Buffs Position Preview: CU building critical depth on the defensive line

Terrance Lang and Jalen Sami are two critical DL returnees for the Buffs.


Neill Woelk, editor

BLOCK – If there’s one group of positions on the football field where depth is more critical to success than any other place, it might be the defensive line.

Good teams have the luxury of a rotation that constantly provides fresh legs in the trenches, where every snap equals a hand-to-hand fight. If a defense doesn’t have a solid rotation of consistent and productive players, it can have a negative effect on the whole unit – and that impact only gets worse as the game progresses.

That’s why the Colorado coach Karl Dorrel has made improving the Buffaloes’ depth a priority — and this season, CU may well be ready to show the fruits of that labor.

“Coach Dorrell said we were going to deploy them like hockey players,” new defensive line coach says Gerald Chatman. “So that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to keep the guys fresh. Whoever it is on the pitch, the expectation is the same. We’re going to play as a united group, we’re going to play with the relentless trains we need and we will play with the discipline we need to succeed.”

The Buffs undoubtedly have a solid starting point inside, with several quality returnees who have plenty of experience in the trenches. Terrence Lang (589 shots last season), Jalen Sami (432) and Na’im Rodman (429) all logged substantial playing time last year and will provide a vital core of this year’s squad.

Sami has been a consistent performer over the past two seasons. Rodman came on strong late last year and followed that up with a great spring and fall camp, and is proving to be a versatile and productive player in the middle who plays well against the run, can push the pocket and has the ability to chase from behind.

Lang, meanwhile, might be the most versatile of the bunch. He has the size and strength to play as a down lineman, and also has the length and speed to get off the edge.

But the Buffs also have younger players and returning veterans who look set to increase their time and production.

Senior justin jackson, who played 135 snaps last fall, had a great spring and is following up with a strong fall camp. Jackson has added size and strength, and perhaps most importantly, some consistency to his game. Others who had good times this fall include returnees Janaz Jordan and Ryan Williams and new arrivals Aaron Austin and Tyas Martin.

Another key part of the line will be the transfer main chance (Parole Incarnée), which quickly gained quality representatives at the camp. Main can play as a down lineman or come off the edge as a standing rusher, the kind of versatility that will be critical in CU’s defensive offense.

defensive coordinator Chris WilsonThe pattern allows Buffs to quickly adapt to descent and distance. They can play with just two downliners and two outside rushers, or any combination thereof.

The key will be making sure they have enough depth so they don’t suffer a drop when new players enter the game.

“Anyone who represents this unit will play to the same expectations, the same standard,” Chatman promised. “The stand is not going to change depending on the personnel. It’s individual guys and a unit – and whoever is there, they have to play together.”

POST COACH Gerald Chatman came to Colorado in the offseason after spending a few weeks at Tulane. His previous stops include LSU (defensive analyst), Cincinnati Bengals (defensive line/outside linebackers), Tennessee State (defensive backs/linebackers) and Texas A&M (graduate assistant). He is considered a promising young coach whose experience in college and the NFL has provided him with excellent teaching training.

RETURNED KEYS – The Buffs have plenty of returning veterans, led by Jalen Sami, Na’im Rodman and Terrence Lang, each of whom recorded more than 420 defensive snaps last year. Other returnees include justin jackson, Janaz Jordan and Ryan Williams.

KEY NEW ARRIVALS – To transfer main chance brings excellent versatility to the group. New arrivals Aaron Austin and Tyas Martin are incoming freshmen who flashed through camp.

IF EVERYTHING GOES WELL … CU’s returning veterans will show consistency against the run and help push the pocket and increase the Colorado quarterback’s sack total. If the Buffs can indeed develop a consistent and productive rotation, that bodes well for the rest of the defense.

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