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Colorado Buffaloes most important players: #18 Mustafa Johnson

The Colorado native, JUCO transfer could be a difference maker

A year after winning 10 games and reaching the Pac-12 Championship game, the Colorado Buffaloes defense took a step back in 2017 under first year coordinator D.J. Eliot. The Buffs ranked 109th in the FBS in total defense last season, allowing 450.6 yards per game, much of which can be attributed to their weak pass rush and inability to stop the run. Enter Mustafa Johnson.

The Colorado native (Aurora) and junior college transfer should provide a huge boost to the Buffaloes defensive line this fall. Last season at Modesto Junior College (CA), Johnson registered 58 tackles, 6.5 sacks and earned first-team Valley League honors from the Northern California Football Conference.

Johnson signed with the Buffs last December, enrolled at CU for the Spring semester and has already made an impression on first-year defensive line coach Kwahn Drake. “He’s been really active. A fast learner who does a lot of little things right,” Drake told writer Pat Rooney. “Speed and athleticism. You can drill a lot of things, but speed and athleticism is something you kind of have to have already on your own. No doubt he will help us rush the passer. He is in our pass-rushing package.”

Grouped with fellow junior college transfers Chris Mulumba (defensive end) and Javier Edwards (nose tackle), Johnson should help a Buffaloes pass rush that recorded a mere 22 sacks last season after registering 36 in 2016. Much like the Buffaloes cornerbacks, however, there will be a lot of competition at defensive end in fall camp. Mulumba and Johnson will be pushed by talented redshirt freshman Terrance Lang and senior Jase Franke, who has played 527 snaps in his CU career, the most of any Buffaloes defensive lineman. If Johnson is able to earn heavy playing time, his pass-rushing ability will be vital for what we hope is an improved defense.