At some point during the offseason, it hit Terrance Lang that he has suddenly become a veteran leader for the Colorado defensive line.
“I was kind of the young guy, but now I have no option but to step up,” Lang, a sophomore, said Wednesday after the Buffaloes’ practice.
Of the 10 scholarship defensive linemen on the roster, only two – Lang and junior Mustafa Johnson – have played in a Division I game. The Buffs are leaning on them to lead the group.
“It just forces me and Mustafa to step up as leaders and pave the way for these young guys and show them how we work in practice and stuff like that,” Lang said.
With the Aug. 30 season opener against Colorado State around the corner, Lang and Johnson have both been pleased with their work, as well as with the progress of the youth around them.
“I think it’s going good,” Lang said. “We made a lot of good strides as a unit (during camp) and all of us got better on stuff that we personally need to get better at. It was a good camp overall.”
Lang made one start at end last year, but mainly came off the bench to provide some pass rush. Playing 30.1 percent of the defensive snaps, Lang had 11 tackles, one sack and six quarterback pressures.
He’s hoping to be a more complete player this year and fill a bigger role.
“I’ve put my mind on stopping the run this fall camp,” he said. “Last season I was a third down player mostly and this season I knew I needed to take pride on stopping the run.”
Johnson was a dominant, all-around player last year. On the field for 77 percent of the snaps, he racked up 73 tackles and team highs in sacks (8.5), tackles for loss (17.5) and pressures (16).
Johnson intends to be even better this year.
“Hopefully,” he said. “That’s what all this work is for.”
It’s been a lot of work for Johnson to learn the defense installed by first-year head coach Mel Tucker and coordinator Tyson Summers.
“I started off slow because I was struggling with the play book a little bit, but I’m picking it up and getting going,” he said.
Johnson credits defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh for helping to improve Johnson’s game.
“Brumbaugh has taught me a lot of new things that I didn’t know when it comes to every spot I’m playing in, whether it’s technique, hand placement, everything,” he said.
Better versions of Lang and Johnson – as well as redshirt freshman Jalen Sami, who is expected to start at nose tackle – will certainly help the Buffs, but getting the newcomers up to speed is critical.
With three junior college transfers and four true freshmen in the group, there have been some growing pains during camp.
“It has been up and down,” Lang said. “That’s just little things we have to pay attention to in film and fix in practice. Overall, we’ve all been taking pride in stopping the run.”
Lang feels better about the group now than he did when camp started, however. JUCO transfers Jeremiah Doss and Janaz Jordan have had their moments. Another JUCO transfer, Va’atofu Sauvao, shows potential after moving over from the offensive line less than two weeks ago.
“He’s very physical,” Lang said. “There’s a lot more of the mental side to it, but he has the physicality. Once the other half comes along, he’ll be dominant. He definitely has the aggressive, physical mindset.”
True freshmen Na’im Rodman and Austin Williams have been impressive at times, as well.
“I think we’re slowly progressing, for sure, and coming along,” Lang said of the group. “We have some big guys up front. Day after day we’re getting better.”
The personal improvement, as well as the development of the group, has Lang eager to get the season started.
“I’m so excited,” he said. “I can’t wait.”