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Buffs Position Preview: CU Building Critical Depth On Defensive Line

Aug 22, 2022
Terrance Lang and Jalen Sami are two critical DL returnees for the Buffs.

BOULDER — If there is one position group on the football field where depth is more essential to success than any other spot, it might be the defensive line.

Good teams have the luxury of a rotation that continuously provides fresh legs in the trenches, where every snap amounts to hand-to-hand combat. If a defense doesn't have a solid rotation of consistent, productive players, it can have a negative effect on the entire unit — and that impact  only becomes more stark as a game wears on.

That is why Colorado coach Karl Dorrell has made improving the Buffaloes' depth up front a priority — and this season, CU might just be ready to show some fruits from that labor.

"Coach Dorrell said we're going to roll them out like hockey players," said new defensive line coach Gerald Chatman. "So that's what we're going to do. We're going to keep guys fresh. Whoever's on the field, the expectation is the same. We're going to play as a united group, we're going to play with the relentless trains that we require and we're going to play with the discipline that it takes for us to be successful."

The Buffs no doubt have a solid starting point on the interior, with several quality returnees who boast plenty of experience in the trenches. Terrance Lang (589 snaps last season), Jalen Sami (432) and Na'im Rodman (429) all logged substantial playing time last year and will provide a critical core of this year's group.

Sami has been a consistent performer the last two seasons. Rodman came on strong at the end of last year and has followed that up with an excellent spring and fall camp, and is proving to be a versatile, productive player in the middle who plays well against the run, can push the pocket and possesses the ability to pursue from the backside.

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

But the Buffs also have some younger players and returning vets who appear ready to increase their time and production. 

Senior Justin Jackson, who played 135 snaps last fall, had an excellent spring and is following it up with a solid fall camp. Jackson has added some size and strength, and perhaps most importantly, some consistency to his game. Others who have had good moments this fall include returnees Ryan Williams and Tyas Martin and newcomer Aaron Austin.

Another key piece of the line will be transfer Chance Main (Incarnate Word), who has quickly earned some quality reps in camp. Main can play as a down lineman or come off the edge as a standup rusher, the kind of versatility that will be critical in CU's defensive attack.

Defensive coordinator Chris Wilson's scheme allows the Buffs to adjust quickly to down and distance. They can play with just two down linemen and two outside edge rushers, or any combination thereof. 

The key will be making sure they have enough depth to not suffer a dropoff when new players enter the game.

"Whoever's in there representing this unit is going to play with the same expectations, the same standard," Chatman vowed. "The stand is not going to change by personnel. It's individual guys and one unit — and whoever's out there, they have to play together."

POSITION COACH — Gerald Chatman came to Colorado in the offseason after spending just 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 to be a young up-and-coming coach whose experience in college and the NFL has provided him with an excellent teaching background.

KEY RETURNEES — The Buffs have plenty of returning vets, led by Jalen Sami, Na'im Rodman and Terrance Lang, each of whom logged more than 420 defensive snaps last year. Other returnees include Justin Jackson and Ryan Williams. 

KEY NEWCOMERS — Transfer Chance Main brings excellent versatility to the group. Newcomers Aaron Austin and Tyas Martin are incoming freshmen who have flashed in camp.

IF ALL GOES WELL … CU's veteran returnees will show consistency against the run and help push the pocket and increase Colorado's quarterback sack total. If the Buffs can indeed develop a consistent, productive rotation, it will bode well for the rest of the defense..

You can now secure seats for another season of Colorado Buffaloes football. Tickets are available and can be purchased here.