Despite losing a key player to graduation, the defensive line is one of Colorado’s most experienced groups, so it’s no surprise that the unit has turned some heads this spring.
It’s not just the experienced players that are making some noise, however.
CU has completed five of 15 spring practices and the developing depth of the defensive line has been highlighted multiple times.
“I tell you what, whether you’re first group or second, the guys we’ve blocked, there’s not really a drop off,” offensive line coach Kyle DeVan said of the Buffs’ defensive front. “Our second group of D-line is (darn) good and it may be just as good as the first group. I’ve really been impressed with those guys and Gerald (Chatman) has done a great job of developing them and getting them to play hard.”
CU lost Mustafa Johnson and his 35 career starts, but returns four important veterans. Terrance Lang (40 games, 27 starts), Jalen Sami (28 games, 24 starts), Na’im Rodman (30 games, nine starts) and Janaz Jordan (27 games, six starts) have all been key rotational players the past two years or more.
Behind them there are a lot of inexperienced players who are quickly growing.
Senior Justin Jackson is entering his third season at CU since transferring from Northwest Mississippi Community College. He’s played just 149 snaps with the Buffs, but head coach Karl Dorrell said Wednesday that Jackson has “been flashing since we started spring practice” by getting into the backfield.
Transfer Chance Main, a senior, has had a good spring, as well, while redshirt freshmen Allan Baugh and Ryan Williams are making their presence known.
“Ryan Williams is getting a lot of reps and he looks good,” Dorrell said. “He looks like he’s more confident just from where he was a year ago to where he is now. His presence is being felt a little bit in there. The same thing with Allan Baugh.
“Both of them are going to be quality depth players for us until they get old enough to really try to ascend and do more. … We think the depth of our D-line is going to be a lot more similar to the first unit. It’s not going to be such a drop off in talent, so those young players are young, but they’re making good strides.”
CU also has high hopes for redshirt freshman Tyas Martin, who has been limited in practice as he recovers from an injury.
On Thursday, the board of regents approved contracts for two new assistant coaches: Chatman and Rod Chance (cornerbacks).
Chance signed a two-year deal that will pay him $375,000 this year and $400,000 in 2023. Chatman signed a two-year deal that will pay him $325,000 this year and $350,000 next year.
In February, the regents approved contacts for four other new assistants, as well as new deals for a pair of returning assistants.
Overall, the salary pool for the 10 full-time assistants is a CU-record $4,020,000 – an increase of about 16% from last year. This is the first time CU’s salary pool for assistants has topped $3.5 million.
Dorrell is in the third year of a five-year contract and his 2022 salary of $3.6 million is the most ever for a CU coach.
Receiver Daniel Arias had the best season of his career in 2021 and in the early going of spring, he’s making a good impression on first-year receivers coach Phil McGeoghan.
“I’ve seen him take some very remarkable steps for somebody in such a short period of time,” McGeoghan said. “It’s very important to him. He is here all the time working on his body, doing extras in the classroom, studying; he has a lot of questions in meetings. I’ve been very pleased with Daniel’s progression, and he’s a guy who I’m really counting on this year to take that next step.”
Arias has played 40 games over the past four seasons and is taking advantage of the extra year of eligibility granted to all players from 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last season, Arias had career highs in catches (19) and receiving yards (237). He has 28 catches for 424 yard and three touchdowns in his career.
On Thursday, CU had its annual student-athlete academic awards breakfast and several football players were honored. Running back Alex Fontenot was the most improved student-athletes among seniors while quarterback Brendon Lewis was the most improved underclassman. Outside linebacker Guy Thomas and defensive back Jaylen Striker both received the Clancy A. Herbst Jr. Student-Athlete Achievement Award for succeeding academically through personal, academic or emotional difficulties. Receiver Montana Lemonious-Craig earned the Byron R. White Leadership and Initiative Award for sophomores. … CU did not practice Thursday, but returns to the field Friday. The Buffs will have a scrimmage open to the public on Saturday at 11:15 a.m. at Folsom Field.