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  • CU's Javier Edwards, left, and William Sherman, battle during the...

    Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer

    CU's Javier Edwards, left, and William Sherman, battle during the Buffs' spring football festivities in March.

  • CU's Chris Mulumba takes a breather at a practice in...

    Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer

    CU's Chris Mulumba takes a breather at a practice in February.

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The 2017 season certainly didn’t go as planned for the Colorado football team, especially on defense.

In particular, it was a disappointing season for the defensive line.

Yet, when CU defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot looks at tools the Buffaloes have in the trenches this year, he’s rather optimistic.

“We’re going to be better,” Eliot said. “We’re going to have more talent; we’re going to have more experience. I’m excited about coach (Kwahn) Drake, who brings a lot of energy. He’s a great teacher. He’s built excellent relationships with the kids.

“I’m anticipating that we’ll do some really good things on the D-line this year.”

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 defensive line, which will be counted on to take some steps forward this year.

During the 2016 season, when the Buffs went 10-4 and won the Pac-12 South division, their defensive line was a stout group that controlled the trenches in a lot of games.

With an entirely new group last year, the Buffs gave up 5.23 yards per rushing attempt (up from 4.03 in 2017) and got very little pressure on the quarterback.

The 2016 starting group — Jordan Carrell, Samson Kafovalu and Josh Tupou — combined for 9.5 sacks and 33 quarterback pressures. Last season, the entire defensive line group of eight players combined for 10 sacks (four vs. Texas State) and 12 pressures.

“Last year it was all new faces,” Eliot said. “For the most part, nobody really had any playing time. We had two starters that were not only new to being starters, but newcomers to our program. Everything was new to them.”

Much of Eliot’s optimism this year stems from the experience coming back. Nose tackle Javier Edwards and end Chris Mulumba, who earned starting roles as junior college transfers last year, both had their ups and downs, but there’s hope that they’ll be better and more consistent this year.

“A lot of people say you see a huge jump in junior college players from year one to year two,” Eliot said.

Eliot isn’t automatically penciling them in as starters, however, because he believes there’s more depth and talent in the group than a year ago.

“The fact that Javy and Chris started last year, they got all those reps and it made them better players,” Eliot said. “But, I think that we’ve got great competition at that position, which you’ve got to have in order to be successful.”

Drake is another factor in Eliot’s optimism. Hired in January, the 32-year-old is in his first job with a Power 5 conference team, but came highly recommended and the early returns are positive.

“Kwahn Drake brings a lot of energy to our defensive line position, which is great, because those guys have to play with a motor to be successful,” Eliot said.

The improvement of that group will be a major factor in CU’s ability to put together a winning season.

“I think we have some good players (on the defensive line) and we have some guys that have improved a lot from last year,” Eliot said.

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

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