Spring Preview: Defensive Line

A new coach, an ongoing emphasis on pass rush and some new positions will greet the Colorado defensive linemen when they begin spring practice March 30. Inside, a look at what to expect from the Buffs' front line of defense in the coming weeks.

Coach: (Interior and Rush End) Bill Inge, (Defensive End) Mike Hankwitz
Players: Alonzo Barrett, Walter Boye-Doe, Nick Clement, James Garee, John Guydon, Marcus Jones, Zach Jones, Alex Ligon, Vaka Manupuna, Greg Newman, David Veikune, Abraham Wright

Last fall, the Buffs generated more quarterback sacks than they've had in a season since 1995. Still, defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz knows the Buffs need to do more in that department.

"We need to develop a better pass rush," Hankwitz said. "Even though we had 34 sacks we still didn't feel like it was as good as we wanted it to be."

In an effort to bolster a pass rush and get more experience on the interior line, James Garee will move to defensive tackle this spring. Garee came to CU at 230 pounds as a true freshman in 2001. He has gained size and strength each year, and he should go through spring ball at about 280 pounds.

"He's a big strong guy and when we lost Matt (McChesney) and Brandon Dabdoub (to graduation) it kind of thinned us out with bigger guys inside," Hankwitz said. "James is a team guy. He's a hardnosed, tough guy and I think that'll be a good spot for him. He gets bigger and stronger all the time. It'll balance out our depth a little more."

The move also allows the Buffs to get Alex Ligon and Abraham Wright onto the field at the same time, as Ligon will move over to the rush end spot Garee is vacating. Ligon and Wright each had 4.5 sacks last season, more than any other returning players.

Vaka Manupuna was a workhorse in 2004, starting every game last season on the interior line, where he had five tackles for loss. John Guydon will add depth on the interior, as will Marcus Jones, who has seen playing time in just one game in his three years at Colorado. Walk-on Nick Clement also returns from a fall spent on the sidelines with an injury.

But with Garee and Manupuna the only interior linemen with extensive experience, this is a position where the Buffs can ill afford an injury.

True freshman Zach Jones finished high school (Grandview) a semester early and enrolled at CU this spring. He will begin at defensive end, but the 250-pounder could eventually grow into a tackle. Either way, Jones should benefit from the extra spring practice session.

Alonzo Barrett looked good in flashes last fall, and was in on 14 tackles in just 99 plays. He heads into spring No. 2 behind Ligon at rush end. Redshirt-freshmen Greg Newman and David Veikune will get their first taste of spring ball at the bookend spots.

The spring will be an adjustment period for the two tackle positions and rush end, as those players will be playing under new D-line coach Bill Inge. Inge replaced Chris Wilson, who left to coach defense ends at Oklahoma.

A year ago, it was Hankwitz who was the new face. He brought a new defensive scheme with him when he was hired in 2004. Hankwitz expects the Buffs to benefit from a year in the system.

"We're very excited," Hankwitz said. "We've spent a lot of time looking at last year. We see a lot of room for improvement. … Our players have been in this system for a year now, so they have a good basic understanding of it. But now we know specifically what things we've got to focus in on fundamentally. Then we can expand a little."

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