The Colorado State defensive line entered fall camp as a completely new-look unit.
After graduating the entire starting defensive line from last season, defensive coordinator Marty English has to find three new starters—and a whole lot of depth—for the 2016 season.
Almost two weeks into fall camp, that search is still ongoing.
Players are coming back with experience such as juniors Josh Lovingood, Darnell Thompson, Jakob Buys, and sophomore Colton Foster, but so far in fall practice it has been mix and match on the number one defensive line unit.
Coach English is trying to find the three best guys right now, and with injuries it’s been difficult.
The coach commented that it is awkward at practice right now because they only have one healthy true nose guard in Lovingood. Foster, redshirt freshman O’Shea Jackson and Justin Nunez, as well as freshman Christian Colon have all missed time in camp due to injury.
Players that the coaches thought would be contributors are not getting on the field, and it’s hard to build a cohesive unit with so many guys sitting out, but there is a positive in all of the injury mess: increased reps.
Though Bobo worried that some of the players who are getting more reps due to injury might be getting worn down, he also said it’s helping out his veterans and newcomers alike.
“Buys, (Johnny) Schupp, Darnell, they are having to learn all the positions,” Bobo said. “You are going to have injuries during the year and now these guys have experience (at all three positions).”
The increased reps going to the veteran guys has helped them become more versatile along the line and get even more work in, but it has been vital to incoming players like Toby Mcbride and Richard King.
“Toby Mcbride is probably going to have to fit in there somewhere,” English said. “Richard King is a guy who has got to be counted on heavily. Christian Colon, his foots hurt right now, but he has to be able to be in the mix.”
McBride is probably the furthest along of the younger guys right now. The freshman from Fort Morgan, Co. continues to impress in practice for his work ethic and disruption in team periods.
“Toby McBride has done a nice job,” Bobo said. He has really gotten better everyday. He showed up in the scrimmage. (It’s) kind of what I talked about with the D-line with technique and effort. He’s very strong, he is playing with technique, he is playing with effort.”
McBride has displayed the qualities Bobo has been looking for in his defensive lineman all camp.
McBride also shares another quality fitting of this team’s defensive line, his size. McBride is listed at 245 pounds on the roster, and has most certainly put on more weight than that, but he is still undersized. Indicative of the unit as a whole.
“We are not gonna walk out there with these big ole D-lineman that some other people have,” English said. “Our guys are 265, 270 pounds. Other than two or three guys that are 300 pounders, we don’t have that.”
As an undersized unit, technique is being stressed from all parties. They are not going to be able to beat guys with their speed, they have to beat them with their technique and their activity up front.
“Technique, that’s the best thing that will help everyone,” defensive lineman Jakob Buys said. “If you learn your technique and you use it and you are aggressive and you get after it, you are gonna be good.”
Sometime that’s easier said than done.
“We gotta do a better job of playing the technique that Coach (Ricky) Logo wants,” coach Bobo said. “A lot of times we got some guys doing their own thing and were not as productive as I would like. It’s technique and effort and we gotta do a better job of playing the technique.”
Bobo likes what he is seeing from his young unit up front, he just needs the effort to be there all of the time, and the defensive linemen have to be more disciplined as a unit. If they can be disciplined and utilize what defensive line coach Ricky Logo is showing them, they will be just fine, Buys said.
Guiding the young defensive lineman along the way have been veterans Buys, Thompson, Lovingood, and the senior Johnny Schupp. Buys loves the way the freshman kids have come in and competed and pushed the other guys, and they all take pride in seeing progression out of the young guys.
“It’s like being a parent,” Buys said. “Like being able to see your kids grow up, to us it’s seeing someone you have helped, and as they are progressing you are just like ‘wow I taught them that, I’m able to show him this and they are doing it.’”
All of those veterans should know what it feels like to be in that position, they have lived it for the last few years. Now, with departed seniors Martavius Foster, Justin Hansen, Steve’O Michael, and Joe Kawulok all gone from the defensive front, Buys and all the other older guys came together this offseason to make a point goping into 2016. It was there time now.
“You know we have really come together this year because this offseason we said hey, seniors are all gone, the weights on our shoulders this year so we have to get close, we have to bond together and be able to push each other,” Buys said. “As the offseason started it was just like guys this is our turn. We were excited to go to spring, we were like we are gonna go make plays, we are gonna make stuff happen.”
They have an opportunity, now they just have to capitalize on it.
For the defensive line to make a name for themselves, they have to overcome their own injuries and their own size. If they can stay committed to the things they can control, like listening to coach Logo and playing with the effort Bobo wants, the coaching staff has confidence in this group’s ability to pick up where the last group left off.
Collegian Sports Reporter Eric Wolf can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Eric_Wolf5