2008 Preview: Defensive Line

Colorado will field its most experienced, and possibly its best, defensive line in years this fall. At the same time, CU needs to improve its pass rush from the front four – or three – in 2008. It remains to be seen if they can accomplish that.

Three senior starters are looking to leave a great last impression in 2008. Defensive tackles George Hypolite and Brandon Nicolas give the Buffs their best inside tandem this decade, and each are loaded with experience after starting the past two seasons. Hypolite can use his strength, but opts more for his quickness against offensive linemen. Nicolas is used to taking on double teams and may be one of the most underrated defensive linemen in the Big 12.

Maurice Lucas is the other returning senior starter on the line, and he'll anchor one of the defensive end positions. Lucas has slowly grown as a player since he was thrust into the starting lineup midway through his true freshman year.

As they did last year, Colorado will use a 3-4 look – three down linemen and four linebackers – at times this fall, though it likely won't be their base defensive schemeWhich scheme they use will depend on the situation and which personnel gives them the best chance to disrupt the opposing offense. Sophomore defensive end Marquez Herrod plans to make a case for being on the field more often than not in August. He's put on weight and his motor hasn't slowed.

Jason Brace, a junior, looks to have finally settled on a position – defensive end -- after bouncing inside and out the past couple years. He's keeping his weight down this summer after an impressive spring. Redshirt freshman Conrad Obi had a good spring at end, as well, knocking down several passes at the line of scrimmage in CU's intra-squad scrimmages. Classmate Lagrone Shields will be in the mix for playing time too. On the inside, Eugene Goree has good size and will likely earn time as the first defensive tackle off the bench. Junior Taj Kaynor has yet to impact the defensive line in a big way. He's running out of time, and could be motivated to earn a backup role. True freshman Curtis Cunningham has a relentless style that coaches love.

A wildcard is defensive end Drew Hudgins, the senior who sat out last year recovering from an Achilles injury. Hudgins was still recovering in the spring, so he couldn't practice much, but he's expected to be at full strength by the season. The Buffs desperately need to upgrade their pass rush against several pass-oriented teams this fall, and Hudgins was a pass rusher in junior college.

CU managed just 19 sacks and 47 quarterback hurries last fall. Only twice (1999 and 2003) have the Buffs had 19 or fewer sacks in the past 20 seasons. The fact that college offenses have evolved more toward quick-drop-and-deliver passing attacks in recent years makes it more difficult to collect sacks. But the Buffaloes must get better at getting to the quarterback if they're to improve on defense. They'll tinker with blitz schemes this fall, and try and get pressure on opposing quarterbacks using a combination of linebackers, defensive backs and down linemen. However they go about it, they need something to kick-start the pass rush.

The Roster
Jason Brace, Jr., DE, 6-4, 245
21 G, 2 T
Kevin Cooney, R-Fr., DE, 6-6, 225
Curtis Cunningham, Fr., DL, 6-1, 270
Eugene Goree, R-Fr., DT, 6-1, 295
Marquez Herrod, So., DE, 6-2, 275
8 G, 4 T, 1 TFL
Drew Hudgins, Sr., DE, 6-4, 235
George Hypolite, Sr., DT, 6-1, 290
35 G, 104 T, 25 TFL, 8.5 S, 1 INT
Taj Kaynor, Jr., DT, 6-5, 270
18 G, 1 T
Eric Lawson, So., DT, 6-3, 275
Maurice Lucas, Sr., DE, 6-4, 260
30 G, 64 T, 10 TFL, 3 S
Brandon Nicolas, Sr., DT, 6-3, 290
24 G, 94 T, 15 TFL, 6 S
Conrad Obi, R-Fr., DE, 6-3, 260
Tony Poremba, R-Fr., DE, 6-1, 225
Tyler Sale, Jr., DT, 6-3, 270
Lagrone Shields, R-Fr., DL, 6-3, 250

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