Spring Practices … First Look: Linebackers

Program Note … Spring practices will begin February 23rd (Spring Game: March 17th). Leading up to spring ball, previews will be posted for each unit of the 2018 Colorado roster.

Previously posted: QuarterbacksWide ReceiversTight Ends/FullbacksRunning Backs … Offensive LineDefensive Line … Up next: Defensive Backs


The roster: 

Players lost (with 2017 season stats) … Derek McCartney (38 career games; 36 starts … 55 tackles – 39 unassisted) … Trent Headley (one games … no stats) … Bryan Meek (no stats)


OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (10 scholarship):

Seniors: Terran Hasselback; Michael Mathewes
Juniors: Shamar Hamilton; Nu’umoto Falo … Alex Tchangam (committed 2/2)
Sophomores: Sam Bennion; Jacob Callier; Dante Sparaco
Redshirt freshmen: Chase Newman; Carson Wells
True freshmen: Joshka Gustav

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (7 scholarship):

Seniors: Rick Gamboa; Drew Lewis
Juniors: Davion Taylor
Sophomores: Akil Jones; Nate Landman
Redshirt freshmen: Jonathan Van Diest
True freshmen: Clyde Moore


The stats (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

Terran Hasselbach … Played in 11 games; one start … 217 snaps … 13 tackles (eight unassisted) … One tackle for loss; four third down stops

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

Michael Mathewes … Played in seven games … 128 snaps … 10 tackles (five unassisted) … One pass broken up

Dante Sparaco … Played in four games … 32 snaps … Three tackles (one unassisted) … One-half sack

Davion Taylor … Played in eight games (Coahoma Community College, Magnolia, Mississippi) … Ranked second on the team in tackles with 87, including three for losses and he added three pass breakups and one interception


On paper, the Buffs appear to be fairly well set at linebacker.

While Colorado plays a 3-4 base defense, that isn’t often the lineup on the field. More often than not, a nickel back replaces a traditional linebacker (in two-thirds of the games in 2017, Ryan Moeller, playing nickel back, was in the starting lineup). Throw in CU’s “Buff Back”, which is a safety/outside linebacker hybrid, and you really only had two true linebackers on the field consistently for the Buffs last year.

Drew Lewis and Rick Gamboa were those two linebackers, and the pair, not surprisingly, they led the team in tackles. Gamboa was on the field for 847 snaps last season (117 tackles), while Drew Lewis participated in 821 snaps (119 tackles). Only two other Buff defenders – Evan Worthington and Afolabi Laguda – were in for at least 800 defensive plays last fall.

So, with Lewis and Gamboa both back, the linebacking corps will have a quiet spring, right?

As Lee Corso would say, however … “Not so fast my friend”.

There is plenty of reason to pay attention to news concerning the CU linebackers this February and March.

First, there are two juniors you will be hearing a great deal about.

Junior college transfer Davion Taylor is a good candidate for the Buff Backer position, replacing the departed Ryan Moeller. Taylor comes to CU from Coahoma Community College in Mississippi, and was ranked by 247Sports.com as a 4-star prospect, the seventh-ranked junior college prospect in the country and No. 1 at outside linebacker (He was also rated as a 4-star prospect by ESPN). At 6’3″, 220-pounds, Taylor is primed to step in and contribute immediately.

Junior Nu’umoto Falo may not be a name which is immediately recognizable to many Buff fans, but most will remember N.J. Falo, who was an up-and-coming star before two suspensions removed him from the team. Now reinstated, Falo is determined to make the most of his third chance.

“I did make mistakes in life, but no matter what, if I get knocked back down, it’s up to me whether I get back up,” Falso told the Daily Camera. “I’ve been staying focused on getting back. To me, it isn’t about what people think about me; it’s about myself and how I come back from it.

“I have two more years left. I’m ready to come back and do what I need to do. I want to lead the Pac-12 in sacks. That’s my main goal. I know I have it in me. I know it’s a big goal for me and it’s going to take a lot of hard work, but I’ve been doing it since I came back. I’m really excited.”

Several other players will have their chance to make a name for themselves this spring:

— Sophomore Nate Landman was primarily a special teams player throughout much of the 2017 season, taking the field for only 20 plays in the first ten games. In the final two games of the season, however, Landman was on the field for 59 plays, recording 11 tackles (eight unassisted), three tackles for loss and three third down stops.

— Redshirt freshmen Jonathan Van Diest, Chase Newman and Carson Wells were part of the heralded CU Recruiting Class of 2017. The trio sat out their true freshmen seasons, and will be given their first opportunity for playing time in 2018.

CU Defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot is also the outside linebackers coach. Assisting him is inside linebackers coach Ross Els. Both were new to the program last spring, with Els not joining the staff until late February (after spring practices had already begun). Both have now had a year to get to know their charges, and implement their system.

Much of the talent from last season returns, with two experienced juniors – Taylor and Falo – joining ready to vie for immediate playing time. With the late addition of junior college transfer Alex Tchangam (who will be in Boulder this summer, with three seasons to play two), the Buffs now have 11 outside linebackers on the roster.

On paper, the Buffs appear to be fairly well set at linebacker … but there will also be attrition. Spring practices, 2018, will be as much about who will not be on the team in 2018 as it is about who will receive the most playing time.

Regardless of how many players may remain on the team come September, one fact is clear:

There remains a great need for improvement from the unit if Colorado is to post a winning record in 2018.


7 Replies to “Spring Ball First Look: LB’s”

  1. Fly Eagles Fly
    Run Ralphie Run

    So what groups ya got left Stu?

    Kicking (ST?)


    Alrighty then.

    So since golf has been limited and rocking through the tax prep, I went looking back on the other groups your penned.

    Must I say this? Lotta good stuff going on prior to the spring.

    Some Ol guys moved on.
    Good returning guys
    Excellent young-uns getting on board

    Some coaching changes. (Good ones)

    All in all the “Forward fantasy” can be built nicely?


    Note: Did you realize how many people are on the coaching staff? Sheesh. Okay take away the admin assistants. And still holy moly.


      1. Yo dilly willy,

        Due diligence allows one to make excellent intellectual decisions.

        Clearly doing so is not your strong point hence your limited capability in commenting.

        Dilly Willy

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