The defensive line was in a weird limbo in 2017. From 2013-2016, MacIntyre relied on Jon Embree’s 2012 class of DL recruits and junior college transfers. Josh Tupou, Samson Kafovalu, and Jordan Carrell were the backbone of the line for two years. They played an unreal amount of snaps, and at a high level. MacIntyre deserves credit for keeping Samson and Josh in tow, but after a while, the old guard had to leave. And that left the line in limbo. The depth remaining was spotty. Frank Umu left the program, leaving three junior college players as the starters. Javier Edwards and Chris Mulumba are both projects from the JuCo ranks. Leo Jackson was a warrior in his three seasons in Boulder, and he played admirably. Other than that, there was a dearth of talent and prep talent on the line. Enter the 2017 and 2018 recruiting class. They are freaky athletic and ready to rock.
Let’s start with the alignment. CU is going to move from a staunch 3 down linemen to a multiple front that will move around some bodies. While I disagree with the philosophy behind this move (3-4 for die), it makes sense given the personnel available to them. On the edges, the Buffs have a lack of true 3-4 defensive ends. However, they have a lot of successful tweeners. Dante Sparaco, Jacob Callier, Chris Mulumba (to an extent), Michael Matthewes, Sam Bennion, and incoming Tava Finau all fit better as a rush end or a 4-3 down lineman.
That leaves Terriek Roberts and Terrance Lang as the two bodies currently on the roster that I would say are true 3-4 defensive ends. And make no mistake, I am on board with those guys. They are the prescribed youth movement for this line. Lang and Roberts are at another level athletically than the previously recruited guys. Lang is a freak that hasn’t been seen on the line in some time. Terrance is 6’7, a LIGHT 270 pounds, and he has plenty of room to pack on 30 more. He was athletic enough to start at center for his high school’s basketball team, and even played a little tight end. Simply put, he was a steal away from USC and looks like it. He will see the field early and often. Roberts is in the same mold. He is tall, at 6’6, and already pretty heavy, hovering around 285. His limited action last year impressed me. He holds the edge and plays nasty, two things that have been rare in Boulder. Roberts will be a redshirt sophomore, and Lang a redshirt freshman, which means they both represent the youth movement.
That takes us inside. I actually love the young talent here for the Buffs, even though Edwards struggled in this spot last year. Edwards will still start as a senior, and if he gets in better shape, he will be a brand new player. Behind him is a lot of new faces. This is buoyed by the 2018 class. I am including Jalen Sami, as he greyshirted from the 2017 class. So, coming in on the interior, you have Sami, Mustafa Johnson and Israel Antwine. And all of them are athletic upgrades over current Buffs. Let’s go through one by one.
Sami is a giant of similar stature to Josh Tupou, which is a rare breed. At 6’5 and 325 pounds, AS A TRUE FRESHMAN, he should be able to contribute immediately, and because of how raw he is, his ceiling is way higher than where he is now. Get him in early, give him some time, and he will grow into a huge player.
Mustafa Johnson is the opposite. He is an immediate contributor, and while he won’t improve dramatically in his time here, his floor is already Pac-12 caliber.
Johnson comes from a junior college, with four years to play three, and he will play right away. 6’2, 290, built like a brick wall. He is stout at the point of attack, and disrupts the line of scrimmage reasonably well. He’s a perfect depth piece that will play a lot.
And now this brings us to the jewel of the class, Israel Antwine. CU has not recruited a defensive lineman this polished and ready to play out of high school since... Barnett? Antwine is special. He is physically developed at 6’4 and 290 pounds, and as a wrestler and football player, he gets leverage. The reason he chose CU over OSU is twofold- DJ Eliot did a great job recruiting, and CU will let him play end rather than NT. He will be disruptive no matter where he plays, and he will start immediately for CU. He is too talented.
CU has relied on JUCO’s and holdover recruits for almost the entirety of Coach Mac’s, and more importantly, Jim Jeffcoat’s tenure. With Jeffcoat’s departure, it is a new era on the line. Some big time high school prospects are ready to play now for CU.