August Camp Preview: Defensive Line

Colorado returns lots of experience on the edges of the defensive line, including senior Abraham Wright, the team's returning sack leader. But questions will need to be addressed at defensive tackle in August. One answer there may include a former end moving inside. Whatever happens, defensive line coach Romeo Bandison thinks the unit will get better as the year progresses.

Biggest Question: Can the Buffs compete effectively up front without great experience or outstanding size in the middle? The four players competing at defensive tackle in the spring — George Hypolite, Marcus Jones, Taj Kaynor and Brandon Nicolas — have a combined 272 career snaps between them, most of them (203) belonging to Hypolite, the second-year sophomore who played in all but one game as a true freshman last fall. He took snaps with the first team alongside sophomore transfer Brandon Nicolas in the spring. Nicolas was highly recruited out of high school, but left Notre Dame for Boulder after languishing on the bench under the new coaching staff in South Bend.

Hypolite has good quickness and athleticism at tackle, while Nicolas sports a mean streak you like in the middle. But neither are near the 300-pound mark, and will be wrestling players that big and bigger most of the season. The biggest plug in the middle of the Buffs' defense is fifth-year senior Marcus Jones. It remains to be seen, however, if Jones will be able to fend of competition from two incoming freshmen DTs gunning for a spot in the rotation. Redshirt-freshman Taj Kaynor, meanwhile, has been eating his way through Boulder this summer, trying to add weight to his powerful 6-foot-5 frame. It'll be interesting to watch the youngster's progress in August.

Help for the interior could come in the form of senior Alex Ligon. Ligon, who has played in 35 games and has 16 starts at defensive end under his belt, will begin August camp at defensive tackle. He missed spring ball with a torn pec muscle, but is expected to be fully healthy, and will likely be up around 280 pounds by the opening of camp. If Ligon can prove effective in the middle, it will add to the unit's depth.

Biggest Answer: Defensive coaches like senior defensive end Abraham Wright's upfield speed. Rather than have Wright dropping back into pass coverage like he did some last season, expect them to turn Wright loose, trying to pressure the quarterback on every passing down. Wright's 9.5 career sacks are tops on the current CU squad.

Best Battle: Playing time opposite Wright is up for grabs. Junior Walter Boye-Doe came out of spring atop the depth chart at left defensive end. Sophomore Maurice Lucas keeps growing, and the player who started six games last fall as a true frosh will push both Boye-Doe and Wright. Junior Alonzo Barrett was banged up during spring, and missed much of last season with an injury, but has shown quickness off the edge in the past.

Brace Yourself? True freshman defensive tackle Jason Brace showed up from Spanaway, Wash., in June and quickly established himself in the weightroom during off-season workouts. For that matter, so did fellow rookie DT Eric Lawson, out of Castle Rock, where he played for state 5A champs Douglas County. Defensive line coach Romeo Bandison said he's not afraid to play true freshmen if they're physically and mentally ready. Still, playing in the trenches of the Big 12 your first year is a tall order. We'll see what happens.

Newsy: Redshirt-freshman Sam Zimmerer will take a medical scholarship this fall due to an undisclosed medical condition, which means his football career is over.

Word from Coach Romeo Bandison : "It's no secret: You look at who's played and who hasn't – the ends are the most experienced. But (the interior) guys are all good players. They've just got to get in the games and get experience. As the year goes on, they'll improve."

Defensive Linemen
47 Alonzo Barrett, DE, 6-3, 235, Jr.
33 Walter Boye-Doe, DE, 6-2, 250, Jr.
78 Jason Brace, DT, 6-4, 255, Fr.
62 Marquez Herrod, DE, 6-3, 235, Fr.
86 George Hypolite, DT, 6-2, 285, So.
96 Marcus Jones, DT, 6-4, 305, Sr.
97 Taj Kaynor, DL, 6-5, 275, Fr.-R
69 Eric Lawson, DT, 6-3, 260, Fr.
51 Alex Ligon, DL, 6-3, 275, Sr.
91 Maurice Lucas, DE, 6-4, 250, So.
94 Brandon Nicolas, DT, 6-3, 275, So.
53 Abraham Wright, DE, 6-3, 245, Sr.

*Weights are as of June 27. They could change after late summer testing.


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