Talented newcomers and improved veterans gave the Colorado football team some hope this offseason that its defensive line would be better this year.
After one game, the Buffaloes are encouraged by the results.
CU’s new-look defensive line had a solid outing against Colorado State in Friday’s 45-13 victory at Broncos Stadium at Mile High.
Sophomore Mustafa Johnson, a junior-college transfer making his CU debut, made several big plays after earning a starting job in preseason camp. Redshirt freshman Terrance Lang and true freshman Israel Antwine made a couple disruptive plays, as well, and the veterans stepped up.
Nose tackle Javier Edwards, who is about 60 pounds lighter than he was 18 months ago, looked stronger, more physical, and more capable of shedding blocks than he did a year ago. Chris Mulumba, Jase Franke and Lyle Tuiloma all made plays, too.
That group helped CU hold the Rams to 103 yards on 39 rushing attempts (2.6 average) and generate three sacks.
“We feel like we have about six or seven guys that can rotate in there and play well,” CU head coach Mike MacIntyre said. “Two of them are freshmen, and I think they’re very good players. A couple of them are sophomores. It’s good to see that.”
Certainly the Buffs will face tougher offensive lines than the young, inexperienced group at CSU, but on Friday night, the group asserted itself.
“The D-line, they were fresh all game,” said linebacker Nate Landman, who led the team with 16 tackles. “We had a great rotation going in there, making a lot of plays, being physical, taking up blocks. I was coming free a lot of the time, so I definitely credit a lot of my success to them. They worked their butts off all day.”
That performance was the pay off for nine months of hard work. The Buffs’ line had a rough year in 2017 and is determined to be better this year under first-year position coach Kwahn Drake.
“They’re physical, they’re powerful and they understand it,” MacIntyre said. “Coach Drake has done a great job with them. We’re playing with better pad level, we’re playing better with our hands, we’re understanding where our (run) fits are.
“We changed up a few things up front that I believe will help us as the year goes along and some scheme things after watching last year. I feel good about that. We’re going to play a lot of good running football teams as we go, so we’re going to have to play well there.”
On the other side of the ball, the Buffs got a good performance from an offensive line that featured two first-time starters: center Colby Pursell and left guard Brett Tonz.
Co-offensive coordinator/line coach Klayton Adams said, however, it was just a building block for that group.
“I think there’s a ton of things to work on,” Adams said. “There was a couple of freshmen mistakes by some freshmen. I think the older guys took ownership of it and played hard.
“Now we have to get back to work and see what we can get better at. Really good teams make huge jumps between week one and week two and that’s what we’re going to need to do.”
Although never satisfied, Adams said, “I think there were enough good things to build on for sure.”
Redshirt freshman cornerback Chris Miller was in uniform Friday, but did not play. He spent a big chunk of preseason camp battling a hamstring injury, but was arguably CU’s best corner when healthy.
“I want to just take some time with him and make sure he doesn’t re-aggravate his injury,” CU cornerbacks coach Ashley Ambrose said. “I don’t want to push him too fast or too quickly. He’s been playing phenomenal for us until he got a little injured. He’s almost there. He’s about 85 percent. I’m looking forward to him hopefully playing this week.”
CU was off Saturday and Sunday and will return to practice Monday. … Saturday’s game will be the first-ever meeting with the Cornhuskers in September. To this point, all 69 meetings have been in October or November.