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Fall Camp Roster Review – Defensive Line

Previously Posted …

The Roster … 

bold = returning starter … italicized = walk-on … *= injured, out for the season … TR … Transfer …

Defensive linemen (13):

  • Seniors … Jeremiah Doss*
  • Juniors … Terrance Lang … Janaz Jordan … Justin Jackson
  • Sophomores … Jalen Sami … Na’im Rodman … Austin Williams … Kanaan Turnbull
  • Red-shirt freshmen … Jayden Simon … Lloyd Murray, Jr. … Blaine Toll (TR)
  • True freshmen … Mason Maddox … Blake Weiher
  • 2021 Signees … Tyas Martin … Allan Baugh … Ryan Williams

The Stats … 

There was only one defensive lineman in the top eight on the CU tackles list for the 2020 season. That was the now-departed Mustafa Johnson, who had 21 tackles, while also leading 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.

The injured and now lost-for-the-season Jeremiah Doss? 40 plays; one tackle.

CU 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

What Others Say About CU’s Defensive Line … 

Lindy’s … Much traveled Chris Wilson, who was on Gary Barnett’s staff in the 2000s, returned to Boulder as CU’s defensive line coach in 2020, and has been elevated to defensive coordinator. Chief among his tasks is improving the rush defense. Opponents averaged 5.4 yards per carry last season, resulting in 181.2 yards per game … Defensive end Mustafa Johnson is gone after pacing the pass rush for three seasons, but the line returns physically imposing tackle Jalen Sami.

Athlons … Unit ranking: No. 7 in the Pac-12 … Despite the Buffs showing some improvement in 2020, Dorrell cut ties with coordinator Tyson Summers and promoted defensive line coach Chris Wilson to the position. Under Wilson, the Buffs are aiming for a more player-friendly system than they had under Summer, and they plan to be versatile in their scheme. “You have to be multiple in this day and age,” Wilson says. “We’re gonna have that versatility”.

Phil Steele’s … Projected starters … DE: Terrance Lang … NT: Jalen Sami … DT: Janaz Jordan … They were No. 5 in the Pac-12 in rush defense during the season, but allowed 303 to Texas in the bowl (28% of the rush yards allowed on the year), with both DE Terrance Lang and NT Jalen Sami missing the contest. The three starting defensive lineman have a combined 35 career starts giving them a solid chance to improve on last year’s rush defense numbers.

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. Senior Jeremiah Doss didn’t have much experience, but he did play a total of 98 defensive snaps and recorded one tackle during his two seasons with the Buffs. Transfer Blaine Toll from Arkansas – a former four-star recruit – recorded all of one tackle in 2020 while playing defensive end for Razorbacks. 

Despite losing Johnson, the Buffs believe they are building a solid and deep unit on the defensive line. “It’s creating competition across the board,” defensive coordinator Chris Wilson said. “We’re creating a little bit more continuity up front.” Wilson has coached in 4-3 and 3-4 schemes, but said the Buffs will be multiple up front, adding that coaches “become custom tailors” to find ways to get the best players on the field.

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.”

Comments … From the Daily CameraDespite losing Johnson, the Buffs believe they are building a solid and deep unit on the defensive line. “It’s creating competition across the board,” defensive coordinator Chris Wilson said. “We’re creating a little bit more continuity up front.” Wilson has coached in 4-3 and 3-4 schemes, but said the Buffs will be multiple up front, adding that coaches “become custom tailors” to find ways to get the best players on the field. Lang is the top returner, while Jordan and Sami have started games at tackle. Na’im Rodman had a great spring and should have a key role. There will be plenty of competition for playing time among the rest of the group, with Jackson a veteran ready to take a jump forward.

Final word … The Buffs’ line is a group that must replace its best player – Mustafa Johnson – but has good, young talent.

“I know they’re preparing well,” Wilson said. “Ready is really difficult to measure. I just stick to the preparation part and the things that we can measure on a day-to-day basis. When we get on the scales, we just say, ‘Hey, this is where we’re at right now. Based off of where we’re at right now, on the scale, these guys are making significant gains.”

Another place where gains are being made is in the gym.

“The one thing that I’ve really, really been excited about is the addition of (strength and conditioning coach) Shannon Turley and working with these guys to have more versatility, and you see it in their day-to-day,” Wilson said. “I think these guys are feeling more and more comfortable with their bodies, and the changes that we’re making there in the offseason and in the weight room with coach Turley.”

In addition to the returners, the Buffs have seven newcomers, including three walk-ons. The group includes Blayne Toll, a transfer from Arkansas.

“The biggest thing is that they look the part,” Wilson said of the newcomers. “The thing that I like most about it is these guys come from really, really good winning programs and traditions … so, you’ve got guys who have a standard.

“I’m excited to watch how these guys compete and get prepared for the season because it’s all hands on deck.”

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10 Replies to “Fall Camp Roster Review – Defensive Line”

  1. I am baffled why they haven’t used the still available scholarship to bring in a DL. Stuart, are you sure there is a deadline to add players from the portal and not just a deadline to get within the scholarship limit?

  2. SoSummers defense really focused on flowing the play to the linebacker. Which when Landman was in was pretty effective. But it meant that the d lineman were being asked to take up space, engage and keep lineman off of linebackers. You will recall the previous year how mustafa would Stunt more, take specialized rushes and get into the backfield. Those techniques disappeared largely unde Summers defense and even the stints were designed to get the linebackers shot at the qb. I suspect with Wilson as coordinator this will change and it is a shame Mustafa did not get a chance to show his skills in that sort of environment. Frankly, I have not seen much from any of the other d lineman. Some of that is scheme, but I have not seen enough of Sami moving the line of scrimmage backward. Lang beating his block under control (he beats the block but then goes shooting past the qb becuase he cannot gather himself). And Rodman or Jordan ha e basically been only good at keeping lineman off of linebackers. So until I see differently I think our defense will hinge on the linebackers, luckily if Landman is back, Wells stays healthy, and the Oklahoma lb is as he showed in the spring game we will be in good hands.

    1. It would seem to me that just by being on the line of scrimmage the D linemen filling a whole and making a tackle would keep the back from gaining as much yardage than if they just occupied the second level blocking and let the LB make the tackle. If you dont have the guys who can do that enough times then flowing the play to the LB will have to do. I’m sure Landman loves it. If nothing else it pads his stats for the draft.
      Can any of you stat monkeys out there find out the last time a Buff down D lineman had 45 or 50 tackles in a season? Maybe Mustafa a couple of years back?

      1. It’s a technique thing from my understanding. 2 gap, vs 1 gap and the results. Basically, think of it as a lineman is responsible for 2 gaps, what that really means unless they are a real stud is that they play heads up on a defensive lineman and fully occupy that person, and when the running back runs through either of those gaps they try and make a play. Now if you have a stud there, they take that 1 lineman, drive them back 1-2 yards, extend there arms and then use that space to make a tackle on the running back. As AP posed to a 1 gap system, which we ran when Mustafa was wrecking folks. This made him responsible for 1 gap and he would use techniques to beat his blocker to make a tackle in the backfield. Sounds easier right? The downside is you have big uglies coming downhill on your linebackers now as the gap that the d line was playing was not the point of attack and the lineman is going downfield to assist hitting the second level.

        There are positives and negatives to both schemes. To be honest, I like the idea of Wilson saying we will be multiple. Putting Mustafa in a 2 gap system was a waste of his talents. While Sami is a mountain of a dude and we have some other big guys, without a stud linebacker to clean up the mess you get the results you had in the second half of Utah and the Texas game.

        Barnes really showed well in the spring and between him and Landman we could have something really special. I don’t care what the coaches said. Van Diest is still flowing laterally and catching instead of driving downfield more than 50% of the time in the spring game. This gets him caught up in the wash. Watch Barnes and Landman, both are constantly moving downfield during run plays. I am waiting to see Lamb and how he does in the fall game, and some of the younger lb’s flow better but….

        1. That means when I was in high school (long long loooong time ago) we were playing one gap all the way. At least 4 down D linemen and sometimes 5 depending on the matchups. If anyone threw the ball more than twice a game the third time was usually an interception. Not because our DBs were stellar but mostly because the ball was almost always a dying duck. It was all a cloud of dust, the coaches were morons and their schemes were pretty much Pop Warner.
          Playing free safety was a piece of cake. The only time anyone made any run yardage was when the O had a back who was good at juking people in open space and sent him on an end run.
          More than 2 decades later I went and watched a Palmer high game when they were doing the same damn thing. They would send Purify in motion from almost a WR position in both directions. Once in a while they would fake it and give it to the FB on a delay which wound up in another cloud of dust. But no matter what adjustments they made (if any) Purify made em pay on every play.

  3. Sheesh it seems like Jalen has been here at least 5 years and he is still a sophomore. Go big Jalen.

    No clue how good they are gonna be as a unit. No clue if the New DC and the Old DL guy has the scheme, he says he has But he is gonna need it.
    It seems waiting for the DL to gel is taking forever.

    Again so young.

    Buffs.

    Note: What is amazing though is that there are 15 dl guys on the roster. Than in itself is amazing. Seems there are usually about 6 or 8

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