, 6-3, 320
Frank Umu, 6-4, 315
Terriek Roberts, 6-6, 265
Jacob Callier, 6-2, 245
Terrance Lang, 6-7, 265
Sebastian Olver, 6-5, 250
Jalen Sami, 6-6, 320
Dante Sparaco, 6-5, 250
While the Colorado football team had its breakout season in 2016, Frank Umu knew his time to shine would have to wait.
A redshirt freshman last season, Umu spent the fall as a reserve defensive tackle who rarely played. While he did play on special teams — and 18 snaps on defense — Umu kept his eyes on the future.
The future is now for Umu, who is one of several players vying for starting jobs on the defensive line as the Buffaloes (10-4, 8-1 Pac-12 last season) open spring practice on Wednesday.
“I’m really just trying to have that breakout season, get my chance to start; push to start and compete,” said Umu, a 2015 graduate of Heritage High School in Littleton. “There’s so many of us, there’s going to be a lot of competition this spring. That’s definitely going to push everybody else to get better, so we should be better as a unit.”
Last season, the Buffs relied heavily on nose tackle Josh Tupou and ends Jordan Carrell and Samson Kafovalu up front. That trio made up 41 of the 42 starts on the defensive front and they played 77 percent of the snaps given to the linemen.
All three are now gone, which creates plenty of opportunity for Umu and others. Umu began preparing for this opportunity last season.
Although he was on the travel squad, Umu asked strength and conditioning coach Drew Wilson if he could have a non-travel workout schedule during the season. Essentially, that gave Umu four weight lifting sessions per week during the season instead of two.
“Voluntarily, he said, ‘I want to come in, I want to get better, I want to get ahead of things,'” Wilson said. “That’s when you know you’re starting to make strides (as a coach), because he knew those three were leaving. He knew that positions were going to be wide open (for the 2017 season).”
Wilson was more than happy to oblige and put Umu on a program that has reshaped his body. The 6-foot-4 Umu began last season at about 260 pounds. On Monday, he weighed in at 321.
“I’m just eating when I can and when I feel like it,” Umu said. “There’s definitely some bad weight, but it’s a lot of good weight, especially working with Drew and getting on the right diet with (team dietitian Laura Anderson).”
Umu said coaches wanted him to get bigger, but his motivation “is more internal.”
Ideally, Umu will get down to 300 or 310 before the season, but it’s clear he’s more physically prepared to compete as a defensive lineman in the Pac-12.
“Because we had extra days of practice (in preparation for the Valero Alamo Bowl), that’s really helped him become more confident,” defensive line coach Jim Jeffcoat said. “Frank has made a big stride. I like Frank and I like the things that he’s done off the field and what he’s doing on the field.”
Although he’s 60 pounds heavier than he was a year ago, Umu feels better than he did then.
“I’m working out, running, and I feel like I’m getting in shape,” he said. “I’m getting a little bigger and I’m definitely getting stronger and faster.”
After all the work he’s put in on his body – and in the film room – Umu said he can’t wait to get on the practice field this spring.
“I’m definitely still trying to make a name for myself,” he said. “This spring is the time to do that, so that when we get into fall camp, I’m already there and able to progress from there.”
Umu said Jeffcoat wants him to play on the left side of the line, where Kafovalu lined up last year, but added, “they’re looking to practice me a little at nose and let me get a feel for that, too.”
Regardless of where he plays, Umu knows he will have plenty of others vying for jobs. That competition is motivating him, as well.
“There’s a lot of depth,” he said. “It’s going to make for some good competition.
“I think it’s a very strong group. It could be better than last year’s and last year’s was pretty tough itself.”