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UCLA Football Preview: Colorado’s Defense Has Improved and It’s Showing

With a new defensive line coach and beastly talent at the inside linebacker position, Colorado’s defense is starting to gel.

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Colorado v Colorado State Photo by Joe Mahoney/Getty Images

Colorado goes into this week ranked 67th in the country in total defense, allowing an average of 373 yards per game. Considering the fact that we only put up an average of 319 yards, we could see some improvement in this game.

However, consider this. CU is 28th in the country in scoring defense. They’ve had three interceptions in three games and have only allowed a combined 55 points by all of their previous opponents.

The Buffaloes are in their second year with defensive coordinator D.J. Elliot and are looking to take a stand against the Bruins. Let’s dissect the defense UCLA will be up against Friday night.

Defensive Line

Under new defensive line coach Kwahn Drake, things are looking up. In three games, Colorado has only allowed an average of 158 yards on the ground and a total of three rushing touchdowns. Now, we need to take this with a grain of salt and consider their first three opponents. But, there has definitely been a change on the defensive line.

Starting senior Javier Edwards, sophomore Mustafa Johnson and freshman Israel Antwine have played well while redshirt freshman Terrance Lang, seniors Jase Franke and Chris Mulumba, and junior Lyle Tuiloma have come off the bench to give the Buffs depth. The competition in this unit combined with better coaching has led to better on field results.

Linebackers

While the Buffs are replacing a lot of talent in this unit on the whole, they are stacked at the inside linebacker position.

Returning are the Buffs’ two leading tacklers in 2017, senior Drew Lewis (119 tackles, two sacks and two additional tackles for loss) and senior Rick Gamboa (117 tackles and a team-high 10 third-down stops). Sophomores Nate Landman and Akil Jones will also see time on the field. The Buffs will also rotate in redshirt freshmen Jonathan Van Diest and Chase Newman to give the unit even more depth.

Having originally committed to Washington, Lewis is probably one of the most talented athletes on the team. He was recently named on NFL.com’s 18 for ‘18: College Football’s most-freakish athletes for his physical style of play and he actually plays both the inside and outside linebacker position. He’ll definitely be one to watch Friday night.

True sophomore Jacob Callier is the only other outside linebacker on the roster that played for the Buffs last season, recording one sack and a team-high 11 quarterback hurries. Colorado also has a host of junior college transfers to choose from, including Davion Taylor, Alex Tchangam and Shamar Hamilton. While these guys lack playing time for Colorado, they do not lack in talent.

Secondary

The Colorado secondary has been tasked with replacing cornerback Isaiah Oliver, who skipped his senior year at CU and was a second-round pick of the Atlanta Falcons in the 2018 NFL draft. Colorado has actually produced four NFL-caliber cornerbacks since 2016, including Chidobe Awuzie, Jimmy Smith, and Ahkello WItherspoon.

This year, competition has proven that Colorado is not at a loss for talent. This group is led by seniors Evan Worthington and Nick Fisher at the safety position, and and sophomore Trey Udoffia and junior veterans Dante Wigley and Delrick Abrams round out the corners. Freshman Chris Miller has also figured into the mix.

With the recent exodus of so much talent, this group is going to have to step up and the internal competition for playing time has definitely fostered that. What concerns me here is that UCLA freshman quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson seems to be throwing on the run quite a bit and he also throws passes across his body that look like interceptions from the get-go. Colorado’s secondary is stacked with veterans that will take advantage of that and create touchdown opportunities off of turnovers.

Analysis

I’m pretty much over trying to analyze this team. I look at this game and I think it’s totally winnable (as is any game in college football), but then I remember how flat and unprepared we looked against Fresno State. It’s a Friday night away game, so all I’m going to say is that anything can happen. Hopefully the bye week gave us some much needed time to regroup.


Go Bruins!