Rotation of eight d-linemen is a realistic goal for Jimmy Brumbaugh and CU
Mel Tucker has said repeatedly that he's "not afraid" to rotate six, seven or eight guys on the defensive line this season. But is that actually feasible? The Buffs will roll into the regular season with a vast majority of young bucks at the position, raw and untested by college football minutes. With that being said, position coach Jimmy Brumbaugh understands the necessity of creating the most robust depth chart possible and in terms of realistically cycling in eight guys during a game, he plans fully to attempt it.
Will such a rotation work? Time will tell. Will it be undertaken? Bet on it. Mustafa Johnson himself has said that last year, around game seven at Washington in late October, he was beginning to feel worn down from being in games so much.
His 673 snaps last year were 163 higher than the second place finisher in snaps on the d-line, Javier Edwards. Tucker and Brumbaugh both seem aware that this season, the workload has to be lightened for Johnson, who no doubt will be utilized as much as possible, but for whom additional breathers and time out of the trenches will be of much import.
Of course, to do that, the newbies on the defensive line need to prove here in August that they can be trusted in game situations. Whatever the case, getting freshmen over that threshold has been a major task for Brumbaugh this spring and August.
“We have to," he said. "Anytime you talk about d-line play, we’ve got to rush to stop the run, rush the passer and do different things. It’s real critical for us to have six, seven or eight guys that can get in a game and be able to play multiple positions.”
Already, Colorado has one candidate in freshman Na'im Rodman, who appears to be checking the boxes of a young player who is ready to hit the ground running come August 30.
"He’s a little bit ahead of the other guys just because he understands technique and fundamentals," Brumbaugh said of him. "...“He is a physical guy at the point. He has really good quickness and twitch and he really can torque off blocks and release.”
Aside from Rodman, young guys like Austin Williams, Lloyd Williams, Jr., and Jayden Simon (all freshmen), have been making strides.
"With the amount of volume that we have on defense, these young guys have really picked it up," Brumbaugh said. "I’ve been surprised because we’ve got a lot of defenses in but they’ve done a good job and for the most part, they [get] in where they’re supposed to be.”
Of the seven defensive tackles Colorado has on scholarship, five are freshmen and untested, with the final piece of the freshman puzzle coming in the form of redshirt frosh Jalen Sami.
Johnson will be an anchor, and there are high hopes for Terrance Lang, who saw a bit under 300 snaps in 2018. Brumbaugh has been working with Johnson in particular to further better his game.
“[Mustafa Johnson] is an explosive quick-twitch guy," Brumbaugh said. "What I did is, I said ‘you have to be in a position to make not just the average play, but extraordinary plays. Being in a position to release off blocks, have your footwork right and do those things — that’s what I’m really working on him with.”
With the defensive line being an positional area on the Buffs that raised more questions than answered heading into fall camp, the next couple of weeks will be of pivotal importance.
Brumbaugh has the tools in the kit, he just needs to sharpen them.