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In-Depth Depth Chart – Linebackers

 

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Linebackers … 

Fall “Pencil” Depth Chart:

(Note … CU plays a 3-4 defense, but lists 12 defensive positions, including a “Buff Backer” a safety/outside linebacker hybrid. The Buff Backer will be discussed with the defensive backs)

Outside Linebacker: 

Jacob Callier, Soph. … Nu’umotu Falo, Jr. … Nick Eldridge, R-Fr.

Jack (Inside) Linebacker:

Drew Lewis, Sr. … Akil Jones, Soph. … Jonathan Van Diest, R-Fr. … Colby Kelter, Fr. … Jake Yurachek, Fr.

Mike (Inside) Linebacker:

Rick Gamboa, Sr. … Nate Landman, Soph. … Chase Newman, R-Fr. … Clyde Moore, Fr.

Outside Linebacker:

Carson Wells, R-Fr. … Alex Tchangam, Jr. … Shamar Hamilton, Jr.

 

By the Numbers (2017):

— Drew Lewis … Played in 12 games; 12 starts … 821 snaps … 119 tackles (49 unassisted) … Two sacks; two tackles for loss … Eight third down stops; eight quarterback pressures

— Rick Gamboa … Played in 12 games; 12 starts … 847 snaps … 117 tackles (45 unassisted) … One-half sack; one tackle for loss … Ten third down stops; seven passes broken up

— Jacob Callier … Played in ten games … 196 snaps … five tackles (four unassisted) … Eight third down stops; 11 quarterback pressures

— Nate Landman … Played in seven games …79 snaps … 17 tackles (11 unassisted) … Four tackles for loss; eight third down stops

 

Reasons to be excited:

Top two tacklers from 2017 return

Drew Lewis (119 tackles) and Rick Gamboa (117 tackles) not only led the Buffs in tackles last season, they became the first pair of players to record 100-plus tackles in a season since 2006 (Jordon Dizon and Thaddaeus Washington). What’s more, they became the first pair of linebackers to do it since 1994 (Ted Johnson and Matt Russell).

Lewis and Gamboa are more, however, than just active linebackers.

Gamboa enters his senior season 19th on CU’s all-time tackle list, with 292 (145 solo). Only 15 players in school history have recorded 300, with just five over 400 – both figures being well within his grasp. Gamboa is just the sixth player under Mike MacIntyre to be elected captain at least twice. This spring, Gamboa was presented with the Eddie Crowder Award for outstanding leadership.

Oh, and Gamboa also has a string of 37 consecutive starts, the longest current streak on the team.

For his part, Drew Lewis is a “freak” … and in a good way.

For the past 15 years, college football analyst Bruce Feldman has put together a summer list of “freaks” in college football, a list which “showcases guys who generate buzz inside their programs by displaying the type of rare physical abilities that wow even those folks who are used to observing gifted athletes every day”.

In addition to new “Buff Backer” Davion Taylor, senior inside linebacker Drew Lewis made the Feldman “freak” list. Said Feldman:

“The Buffaloes’ leading tackler last season, the 6’2″, 225-pound senior tied for the Colorado team best in the power clean with 355. He squats 515. Lewis also broad jumped 10-6 and posted a 1.50 time in the 10-yard sprint (second-best among the Buffs)”. 

NFL.com reporter Chase Goodbread also puts out similar lists of the best of the best in college football. In his 18 for ’18 most freakish athletes, Drew Lewis came in at No. 12.

 

— There will be help for Gamboa and Lewis on the inside

In addition to proven players in Gamboa and Lewis, there is also confidence in redshirt sophomores Akil Jones and Nate Landman. Redshirt freshmen Chase Newman and Jonathan Van Diest are looking to make their mark, too.

“We’re a lot better than we were last fall at this time,” inside linebackers coach Ross Els told the Daily Camera. “I noticed that in the spring. We’re a lot more comfortable. All four guys that have been working in with the ones are a lot more comfortable in what they’re doing. They’re playing faster. Are we physical enough yet? Not quite, but I think we will be soon.”

“It won’t be, I hope, the Gamboa/Lewis show,” Els continued. “It shouldn’t be that way this year. When you play 800 snaps a year, you’re beat up in this league. I need to get Gamboa off the field once in a while, Lewis off the field once in a while, and we have the depth to do that now.”

Landman has star potential and has been constantly praised by coaches and teammates — both offensively and defensively — since he got to Boulder a year ago. Now, with a year under his belt, he’s taking his game to another level.

“He’s a physical kid,” Els said. “He was voted the toughest player on the team. When he went into the game at the end of the season last year it was in running situations. He’s getting a lot better in his pass drops and his coverage, which is what he has to do.”

Jones didn’t get as much playing time last year, but Els said he “has made huge jumps, too. Akil is quicker, he’s making decisions, he’s also making checks. We have to make quite a few checks at linebacker and he’s making checks he wasn’t able to make last year.

“We’re not hesitant to put any of those four in a game right now.”

 

Carson Wells will help the Buffs on the outside

From the Daily Camera … As a 210-pound true freshman last year, Carson Wells flashed his potential to be a play-maker at outside linebacker for the Colorado Buffaloes.

Now a 250-pound redshirt freshman, Wells is getting closer to realizing his potential.

One of several young Buffs that have made significant strides in the past year, Wells is currently fighting for a starting role.

“It’s a lot better than last year,” he said of his second camp with the Buffs. “This year I have a better feel for the defense and what we’re doing and I know what the guys around me are doing and not just what I’m doing.”

Wells also has a body better suited for helping the defense.

Coming out of high school, Wells displayed impressive speed for his size and position, but has now added strength to his 6-foot-4 frame.

“I’ve put on about 40 pounds since last year and I feel good,” he said. “It’s mostly muscle. I’m feeling good and still feel like I have all my speed.”

 

Reasons for concern:

— Buffs still lacking in numbers on the linebacker roster

Three names which could have been on the CU roster this fall will not be there.

– Terran Hasselbach, who played in 11 games with one start last year (217 snaps, 13 tackles), decided to forego his senior year;

– Michael Mathewes, who played in seven games last year (128 snaps, 10 tackles), decided to forego his senior year;

– Dante Sparaco, who played in four games (32 snaps, three tackles), decided to transfer.

Junior Nu’umotu Falo is back after being dismissed from the team last summer, and he’s eager to prove himself again. He’s actually the most experienced player of the group, having logged 373 snaps in a backup role during the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Playing both inside and outside linebacker, Falo has 1.5 career sacks.

Otherwise, junior college transfers Alex Tchangam and Shamar Hamilton (who missed last year with a knee injury) will be counted on to help out. While the “pencil” depth chart is by no means the final word on the matter, neither junior college standout has been able to get past freshman Carson Wells on the depth chart.

 

Bottom Line

Drew Lewis and Rick Gamboa became the first linebacker tandem since 1994 to each post 100 tackles in the same season.

Ted Johnson and Matt Russell are CU legends, with Ted Johnson going on to be a second-round pick in the 1995 NFL draft, winning three Super Bowl rings with the New England Patriots. Matt Russell, meanwhile, was a fourth round pick of the Detroit Lions in the 1997 draft, leaving Boulder as the 1996 Butkus Award winner.

Colorado won 11 games the season Johnson and Russell went for over 100 tackles each.

Colorado won five games last year.

And no one is comparing Drew Lewis and Rick Gamboa to Matt Russell and Ted Johnson.

Arguably, the main reason Lewis and Gamboa each went over 100 tackles last year was because the Buff defensive line was so ineffective that the linebackers were CU’s first line of defense, not the second.

Put another way, if Lewis and Gamboa each have 100 tackles this fall … CU will not be going bowling.

Will sophomores Akil Jones and Nate Landman, and/or redshirt freshmen Jonathan Van Diest and/or Chase Newman break through to make an impression … and give Lewis and Gamboa a break?

Will the outside linebackers be a pleasant surprise? Will it be the underclassmen – Jacob Callier and Carson Wells – who hold their “pencil” depth chart staring positions? Or will one of the junior college transfers – Alex Tchangam and Shamar Hamilton – break through?

Or will it be the year of redemption for Nu’umoto Falo?

Many questions … not sure about the answers …

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One Reply to “In-Depth Depth Chart – Linebackers”

  1. Mighty Buff Linebackers YeHaaaaaaa

    The improvement mentioned is for the players and the coaches. As admitted by the linebacker coach who said he messed up and couldn’t react quick enough with adjustments because he was unfamiliar with the 3-4. Sad. But true. And honest. Clear example where the coaches could not put the players in the right position to win. Coaches design and make adjustments…..Coaches win Games.

    Assuming (and I do) the coaching staff has figured out how to design, teach and coach the defensive scheme, and they ( hope they do) play all the talent they have and not get stuck on the starters only (like Mac and lindy did with Sefo……burned him out early………even with big leads……….the ran him….oh well….) because this will be the best SET of inside and outside lb’s at CU in a long time.
    Dismiss the “get click headlines”…….. blaring……….”lack of experience”………………….and…………..
    ………………….EMBRACE THE TALENT AND THE DEPTH OF THAT TALENT………………………..
    which is lying in wait for the unsuspecting.

    Uh Oh Buffalo

    Note: I have been sucked into believing this years Mighty Buff defense is just gonna be lights out.

    Note 2: I have also been sucked into believing this years Mighty Buff offense too will be lights out.

    Note 3: It is clear to me also that Mac is NOT the Mac of last year. Thank God. HIs crappy grump ol whoa is me, I’m unanimous COY and yur not..It’s not my fault blah blah is gone. Nice to see. As I mentioned elsewhere. This is a happy team. I’m happy

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