I'm writing some positional outlooks for our beloved Buffaloes. They are based on what I've read and seen of the players we've got.
This has been an interesting position to watch during the spring because we have mostly played with three down linemen: the two DTs and one DE. I have a feeling that we will play more 4-3 when Forrest West comes back from his knee injury (another week or so), but we won't get to see that. I wonder how much time we'll spend with 3 or 4 down linemen? He is the only guy practicing on the weakside right now. Does the defensive alignment hinge on Forrest West? The OLBs line up on the weakside when we play the 3-3-5. On the strongside, we're pretty lucky right now to have both Marquez Herrod and Nick Kasa.
- Marquez Herrod, Sr
- Congratulations Marquez! You've overcome an incredibly tough childhood, spending lots of time in foster care. You are the most experienced D-lineman at a D1 school and you're poised to have a very nice season, get your degree, and possibly get drafted. I know, I know. Drafted? After having only six sacks? Yes. There is something to be said for a guy to be in the 280-290 range who can really rush the passer. He is going to have more sacks this year, and can play inside if he has to. He is just as good at stopping the run as he is at rushing the passer. A true 4 down DE, something they like in the pros. He could also play end in some 3-4 schemes (which he often does for us, though he is generally set wider than most pro teams play their 3-4 DEs). Anyway, he is going to have an impact for the team this year. He doesn't really have any weaknesses. He has played a lot and he recognizes and reacts quickly. He doesn't have to think out there, which helps him a lot. As good as the guy behind him looks, we will miss him when he's gone.
- Josh Hartigan, Jr
- He was a small LB before he was switched to DE. He is quick though, which is why he was able to see the field at the end of last year. And he is also a Special Teams guy. He is listed as backing up Forrest West, but he hasn't been practicing as a 2nd weakside DE. He has been practicing as the third or fourth guy on the strongside. If that remains, he probably won't see the field too much on D. But if the Buffs play more 4-3, he will get some snaps spelling West. He is short and quick, and can give taller tackles fits when he stays low, but he hasn't been doing that consistently in practice. And he gets moved pretty easily in the running game. He is just too slight for a guy his height as a DE. There are a few guys like him on the team who are losing playing time to younger guys who are bigger and faster.
- Tony Poremba, Jr
- He is a walk-on who has been a camp body and scout team type guy. That looks to be the case again this year. He hasn't stood out to me in any way during his time here. He is on the team because he loves the game, and his lack of playing time definitely isn't due to his work ethic.
- Nick Kasa, So (thanks a lot, NCAA)
- He is the guy we all want to see. He is a phenomenal athlete, and is huge with long arms. He is figuring out how to use them and developing some pass-rush moves. He has work to do in the recognition area, but he isn't lost out there on running plays. I doubt he will meet an O-lineman he can't stand up on running plays. It looks like he will split snaps with Herrod, who has an advantage over him when it comes to technique and experience. He is very competitive. He could stand to get even stronger, but he won't be completely relied upon this year, so it is OK for now. He is still at his best when he's lined up outside and he can rush the passer. I can see teams sliding their TEs to help on his side, which won't be a problem for him. He can toss TEs aside with ease.
- Forrest West, So
- The other impressive sophomore. Was even more impressive last season than Kasa, but that was because Kasa was injured and then got sick. West has a very strong lower body and a low center of gravity. He is the opposite of Kasa, which isn't a bad thing. He is better suited on the weakside, where he can use his quickness and leverage to abuse OTs. We haven't been able to see him in practice, as he has been recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery, but he will be out there soon enough. He has also put on 15-20 lbs since last season, which should only add to his effectiveness. He is another exciting youngster to watch.
- Chidera Uzo-Diribe, Fr
- He looks promising. A guy who only played a year of high school football, he is getting by on raw athleticism, but he is improving quickly. He isn't so big right now, but he will get bigger and stronger, and he is working on technique and footwork. There is not much to evaluate yet, except that he looks the part. He has pretty good hands, having played high school basketball, so we will see if he learns how to use them properly.
Herrod and Kasa will share snaps on the stongside, while West will see time at the weakside. I'm not sure we will see much of the other guys. Herrod is the more complete DE, while Kasa is super-athletic, but is hit-or-miss in the running game. I think Herrod will get a few more snaps than Kasa will, but they both will get plenty of time to get after the QB. West was impressive for a true freshman last year, and he should only be better this year. We don't have tremendous depth here, which may be why the D is spending a lot of time working out of the 3-3-5 scheme. Uzo-Diribe definitely shouldn't see the field this year, and I'm not sure they want to send Hartigan and Poremba out there too often. They will get a few snaps here and there, but it will primarily be the big three.
Herrod will be missed, but West and Kasa can be the leaders here for a while. Uzo-Diribe will get his chance to contribute down the road. Romeo Bandison is all about rotating players on the D-line, so we will definitely need to bring in some promising recruits, and possibly some guys who can play right away. Especially because we don't know how well West or Kasa will hold up through a season. We will have to monitor their health this year, but depth here is definitely a concern for the future. If we can get a few guys to spell West and Kasa, CU should be able to intimidate the QBs of the Pac-12 for a while. Kasa looks improved, and should only get better as he learns how to use his long arms and tremendous athleticism and combine it with technical prowess, and West can work on many of the same things. They provide contrasting styles of pass-rushing, but can both accomplish the same things.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to email me at: David.Gerhardt@gmail.com