By: Mike Brohard
FORT COLLINS, Colo. – As a new coaching staff enters the building, there are aspects of the program they will take a wait-and-see approach with, but there are a few items – players included – where they came in with preconceived notions. Expectations, even.
Defensive coordinator Freddie Banks, after scouring film from a season ago, had Mohamed Kamara high on his list. He anticipates Kamara, entering his true senior season, to emerge as a primary source of anxiety for opposing offenses.
“I don’t think not just that he wants to be, but he will be — I’ll be surprised if he’s not one of the better pass rushers in the league,” Banks said. “He’s got that type of ability; he’s got that type of work ethic. Coach Buddha Williams is doing a great job with him. It’s day two, he’s still learning, he’s still growing, but I see the tools there; he has all the tools to be one of the best guys in the conference.”
The truth is, Kamara, who was second on the team with 7.5 sacks a year ago and tied for fifth in the Mountain West, wants to be seen as more than that around the league. He did most of his damage last year as a third-down specialist, so his main goal is to broaden his scope of impact on the field.
He spent his first two seasons used in pass-rush roles, entering the program with a knack of being able to get into the pocket. Last year, he was used even more, but that’s not enough for him, not with the type of player he wants to become. In those snaps, he still produced 37 tackles and 9.5 tackles for loss.
“Actually, definitely. Last year, I was just a third-down threat,” he said after Saturday’s morning workout. “This year I want to be a first-, second-, third-, and if we’re still on the field, a fourth-down threat. I want to be the greatest player to ever come out of CSU, and I’m going to be with the mindset and the work ethic I have.”
Williams absolutely loves working with a player who carries such high ambitions. To him, it means he has a player who has set a goal and will not deviate from the path. In just his first week with Kamara on the field, the player’s hustle, his willingness to run sideline to sideline and how vocal and loud he is has left a positive impression.
When it comes to his ability to stop the run, Williams sees no limitations for Kamara being stout in both areas, feeling its more a matter of showing he can do something he wasn’t asked to do in the past.
“Mo is extremely strong and powerful and twitchy,” Williams said. “In our system, too, some of the better run guys on the edge, you have to be able to play in space, and Mo can do that with his athleticism and pass rush. I think he can be a dynamic run guy playing the six technique over a tight end or playing a five technique; he has all the skill set to be a dynamic every-down guy.”
To make that happen, he’s launched himself headfirst into learning every aspect of what Banks is teaching overall, as well as the defensive-line nuances being presented by Williams. For him, the key is playing fast, and to do so, he has to be prepared.
That comes from watching as much film as he can. A lot of it is his practice reps, so he can track his progress and limit his mistakes. It’s working for him, and you can see him on the field in practice in the ear of his linemates, giving them pointers and reminding them to get on the film.
If Banks assigns him chapters one and two, he’s more than likely going to move his way into the third and fourth, just to be ahead. In some ways, the coaches want him to slow down a bit, but they can’t argue with the tenacity.
“I come over and I watch the D linemen during special teams, and you can tell he’s in the back, guys are working even when they’re not in the drill,” he said. “He may not be going full speed, but he’s working and he’s coaching guys. He’s saying exactly what Coach Buddha is saying, which is good to see. You don’t usually see that so fast, but he has a different leadership to him that’s unique, so we’ll take advantage of that.
“He wants to be ahead. He wants to know everything. He wants to know what’s going on behind him. We’re like, ‘hey Mo, just learn about playing a five, playing a six and playing a nine right now. Then you’ll start learning everything else, so he’s doing a good job.”
It proves he’s on top of the other role the Rams really need him to take ownership of, filling the void left by the departure of veterans Toby McBride, Manny Jones and Scott Patchan. The trio exited the program with a ton of experience, and they helped shape an aggressive defensive culture, the attitude permeating from their room.
Even before the group played their final game, Kamara could see the future and started to insert himself in needed situations when the others were not available. He’s not cautiously vocal, either. He’s become assertive in a short time span, because of what they taught him.
From Patchan, it was the technique and tricks of being a great pass rusher. Now he’s passing that knowledge along. From McBride, he said he learned to be relentless every snap, to power through people and wear them down. He’s like that in workouts.
Williams said he’s set the tone in practice the first week. The way he sprints on plays, the fact when he barks out, one would hear him from the top reaches of Canvas Stadium. He’s not just leading by example but driving the car.
“I felt that way in the middle of the season, just because I know the games are limited and I knew I had to step up,” Kamara said. “Even last year I had to step up as leader. I had to do my part, and now I have to be the big dog. They were my big brothers, but now I have to be a big brother to everybody else. The passion is there, the relentlessness is there and I’m going to continue to grow and be a leader.”
For him, all of it will help him reach his goal to be the best and be complete. With Devin Phillips the only starter returning, the defensive line group is being rebuilt and Kamara showed up with a hammer and a handful of nails.
“Don’t be stagnant,” he said. “There’s a lot in this world that I need to learn, and I’m just trying my hardest.”