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CU position preview: Defensive line could be strength for Buffs

BOULDER, CO - Sept. 18, 2021: ...
University of Colorado Boulder’s Guy Thomas (1) and Jalen Sami, stops Minnesota’s Mar’Keise Irving during the Colorado Minnesota NCAA football game on September 18, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
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The first thing Gerald Chatman did when he was hired as Colorado’s defensive line coach in early March was to contact each of the guys in his group.

“It shouldn’t take a year to connect with them,” he said. “I think you’ve just got to dive into that right away. … It doesn’t stop. Now that I’m here and I’m their coach, still diving in.”

Chatman may have been last addition to the coaching staff, but he took over a talented, veteran group and ingrained himself into the culture quickly.

This summer, BuffZone.com will preview each position group for CU and in this installment, we look at the defensive line.

For the past two seasons, defensive coordinator Chris Wilson has coached the line, but after last season made the decision to work with outside linebackers. That allows him to be more connected to the front and back of the defense.

In late December, head coach Karl Dorrell hired Vic So’oto to coach the line. But in February and before his contract finalized, So’oto left CU to join the staff at California. That opened the door for Chatman, who left Tulane for Boulder in March.

“Really good teacher,” Wilson said of Chatman. “Builds really good relationships with players, which is important. Once they know you care, they’ll let you coach them. He’s done a really good job of doing that.”

BOULDER, CO-April 9, 2022: Defensive line ...
Defensive line coach, Gerald Chatman, during the University of Colorado Boulder football scrimmage on April 9, 2022. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff photographer)

It certainly helps that Chatman and the Buffs have enough experience and talent up front to consider the line one of the strengths of the defense.

Although CU lost Mustafa Johnson and his 35 career starts to graduation, there is enough depth that the staff elected to shift to more of a 4-3 defense this year, as opposed to the 3-4 from the past few years. (The defensive fronts will change, but 4-3 is the base alignment).

“We’ve got a good group of guys up front, a veteran group of guys up front, so that was the best move for us moving forward,” Wilson said.

That group includes sixth-year senior defensive end Terrance Lang, who was a part of BuffZone’s preview on the edge rushers last week.

In the middle of the line, the Buffs return juniors Jalen Sami (28 career games, 24 starts) and Na’im Rodman (30 games, nine starts) and senior Janaz Jordan (27 games, six starts), who have all been key rotational players the past two years or more.

Senior Justin Jackson, a former junior college transfer, has played only 149 snaps in two seasons, but that could change this year after he put together a strong spring.

Dorrell said freshman Allan Baugh, who didn’t play in games last year as he redshirted, began making his presence known this spring. The Buffs are also hoping redshirt freshman Tyas Martin, who has dealt with injuries at CU, can be healthy and productive, as well. Martin is listed at 6-foot-4, 340 pounds.

In addition, the Buffs have true freshman Aaron Austin and redshirt freshman walk-on Mason Maddox, a former standout at Cherokee Trail High School.

Like Lang, redshirt freshman Ryan Williams and senior transfer Chance Main are part of the edge group that will provide depth up front.

Chatman is excited about the entire group, which he said is tough and works with a sense of urgency. He is eager to help them become one of the top units on the team.

“I coach to maximize their potential,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a younger guy, older guy. I want to maximize their potential. I think all the guys get recruited because they have a ceiling and I think it’s the coach’s job to get them to reach that ceiling and be there and play at a high level and work at a high level.”

Position: Defensive line

Returners (2021 statistics)

  • Allan Baugh, R-Fr., 6-foot-2, 270 pounds
  • Justin Jackson, Sr., 6-2, 275 (135 snaps, 5 tackles)
  • Janaz Jordan, Sr., 6-4, 335 (234 snaps, 4 tackles, 3 QB pressures)
  • Tyas Martin, R-Fr., 6-4, 340 (5 snaps)
  • Na’im Rodman, Jr., 6-2, 305 (6 starts, 429 snaps, 16 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2.5 tackles for loss, 2 pressures)
  • Jalen Sami, Jr., 6-6, 325 (11 starts, 432 snaps, 30 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 4.5 TFL, 1 pressure)
  • Mason Maddox, R-Fr., 6-3, 275 (walk-on)

Additions

  • Aaron Austin, Fr., 6-2, 250

Losses

  • Mustafa Johnson (graduated; 8 starts, 369 snaps, 28 tackles, 2 sacks, 5 TFL, 7 pressures)
  • Lloyd Murray Jr. (transferred to Sam Houston; 43 snaps, 1 tackle)
  • Jayden Simon (transferred to Tulsa; 75 snaps, 3 tackles)
  • Blayne Toll (transferred to Arkansas State; 32 snaps, 3 tackles)

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