Colorado defensive coordinator Charles Kelly seems pleased with the progress the Buffs’ defensive front has made this offseason.

Kelly and the rest of CU’s defensive coaching staff were working from the ground up in more ways than one since coming over. Transfers and freshmen newcomers completely flipped the roster. And last year’s performance was nowhere near good enough. CU struggled to contain the run and recorded just nine sacks in 12 games — the fewest in college football.

“Our front has played better,” Kelly said Monday when he met with reporters. “We’ve created some pass rush, and it’s not always been pressures. It’s been being able to get there with four guys, and any time you can get there with four guys, that helps you do a lot of things in the back end.”

It also helps when you can keep your opponent behind the chains. Colorado seldom found itself in passing downs as a defense last season because it couldn’t stop the run. Coaches will preach to teams they have to earn the right to rush the passer by taking care of business on earlier downs.

CU allowed 6.1 yards per rushing play last fall. That’s not getting it done.

Kelly teaches his defense it’s a total team effort. As much as pass defense has to do with the pressure the front is able to apply, run defense requires the second level to fill gaps properly.

The first-year DC says he has been impressed with CU’s group of young outside linebackers. Defensive back Shilo Sanders has been a positive in the secondary as well.

“I think overall in fall camp we’ve done a pretty good job of playing the run,” Kelly said. “We’ve just got to eliminate the explosive runs. … I am pleased with what Coach Sal (Sunseri) has done with those guys. He and Nick (Williams), they work good together up front. They tie things in together.

“I’ve seen Shane Cokes just improve every day. Leonard Payne’s had a really good camp. Amari (McNeill) has done some really good things. He brings some girth in there. And then Bishop Thomas, he can wreck a lot of things. He causes a lot of havoc. He’s not very tall but he can move.”

The Buffs begin their season on the road against TCU on Saturday, Sept. 2, at 9 a.m. PT on FOX.