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CU Buffs’ Jalen Sami among leaders on defensive line

Sophomore registered 25 tackles last season

Colorado sophomore Jalen Sami is a returning starter at nose tackle.
CU Athletics
Colorado sophomore Jalen Sami is a returning starter at nose tackle.

A year ago, Jalen Sami was one of the inexperienced members of Colorado’s defensive line group.

In fact, outside of Mustafa Johnson and Terrance Lang, everybody on the CU defensive line in 2019 was young and inexperienced.

With his sophomore season on the horizon, Sami is now one of the most experienced linemen among a group that is perceived as a strength for the Buffs heading into the season, which kicks off Nov .7 against UCLA.

“It’s a blessing in disguise, really,” Sami said of the depth on the defensive line, “because we all get to work and be as a group and just rotate fresh legs, fresh set of new defensive line coming in and making plays.”

The 6-foot-6, 325-pound Sami had an impressive first season with the Buffs in 2019, registering 25 tackles in 411 snaps played.  He figures to be a rock in the middle once again, with Johnson, a senior, and Lang, a junior, also back.

“Jalen is doing a good job,” CU head coach Karl Dorrell said. “He’s still a very young player. We have a lot of high hopes and expectations of him. He’s an ideal size that you want in terms of what you want your nose to be. Great kid, obviously he’s been a great student as well. He’s on the upswing of his career right now.

“I know he’s had some really good experience already. But what I like about him is that he’s understanding, really, the whole scope of being a college student-athlete. I think the world of him. I think he has the chance to play on the next level when it’s all said and done.”

In striving to get better this year, Sami is adjusting to the techniques taught by new defensive line coach Chris Wilson.

“It’s really a change in how our defensive line is playing, from last year, two gap, to this year, one gap, and getting off the ball,” Sami said. “We have the same called plays and everything. It’s just working together and asking and doing all of that and adjusting to the coaching style of coach Wilson’s, learning how he wants it done – and then getting the reps in.”

After several months of learning on Zoom meetings, Sami and the Buffs are finally getting those reps in, as they’ve had five of their preseason practices in the past week.

“Now we actually need to go out there and do the reps and do the technique how we want to play and make better plays,” Sami said.

Sami said Wilson is putting a premium on negative plays, especially on first and second downs to put pressure on the offense.

“The more we do stopping the run, we get off the ball, we need to pass rush and then help our DBs out in coverage and just working together, faster, explosive,” Sami said. “That’s just the NFL scheme that he’s bringing to us. We just have to adapt to it and keep getting better every day.”

With a good mix of veterans and youth, Sami and the Buffs believe they can have a deep rotation of linemen. Sami has been encouraged in the early days of camp.

“It feels good that we’re getting that experience and then the practice and the reps in and having the younger guys to come in and know the plays, as well, and actually get reps in and perfect their craft day by day,” Sami said. “It actually feels good.”


Junior offensive lineman Colby Pursell was named Wednesday to the watch list for the Rimington Trophy, which is annually awarded to the nation’s top center. … Although fans will not be allowed at Pac-12 football games this season, the conference board on Wednesday approved student-athlete families and guests to attend, as long as it’s approved by local health authorities. Per the NCAA handbook, student-athletes get four complimentary tickets per game.

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