Spring countdown: Defensive line

Just a few years ago a lack of depth and experience up front in the Colorado defense were real concerns. Now the defensive line has to be considered a strength heading into spring practices. But that doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement. Get inside for more

Colorado sacked the quarterback 34 times last season. It was among the highest totals in the program's history, but the Buffs allowed four yards per carry in the running game, an area that needs improvement this year.

A total of six juniors and seniors with significant experience under their belts are listed on the Colorado pre-spring depth chart at defensive line.

And two of the most talented defensive lineman on the roster are sophomores Chidera Uzo-Diribe and Nate Bonsu. That's a nice rotation of eight defensive linemen if they can all remain healthy and eligible by the time the season starts in September.

Bonsu returns to practices after redshirting last season with an injury. He will be a nice addition allowing defensive tackles Will Pericak and Curtis Cunningham a chance to stay fresh. Cunningham and Pericak started every game for the Buffs last year in the interior of the defense.

Conrad Obi has shown flashes of elite athletic ability, but has already spent far too much time on the bench in Boulder because he wasn't satisfying the expectations of the former coaching staff. It will be interesting to see if evaluations of him change under new coaches Mike Tuiasosopo, Kanavis McGhee and Job Embree, all of whom will have a hand in coaching the defensive line.

Obi played in 10 games last year but was on the field for only 64 snaps and produced just four tackles. He must do better now that he's a senior in his fifth year in the program.

Uzo-Diribe is expected to miss the first half of spring ball recovering from surgery on a broken toe. He is probably the most talented defensive end on the roster, but the group is capable without him.

Senior Josh Hartigan is coming off a career year after moving to defensive end from linebacker a year ago. He led the Buffs with seven sacks and started eight games.

J. Forrest West was second in sacks with 51/2 and he started one of the games Hartigan missed due to injury. Nick Kasa, who is already a junior, also made a start for Hartigan.

Kasa was the marquee name in the 2009 recruiting class, but injuries have cost him and he hasn't developed as fast as CU fans might have hoped. He played in all 12 games last season, but made only 18 tackles and only two for losses. Kasa is one player who has to stay healthy and produce more in 2011.

Redshirt freshman Kirk Poston looked like a project last fall and will probably have a hard time earning playing time again this year considering the depth in front of him. However, he could be just a few plays away from being on the field more than expected if teammates are injured.

Walk-on Tony Poremba also returns for his fifth year. He played in three games in 2010 for a total of seven plays and will probably have a tough time breaking into the rotation once again because he lacks the size and athleticism of most of his teammates.

CU signed two defensive linemen in recruiting. Stephan Nembot and Juda Parker are both very talented and could earn playing time if veterans underachieve or are injured. Ideally, the program would take advantage of its experience and depth here and redshirt both players.

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