Phillip Lindsay was a senior running back with an eye toward the NFL in the fall of 2017, but the Colorado star took notice of one particular freshman that year.
Lindsay, now with the Houston Texans, joked at the time that he wished he had Terrance Lang’s size and added that as soon as Lang figured out the work ethic involved with being a Division I college football player, he had unlimited potential.
“That kid is going to be a special kid,” Lindsay said in 2017. “There’s not many kids that are going to be like him.”
Lang, who spent that 2017 season on the sidelines as a redshirt, is now a 6-foot-7, 285-pound defensive end who has shown improvement every year of his CU career.
“I’ve definitely figured it out,” Lang said with a laugh when told of Lindsay’s comments from four years ago. “Freshmen and sophomore years are always a little bumpy, but once I got a little experience and some years under my belt I got a lot more comfortable and confident in what I was doing, so I did feel like I figured it out a lot.”
This season, CU will rely heavily on Lang, who has worked to become a more complete player and is the Buffaloes’ most experienced defensive linemen.
After playing 263 snaps as a pass rush specialist in 2018, Lang was on the field for 72 percent of CU’s defensive snaps in 2019. That number increased to 87 percent during the 2020 regular season.
“Right now I just see a great level of maturity,” CU head coach Karl Dorrell said after Friday’s practice. “Guys like him that have the physical size and talent, it’s great that now the mental side has really picked up at a really, really high level.”
Lang, who has eight sacks and 14 tackles for loss in his career, improved the mental side of his game this offseason. Following the 2020 season, he had shoulder surgery and missed spring practices, forcing him to step aside and take mental reps instead of physically being on the field.
“It was very hard (to sit out), but I got the chance to see from an outside perspective and learn and try to help my teammates, so it was good,” Lang said.
Nobody on the Buffs’ defensive line group has played more career snaps at the Division I level than Lang (1,155). Janaz Jordan and Jalen Sami are the only others that have starting experience. Defensive coordinator/line coach Chris Wilson is bringing the rest of the group along.
“There’s not a lot of experience but we’ve got a lot of freshmen with a whole lot of potential,” Lang said. “As long as they keep working and trusting coach Chris, we’re going to be good.”
Lang, however, is a key to the Buffs’ success up front.
Among CU’s better NFL prospects, Lang knows this is a crucial year for him if he wants to get noticed by scouts.
“Oh yeah, this is definitely a big year for me,” he said. “I think this is the most important year I’ve played, but I’m just, like I said, taking it one day at a time and trusting coach Chris so I can have a good season.”
Nearly fully healthy – Dorrell said Lang is about 95% healthy and should be full-go in a week – Lang carries confidence and experience into his fifth season with the Buffs.
“It’s more than it ever has been,” he said of his comfort and confidence. “I promise you.”
With that, he’s on the road to becoming the special player that Lindsay thought he might become.
“You haven’t seen the best of his game yet,” Dorrell said. “You saw glimpses of it in a lot of things because he’s such a really good athlete. But now the mental side of the game with him (has improved) – his football knowledge and his role in understanding the defensive system – I think that’s really going to enhance it even more.
“We’re excited to watch him play when he gets his chance to get on the field.”