Spring Practices Analysis – Linebackers

While information has been limited, there have been notes and quotes aplenty concerning each position. Over the next few weeks, we will review each unit on the team, along with analysis as to whether Buff fans should be C+ … Confident; C … Cautiously optimistic; or C- … Concerned.

 

Previously postedQuarterbacksRunning backsWide Receivers and Tight EndsOffensive LineDefensive Line …

My gradesQuarterbacks: C … Cautiously optimistic … Running backs: C- … Concerned … Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: C+ … Confident … Offensive Line: C- … Concerned … Defensive Line: C- … Concerned

Your Grades (from polls) … Quarterbacks: C … Cautiously optimistic (60%) … Running backs: C … Cautiously optimistic (64%) … Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: C+ … Confident (53%) … Offensive Line: C … Cautiously optimistic (52%); Concerned (45%) … Defensive Line: C … Cautiously optimistic (53%)

Linebackers

Notes

On paper, the Buffs appear to be in pretty good shape at linebacker.

The inside linebacker positions have both starters returning. Seniors Drew Lewis (119 tackles, 49 unassisted; two sacks; eight third down stops) and Rick Gamboa (117 tackles, 45 unassisted; one-half sack; ten third down stops). The pair teamed to become the first Buffs to each have over 100 tackles in a season since 2006.

At the other linebacker positions, there are also quality (potential) starters. At outside linebacker, sophomore Jacob Callier topped the depth chart at one position, while junior Nu’umoto Falo, reinstated to the team in January, atops the other list.

And … though CU technically plays a 3-4 base defense, more often than not you will see the “Buff backer” on the field for the Buffs. Inserted as a outside linebacker/safety hybrid, the Buffs signed junior college star Davion Taylor to fill this particular role in 2018.

Throw in some improving depth behind the starters (less, of course, Dante Sparaco, who was listed behind Jacob Callier on the depth chart at the end of spring practices, but is now transferring to Montana State), and it appears that the Buffs will be stronger at linebacker this fall.

But looks can be deceiving.

 

Quotes

… “You need good linebackers and you need a lot of them in a 3-4,” Mike MacIntyre said.  “We think we have a pretty good group.”

… “We have four guys that can step on the field and play,” defensive coordinator/outside linebackers coach Ross Els said. “Last fall, we played two guys the majority of the time, which was way too many snaps, but we didn’t feel like the other guys were quite ready to step on the field.”

To complement the experience of Gamboa and Lewis, the Buffs are encouraged by the continued development of sophomores Akil Jones and Nate Landman.

“That’s going to take a lot of pressure off of Drew Lewis and Rick Gamboa, which is huge,” Els said. “Not only for injury situations, but to keep them fresh throughout the year. I do like where we are with those four, but we have a long way to go to be ready for Pac-12 play.”

… “I’m getting better at reading the offensive linemen, their stances kind of give it away,” Drew Lewis said.  “I can see who’s pulling and who’s not. I’m getting better at that without Rick’s help. Rick’s good at calling that stuff out, so I’m trying to get that stuff down so we can both have it in our heads.”

… “It’s little bit of everything,” Els said when asked of the next step Nate Landman must take. “It’s reads, it’s understanding what everyone else does. The other day, we threw Nate in at the other inside linebacker position and his first reaction was, ‘I’m not quite sure what I’m doing.’ Well, he better know, because that guy is going to be doing the opposite of what you do, so you need to know what each guy is doing.”

Akil Jones earned the Greg Biekert Award, given to the teams’ most improved linebacker in spring. Last season, Jones played 22 snaps, with five tackles.  “He’s come back this spring on fire,” head coach Mike MacIntyre said.

… “We have some good competition out there (at outside linebacker),” defensive coordinator/outside linebackers coach D.J. Eliot said. “Guys are working hard. They’re making some mistakes, but that’s to be expected. It’s still wide open and we’ll see how it goes.”

Jacob Callier is quickly developing into a pass-rush specialist whose speed and “bend” on the outside help him get to the quarterback in a hurry. “He understands the speed you have to play at in major college football,” MacIntyre said. “He has the ability to rush the passer and that’s where we really need him to flourish.”

… “You’ve got Davion Taylor who will play at outside linebacker, but he’ll mainly play the Buff position where Ryan Moeller played,” said Mike MacIntyre. That’s the ability to pass-rush and do different things there. I’m excited about seeing him do that. Those are the guys that are working extremely hard on that area for us.”

 

Analysis … 

While CU has two 100-tackle performers returning at inside linebacker, there is still a great deal of improvement which will be required for the Buffs to post a winning record in 2018. Perhaps the best way to measure CU’s success will be if Drew Lewis and Rick Gamboa do not each have 100+ tackles this fall.

The development of Akil Jones and Nate Landman will hopefully allow Lewis and Gamboa to be spelled, increasing the overall level of play from the inside linebackers. “We have four guys that can step on the field and play,” said Els. “That’s going to take a lot of pressure off of Drew Lewis and Rick Gamboa, which is huge. Not only for injury situations, but to keep them fresh throughout the year. I do like where we are with those four, but we have a long way to go to be ready for Pac-12 play.”

At the outside linebacker position, the coaching staff is hoping that Davion Taylor, the junior college transfer from Coahoma Community College, is the real deal. If Taylor works out, the Buffs will have the luxury of moving Evan Worthington back to strong safety, which is his more natural position.

There are plenty of more “if’s” for the unit … If Jacob Callier can handle the starting role at one of the outside linebacker positions, then the loss of Dante Sparaco will not be felt … If the second junior college transfer at outside linebacker, Alex Tchangam (who won’t be on campus until this summer) can prove to be a pass rushing force, there will be more options for coach Els this fall … If the return of Nu’umoto Falo, formerly N.J. Falo, can be a rousing success, the Buffs will have another option for rushing the passer.

Last season, the Buffs recorded just 22 sacks, a substantial drop from the 36 they recorded in 2016. Of those 22 sacks last year, 14 were produced by graduated seniors — meaning not only must the Buffs increase their sack production, they must do it with relative newcomers.

There’s reasons to be excited about the CU linebacker corps … and there are reasons to wonder if there will be substantial improvement from the inconsistent production from the 2017 season.

 

Grade … C … Cautiously optimistic … 

5 Replies to “Notes and Quotes – LB’s”

  1. We are going to be great at LB this year. We now have 4 guys in the middle who can play and that is going to greatly improve both our run defense and pass defense. Our 2 sophomore middle linebackers might be more talented than our starting senior linebackers and that is exciting. Davion Taylor will change everything we do on the outside. Now we have a guy that can get to the quarterback with his speed. Callier was already our best pass rusher a year ago and he will be that much better this year. The new guy Alex T was a sack artist at his junior college so he will add to our ability to get after the QB. Falo was a good pass rusher 2 years ago and looks to be the starter this year. Falo at starting Outside LB with Callier backing him up should be a great combination. When we go big and use 2 outside linebackers, we can throw in Alex T and Wells.

    I see this being the strength of our team this year. I give this group a grade of C+. Over 200 tackles return along with our best 2 pass rushers in Falo and Callier. Add a superstar in the making in Taylor plus a rising wells and a big fast JUCO in Alex T and this is a really exciting group.

  2. If the over/under on sacks in 2018 is 30 (and since I just made it up, it may as well be) I’ll take the over.

    Not sure they’ve got a guy who can pick up Jimmy Gilbert’s slack from 2016, but… sure sounds like they could, either in one or two dudes (Falo, Callier) or by committee. I like the fact that they’re feeling good (and what limited action we’ve seen from them reinforces this) about the improving depth behind Gamboa and Lewis, too.

    Go Buffs.

  3. First off my golf game is so bad right now, even ol az could beat me and for sure I would be no match for him on the windmill hole. Billy you would be giving me 20. Different Note: Ol fodger, you I would whip regardless.

    Second, I like these short little write ups by Stu, as they fit my attention span pretty well and do not interfere with any scheduled or unscheduled naps

    Third, looking at the grades given by the readers, the DBLLE, (Dominant Buff Living Life Experience) is alive and well and comes shining through:

    WAIT UNTIL NEXT YEAR
    WAIT UNTIL NEXT YEAR
    WAIT UNTIL NEXT YEAR

    Evidence. 1 C+, 5 C Grades (including this write up)

    Mein Gott this is perfect dissertation Material “How to survive your dreams that hardly ever happen if ever.”

    Fourth, after many years even some of the most ardent fans lose their way and no longer can handle the DBLLE. Hope no longer springs eternal. Dusty’s 45 version as been cracked and mutilated. It is a sad day. Saw one go down the rathole last fall. Think he made it back but certainly not in the same condition he left.

    His grading: 1 C+, 2 C, 3 C-

    This would put him in the lower echelon of the DBLLE and on the staircase of falling down and out completely of being a member of this fanatical radical blinded by the light version of Mighty Buff Fans ……Not the rathole please

    Facts is facts and bankers figure and figures lie. (What?) OH YA. “Into the Valley of death rode the six hundred” Ze Lemmings follow who is in charge even after 6 years (What?) King Mickey has no clothes (What?) I really believe that I really do (What?) That player doesn’t know what he was talking about (What?)
    I am the unanimous coach of the year and you are not (What? Wait that was 2016) 1 out of 5 success years, leave me alone. Oh okay.

    Uh Oh is this the year of the rebirth or the samo-samo Mighty Buffalo

    Note: Some men understand that in times of desperation one must bow down to the wife and get help. As we/you know she knows more than we/you do about certain/most situations as well as the ticking of some people. (Don’t ignore this fact or be doomed to lose more bets than you win.) Tough life to lead

    Note 2: Take a memo Stu.

    1. Boy oh boy, after just trying to make sense of all that it finally came to me. You see we are not a legal MJ state, yet. VK must reside where the prevailing winds blow from Pearl St. or wherever all the smokers hang out and gather in a cumulus mass right over his adobe.

  4. I’m actually pretty psyched on our Linebackers. Looks like they are going to make a huge improvement from last year.

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