Skip to main content

Buffs D-Lineman Sami Says CU Brotherhood 'Strong'

Apr 8, 2022

BOULDER — The big fella is ready for a big year.

Granted, spring football isn't even completed yet. The regular season is still months away, with summer conditioning and fall camp still to come before the Colorado Buffaloes officially kick off the 2022 campaign on Sept. 2 against TCU.

But Buffs defensive lineman Jalen Sami — all 6-foot-6, 325 pounds of him — is putting in the work and he sees his teammates doing the same. Sami knows the sweat and effort invested this spring and summer is the work that pays dividends in the fall.

"I feel great — I feel powerful, I'm excited, I feel like we have a team that wants to play football," Sami said after Friday's practice. "We know we still have a lot of work to do between now and August. But we're going down the right path. I really think we're already better off than we were last year."

Sami — technically a junior — now qualifies as a true college veteran in every sense of the word.

He is participating in his fourth spring session under his fourth defensive line coach and his third head coach. He has endured serious injury and a lengthy list of nagging ailments to put 24 career starts under his belt — including 11 last season — and he is coming off his best year yet.

Now, he is firmly entrenched as a team leader, someone on whom young players and newcomers can depend for advice, help, or simply an encouraging word.

He is also someone upon whom Karl Dorrell's Buffs will depend to be a consistent run stopper in the trenches, as well as someone who can push the pocket and open the door for CU's edge rushers to collect quarterback sacks.

Sami has already shown the ability to do both. He started in 11 games as a redshirt freshman in 2019 after coming back from a knee injury that sidelined him the entirety of 2018. He played in five games in CU's abbreviated 2020 season, battling injury for much of the year, then came back last season to record 11 starts (he played in all 12 games) and post career bests in nearly every statistical category. That included 30 tackles, including 4.5 for loss (1.5 sacks), three third-down stops and an earned reputation for being a wall inside.

That was enough to earn him honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors by the league's coaches.

Now he's ready to take his game up another level — and provide some inspiration and leadership for his teammates along the way.

"We're having a lot of fun this spring," he said. "The defense is making some strides, especially the D-line. Coach Dorrell has sought out some of the vets to take the reins and show the young cats how we do things, and I think we're all taking that really serious."

It's been an interesting offseason for the Buffs — as it has for the majority of programs in the nation. As players have departed and arrived via the transfer portal, rosters have undergone dramatic changes.

But one end result has been the formation of a stronger bond between players who are still with the program.

"I think there's a stronger sense of brotherhood," Sami said. "The guys who stayed have really bought in. We have some new coaches and it's really exciting. There's NFL experience, great football IQ and I think we're a really close-knit team. We're all in this together and every player here knows we can't do it alone."

Dorrell's offseason changes in the coaching staff included the addition of a new defensive line coach, Gerald Chatman.

"He's great," Sami said. "He's high energy, he's passionate, he's a great teacher."

Making the situation even better is that last year's D-line coach, coordinator Chris Wilson, is still in charge of the defense, meaning the overall scheme and approach hasn't changed a great deal. Wilson is in charge of outside linebackers — basically edge rushers in CU's scheme — meaning he still keeps a close eye on the action up front.

"Coach Wilson's still there and we all know what we need to be doing," Sami said. "It's a good situation."

Sami has been a mainstay with the No. 1 defense throughout spring ball, taking plenty of snaps alongside Na'im Rodman, another D-lineman who should be ready to take his game up a notch this year. There are also some youngsters such as Ryan Williams and Allan Baugh having their moments.

"We're working hard, getting better," Sami said. "We've got people stepping up. I think we're going to be ready to ball out."

FIRST SCRIMMAGE: The Buffs will conduct their first scrimmage of the spring on Saturday at Folsom Field, with practice set to begin at 11:15 a.m. and scrimmage work about 30 minutes later. The workout is open to the public.