D-line depth: CU climbing out of 'major hole'

Some might look at the Colorado football program integrating nine defensive line recruits from the 2012 class into the program as a major challenge for defensive line coaches Mike Tuiasosopo and Kanavis McGhee. They see it differently. They're already through the most challenging part. Get inside for more.

A week ago at the annual recruiting luncheon in Denver, Colorado defensive line coach Mike Tuiasosopo looked at a reporter like he was crazy when he asked the veteran coach how big the challenge would be adding so many defensive linemen in one class.

"I don't look at it as a challenge," Tuiasosopo said. "It's exciting. It's not a challenge. It's a great need for our team. When I first got here last year and I looked at it, I was like, 'Holy Schmolie. What a major hole.'"

That's right, Tuiasosopo believes the program already endured the challenging part, playing an entire 13-game season with a limited number of bodies on the defensive line and forcing some players to play out of position. It was like forcing a square peg through a round hole at times and Tuiasosopo believes it showed up in the overall results.

He noted that CU goes into spring ball with two returning defensive tackles on scholarship and one of them, Nate Bonsu, is out because of injury. He said those numbers are unheard of at the BCS level in college football.

Tuiasosopo is thrilled with the group of recruits he will be working with next August when fall camp begins. He said it would have been nice to be able to address the team's depth problem on the defensive line last year and this year with a few junior college players, but he said "it's incredibly hard" to recruit junior college players to CU, making that tactic unrealistic.

Instead, he has nine players whom he and McGhee will be able to work with for four or five years. That excites both coaches. Tuiasosopo said he has never had such a large group of recruits in one year in his coaching career.

"Like I said, how do you have a hole this big," he said. "That's a big hole. I've never seen anything like it.

"If there is a challenge, it's their youth. Coming in, like I've said to every one of those guys is, you've got to come in here and compete for a job. One or more of you may end up being our starters. SO you have to think about coming in here and competing for a job. That's the challenge. The excitement is we feel really, really good about that guys that we got and that is evident in other teams trying to poach them at the end."

Colorado head coach Jon Embree coached the defensive line at CU for four years in the 1990s and says Tuiasosopo and McGhee will have their hands full next August, but they will also have more flexibility. Embree said CU was not able to rotate defensive linemen as much as coaches would like in 2011 because the depth simply wasn't there.

Embree said that rotation is key in keeping pressure on opposing offenses. Embree said it's possible that a majority of the class will play as true freshmen. He said some might be afforded redshirt opportunities later as the program continues to build depth on both lines.

"It's just figuring out who can do what the best and then how they fit within our rotation," Embree said. "I felt like one of the things that hurt us last year is we didn't have a lot of depth to do the rotation.

"So it's figuring out who can help us and then what is their max. In other words, is this a guy who can help us for 10 plays a game or is this a guy who needs to play more? So it will be critical early -- and really for the whole team because of our injury situation -- that when we're doing stuff in pads, to see who can do the stuff that we want on the defensive line. They will have some talented kids to work with. It's just figuring out who can do it quickest."

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