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Na’im Rodman, CU Buffs lean on experience along defensive line

Buffs approaching camp midpoint

BOULDER, CO, March 30, 2022: Defensive lineman, Na'im Rodman, during the University of Colorado Boulder football practice on March 30, 2022.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
BOULDER, CO, March 30, 2022: Defensive lineman, Na’im Rodman, during the University of Colorado Boulder football practice on March 30, 2022.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

Don’t try to warn Na’im Rodman about hitting any sort of mid-training camp wall.

Football, and the encouraging depth Rodman believes is being built along Colorado’s defensive interior, will be more than enough motivation to power through the midpoint of camp.

On Saturday, head coach Karl Dorrell put the Buffaloes through a scrimmage at Folsom Field. The week ahead marks the midpoint of the preseason grind, with Saturday’s workout counting as practice No. 10 of 25 for CU ahead of the Sept. 2 opener at Folsom against TCU.

It can be a demanding portion of the calendar. The opening buzz spurred by the start of camp has faded. Opening night remains weeks away. Yet for Rodman, one of the most experienced players along CU’s defensive front, the promise of an improved season is helping the group keep their focus narrowed on daily goals.

“I love playing football. So it’s easy to wake up and come to practice every day,” Rodman said. “It’s more like the challenge is to not look so far ahead. I’ve just got to focus on what I’ve got to do today.”

Defensive coordinator Chris Wilson has maintained the Buffs’ shift to a 4-3 front this year from a base 3-4 formation was decided in part to make the best use of the talent on the roster. There arguably is not a better combination of depth and experience among any of the Buffs’ position groups than along the defensive front.

Rodman has played in all 30 of CU’s games since he came to Boulder as a true freshman in 2019, with nine starts. Fellow defensive lineman Jalen Sami has 28 career games under his belt while senior Janaz Jordan has played in 27 games and defensive end Terrance Lang, taking advantage of his extra sixth season this fall, has appeared in 40 games.

Collectively, Rodman said following Saturday’s scrimmage he believes the biggest difference defensively from a year ago for CU is how interchangeable the first two units are up front.

“I feel like I’ve definitely gotten better. And as a team, I think we look like a whole different defense,” Rodman said. “We’ve just got to keep working, and building and trusting each other, and I think we’re going to be pretty good this year.

“It’s way better than a year ago. With ones and twos, we don’t really have ones and twos. We’re all ones. There’s no drop off between us and the other guys. That’s a good thing.”

Dorrell noted after Saturday’s workout the next step in the Buffs’ conditioning ahead of the TCU opener will be to get the top units on both sides of the ball in game shape. After two weeks of widely-shared reps at practice, Dorrell noted a few more frequent gasps for air on Saturday when groups were on the field for extended drives.

“It’s the game piece of being in game shape,” Dorrell said. “That’s what I thought I saw (Saturday). When they were out there four or five plays in a row, you can tell they’re not used to that. When you’re doing things for just three plays you get that wall after three plays. Just getting back in game shape is going to be their biggest challenge. And we’ll do that this week anyway. More situational work. We won’t be scrimmaging full speed, but we’ll start getting consecutive series of work where they’re on the field and concentrating on doing their assignments.”

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