A Look at Colorado's Defensive Line

Senior Abraham Wright, the Buffs' most experienced returning defensive lineman, weighs in on new coach Romeo Bandison, going into spring with starting positions up for grabs, and teammate Alex Ligon possibly getting some work at defensive tackle.

New defensive line coach Romeo Bandison will have a nice mixture of youth and experience to work with in his first spring in Boulder. Five upperclassmen and five redshirt-freshmen and sophomores will battle in the defensive front beginning Monday.

However, while the overall numbers are good, CU's depth on the interior of the defensive line is a concern. Heading into spring ball, only three defensive tackles are listed on the pre-spring depth chart. And while the Buffs are experienced on the edges, that's not the case on the inside. Sophomores George Hypolite and Brandon Nicolas, and senior Marcus Jones, have just 220 plays between them, 203 of which belong to Hypolite.

Hypolite was the surprise of last August camp when he came in as a true freshman — and a former high school fullback — and earned a place in the two-deep at defensive tackle. Jones is going into his fifth year at Colorado, and has yet to earn significant playing time (17 plays in four games in 2005). It remains to be seen if Bandison can help Jones get to where he's trusted on game day. Nicolas was highly recruited out of high school in 2003 before signing with Notre Dame. He didn't play as a freshman, then transferred to CU last fall.

One option could be to give senior Alex Ligon some reps on the inside. His teammate, fellow senior end Abraham Wright, thinks Ligon could be up for the challenge.

"Alex has definitely been our most versatile defensive lineman," Wright said this week. "He can play the ‘3' technique; he's knows that inside and out, and he knows defensive end. He's put on the weight for it, but he still moves like he's 240 pounds. He's been putting on some good weight. That's what people were talking about.

"The guys we've got, they're doing a great job, but Alex, he's been working on the ‘3' technique and the defensive end. He's kind of just doing it all."

Wright leads a contingent of defensive ends that also includes junior Alonzo Barrett, senior Walter Boye-Doe, sophomore Maurice Lucas and redshirt-freshmen Taj Kaynor and Sam Zimmerer. No other down lineman had as many sacks as Wright in 2005 (5), while Lucas found himself in the starting rotation when Ligon went down with an injury midway through last season, and the rangy player never relinquished the spot.

Barrett was poised for a breakout year in '05 before suffering an injury early in the season. Boye-Doe — who played linebacker early in his career — will be primed to catch Bandison's eye in the senior's last go-around.

Wright echoed what others have said about their first impressions of the new mentor, Coach Bandison.

"The first thing that strikes you is how big he is," Wright said. "Even when he got down and participated in some drills with us, he's still an explosive guy."

Bandison played at Oregon, then played defensive tackle for the Washington Redskins for three years before getting into coaching. He served as Boise State's defensive line coach for five seasons.

"So far, I'm loving the way he's coaching us because he's not trying to be something he's not," Wright said. "He's not making it seem like he made up everything about football. He said, ‘I learned this from somebody, who taught it to me.' He's just trying to put us in the best position."

One of Bandison's task will be figuring out this spring who can help this fall. Most of the coaches are saying there are no starters going into next week's drills. That could rub a returning senior like Wright, who started and played more downs than any other CU defensive lineman last year, the wrong way. But Wright said it's to be expected.

"Even if the old coaches were here, you can't come into spring and look at a starter and say, ‘You've got everything locked up; you don't' have to do anything,'" Wright said.

The Roster
Alonzo Barrett, DE, Jr., 6-3, 240*
@Career stats: 16 games, 29 tackles, 4 TFL, 2 sacks

Walter Boye-Doe, DE, Sr., 6-2, 245
Career stats: 19 games, 40 tackles, 1 TFL

George Hypolite, DT, So., 6-2, 265
Career stats: 11 games, 10 tackles, 1 TFL

Marcus Jones, DT, Sr., 6-4, 295
Career stats: 8 games, 1 tackle

Taj Kaynor, DE, R-Fr., 6-5, 250
Career stats: Has not played.

Alex Ligon, DE, Sr., 6-3, 265
Career stats: 33 games, 67 tackles, 16 TFL, 7.5 sacks

Maurice Lucas, DE, So., 6-4, 240
Career stats: 7 games, 20 tackles, 4 TFL

Brandon Nicolas, DT, So., 6-3, 270
Career stats: Has not played.

Abraham Wright, DE, Sr., 6-3, 240
Career stats: 24 games, 50 tackles, 8 TFL, 9.5 sacks

Sam Zimmerer, DE, R-Fr., 6-3, 245
Career stats: Has not played.

Players lost: James Garee, John Guydon, Vaka Manupuna.

*Vitals for all players are per CU SID as of March 6.
@ Career stats do not include bowl game appearances.

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