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Countdown to Spring Practices – Defensive Line

Note … This is the fourth in a series of unit-by-unit spring previews. A new unit will be previewed every few days over the next month, leading to the start of spring practices in late March. The offensive line preview will be posted later this week …

Previously posted … 

The Roster … 

bold = returning starter … italicized = walk-on … *= early enrollee (in school for spring practices) … TR … Transfer …

Defensive linemen (13):

  • Seniors … none
  • Juniors … Terrance Lang … Janaz Jordan … Jeremiah Doss … Justin Jackson
  • Sophomores … Jalen Sami … Na’im Rodman … Austin Williams
  • Red-shirt freshmen … Jayden Simon … Lloyd Murray, Jr. … Antonio Alfano
  • True freshmen … none
  • 2021 Signees … Tyas Martin … Allan Baugh … Ryan Williams

The Stats … 

There was only one defensive lineman in the top eight on the tackles list for the 2020 season, and that was the now-departed Mustafa Johnson, who had 21 tackles, and led the team in quarterback pressures (with five). Of the returning players, Terrance Lang posted the best numbers. Lang was ninth on the team in tackles (with 14; 11 unassisted), was fourth on the team in quarterback stops (with six) and had four tackles for loss.

Janaz Jordan is listed as a returning starter because he started at nose tackle the final four games of the 2020 season, but he didn’t assert himself until the bowl game against Texas. In the first five games of the season, Jordan had all of five tackles. Against Texas, though, Jordan was in on six tackles, giving Buff fans hope for more of the same in 2021. Jalen Sami, who started at nose tackle the first two games of the season, had only three tackles on 166 snaps.

Na’im Rodman? 48 plays; two tackles.

Jeremiah Doss? 40 plays; one tackle.

Nationally … 

  • Team Tackles for Loss … 8.2 per game … 7th in the nation
  • Third down conversion defense … .318 … 13th in the nation
  • First downs allowed, defense … 128 … 27th in the nation
  • Team sacks … 2.5/game … 45th in the nation
  • Passing yards allowed … 239.2 yds./game … 71st in the nation
  • Scoring defense … 31.67 pts./game … 77th in the nation
  • Total defense … 420.3 yds./game … 76th in the nation
  • Rushing defense … 181.2 yds./game … 84th in the nation

Comments … The loss of Mustafa Johnson hurts. Not just because CU would like to have Johnson’s NFL talent on the roster, but because Johnson’s announcement that he was leaving came just a week after head coach Karl Dorrell said Johnson was returning.

There is (slightly) more depth here than meets the eye, as Janaz Jordan (four starts) and Jalen Sami (two starts) share the nose tackle position, but realistically, outside of returning starter Terrance Lang, the roster is still thin and inexperienced. Na’im Rodman has 17 career games and three career starts to his credit, but that’s about it in terms of playing time from the existing roster outside of the existing starters.

Counting the three recruits coming in this fall, CU will have six freshmen defensive linemen on the roster this fall … freshmen who may be thrust into the fray sooner than might otherwise be expected (Antonio Alfano is still on the team, but, with his epilepsy issues, it’s a long shot as to whether he will ever take the field in a CU uniform).

Chris Wilson was the defensive line coach last year, and is quite familiar with the shortcomings on the CU defensive line. This fall, though, he is taking on the entire defense as the defensive coordinator. Wilson has said he will continue to make the development of the Buffs’ defensive line a top priority.

“You can’t let that area falter,” Wilson said.

As coordinator, however, he will be responsible for the entire defensive unit.

“When you take a role as a coordinator, it’s really leading men and having great organization and being a great teacher,” he said. “It’s about knowing who your guys are and that dictates scheme. From that, we’ll tweak it week to week based off the people we’re going to play.”

This is a unit to pay attention to this spring. Not that there will be any first hand reports, but hopefully the Buff Nation will hear glowing reports that the underclassmen are making great strides, and that CU’s defensive line will not be the weakest unit on the team in 2021 …

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4 Replies to “Countdown to Spring Practices – Defensive Line”

  1. Now I’m nervous. Sounds like Wilson has a big job ahead of him. Hopefully Lang will finally breakout this year. Sorry Mel but being big alone doesnt seem to be the answer. I think we have 6 300 plus pounders and 3 more just under. Our best, Johnson, was listed at 290.
    Hopefully a couple of them will elevate their game. If not its going to put a ton of pressure on the linebackers. ….making Landman’s return al that more crucial.

  2. Thanks for this.
    The DL situation certainly is an area to watch…at least there is depth and numbers but who and how good remain to be seen. Like the size and tape on 2021 signee Tyas Martin.
    May have to thank Tuck a bit here as philosophy of winning in the trenches was emphasized and fortunately continues to be by new staff.
    In hindsight it may have been nice to pick up an addition via the portal this off-season after MJ declaring, Jason Harris leaving, etc
    Any high hopes / favorites out of the 6 freshmen DL ?

    1. Boston,
      Of the three incoming freshmen, Tyas Martin has the best resume, with the highest rankings from the recruiting services and the best offer sheet (coming from Arkansas, Martin had a number of ACC and SEC offers, and was a long-time Virginia Tech commit).
      Of the three COVID freshmen, the one everyone would like to see this fall would be Antonio Alfano, the highest-rated recruit in CU history … but that’s still a longshot.
      Of the other two, I guess I am most hopeful about the prospects of Lloyd Murray. At 6’2″, 300-pounds out of high school, Murray had offers from two dozen Power Five conference schools. On paper, he is a strong prospect. But he was also a member of the Recruiting Class of 2019, so he hasn’t seen the field of play in two years, and we don’t know how he has developed in his 1 1/2 years in Boulder …

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