When he was hired last winter to coach the Colorado defensive line, Kwahn Drake knew there was plenty he needed to work on with the Buffaloes up front.

Drake looked at the group collectively, but also individually.

When he looked at redshirt freshman Terrance Lang, he saw talent, but knew that the first priority for Lang was off the field.

"The first thing is in the classroom, as far as getting things done off the field," Drake said. "It started with him being a champion there. He's grown up off the field. Then, when he got on the field, it allowed him to think faster when we got into meetings and the repetition of things — he's a rep guy, so he's now starting to get it."

CU defensive line coach Kwahn Drake, left, talks to players during a Buffs practice last month.
CU defensive line coach Kwahn Drake, left, talks to players during a Buffs practice last month. (Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer)

Lang's overall development has made him a key part of the defensive line rotation for the Buffaloes (3-0), who open Pac-12 play on Friday at Folsom Field against UCLA (0-3).

So far, Lang has played 73 defensive snaps (6th among CU defensive linemen), with three tackles, two third-down stops and two quarterback pressures.

"It's going pretty good," Lang said of his first season playing in games at the college level. "I finally got a chance to get back on the field, get a feel for it and I've learned a lot of new things from my coach, so it's going pretty good."

At 6-foot-7, 275 pounds, Lang looks like a beast, and he certainly plays like one at times. Coming from Pomona, Calif., last year, though, Lang needed time to develop his body, his game and his duties off the field.


"You definitely have to stay focused (as a redshirt) and stay humble and just keep working, because I'm not used to not playing," he said. "It was an adjustment, but I think it was for the better."

Lang has developed a stronger work ethic, which, he said, is sparked by knowing the talent around him on the CU defensive line.

"It comes first from my teammates," he said. "They push me all the time and then in the weight room I just try to take advantage of every chance I get. I just know there's somebody else working, so I try to work hard every time."

Drake has done his part, too. He recognized how to teach Lang, and that's made a difference.

"If you start with, 'Why,' he'll go a whole lot farther quicker," Drake said. "I found out with him you say, 'This is why we're doing it.' And, he'll say, 'OK, coach, I got it.' Tell him why and he'll do it. He's been absorbing it, taking it in, making strides. Still has a long way to go — we're no complete project — but the lessons and the things that he's done, he's starting to become a leader in some of the actions that he's taking."

Lang can feel a difference when he's on the field, whether that's in practice or on game day.

"I think it's just knowing more about the game of football itself," he said of the strides he's made in the past year. "When I got here I was pretty raw. I didn't know a lot about the game, but coach Drake has taught me a lot about reading offenses, playing defense, everything. I've learned a lot more about the game."

What has Lang and CU excited is that there's so much more to learn.

"There's always room to get better," he said."I've made some pretty good plays, but I think I can improve a lot more."

That goes for the whole defensive line, which, boosted by Lang and others, has shown improvement over last year.

Starters Javier Edwards, Mustafa Johnson and Israel Antwine have played well, while Lang, Jase Franke, Lyle Tuiloma and Chris Mulumba have come off the bench to give the Buffs depth.

"We've gotten better," Drake said. "Our rotation and depth has helped us. We're fairly healthy right now and that's a blessing. We've gotten better, but we still have a ways to go; some things we need to cleanup, some techniques, little things with our eyes, hips, hands and our feet, and making sure we're giving 100 percent effort on every play."

So far, the results have been good for Lang and the rest of the line.

"It's been great, just to be able to experience the growth that we've had coming from last year," Lang said. "It's a wonderful group."

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at howellb@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.