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Fall Camp Roster Review – Outside Linebackers

Previously Posted …

The Roster … 

bold = returning starter … italicized = walk-on … *= early enrollee (in school for spring practices) … TR … Transfer …

— Outside linebackers (7):

  • Seniors … none
  • Juniors … Carson Wells … Guy Thomas … Jamar Montgomery … Robert Barnes (TR)
  • Sophomores … none
  • Red-shirt freshmen … Joshka Gustav
  • True freshmen … Devin Grant
  • 2021 Signees … Zion Magalei … Mason Midgett

The Stats … 

How important was Nate Landman to the Colorado defense? Despite being sidelined for the year in the second quarter of the Utah game, Landman led the team in 61 tackles (49 unassisted). A distant second on the team was Derrion Rakestraw, who had 35 tackles for the year. Landman, on his way to being named to the first-team All-Pac-12 team (and second-team All-American team), also led the team in sacks (5), third down stops (13), and tackles for zero (7).

The only other linebacker to make a significant contribution last year was Carson Wells, who was third on the team in tackles (34 tackles, 26 unassisted), first in tackles for loss (9), second in sacks (4.5), second in third down stops (8), and tied for first in quarterback pressures (5). After that, you are down to Jonathan Van Diest (11 tackles in 81 plays) and Guy Thomas (seven tackles in 80 plays).

CU Nationally … 

  • Team Tackles for Loss … 8.2 per game … 7th in the nation
  • Third down conversion defense … .318 … 13th in the nation
  • First downs allowed, defense … 128 … 27th in the nation
  • Team sacks … 2.5/game … 45th in the nation
  • Passing yards allowed … 239.2 yds./game … 71st in the nation
  • Scoring defense … 31.67 pts./game … 77th in the nation
  • Total defense … 420.3 yds./game … 76th in the nation
  • Passes intercepted … 4 … 94th in the nation

What Others Say About CU’s Linebackers … 

Preseason Media All-Pac-12 All-Conference team … First team: Nate Landman … Honorable mention: Carson Wells

Athlon … Linebackers rated 7th in the Pac-12 … First team All-Pac-12: Nate Landman … Second-team All-Pac-12: Carson Wells … There is intriguing talent all over the defense. Outside linebacker Carson Wells racked up 16 tackles for loss in only six games … CU also hit the transfer portal for reinforcements on defense, picking up linebackers Robert Barnes (Oklahoma) and Jack Lamb (Notre Dame) 

Lindy’s … First team All-Pac-12: Nate Landman … Second-team All-Pac-12: Carson Wells … Linebacker Nate Landman has been one of the nation’s most active tacklers in each of the past three seasons, averaging 8.5 tackles per game in 2018, then 9.5, then 10.5 tackles last season … Carson Wells is also back after registering 6.5 sacks, most on the Pac-12’s second-most prolific sack-generating defense. 

Phil Steele’s … First team All-Pac-12: Nate Landman … Second-team All-Pac-12: Carson Wells … Projected starters: Carson Wells … Robert Barnes … Jack Lamb … Nate Landman … Landman was dominant once again, leading the team in tackles despite missing the second half against Utah and the bowl game. Carson Wells led the FBS with 2.67 tackles for loss and was the No. 2 tackler … The Landman/Wells combo is one of the nation’s best, and with the added talent, they are our No. 7 linebacker corps (and No. 1 in the Pac-12)

Karl Dorrell on his outside linebackers (post-practice quotes after the third fall practice) … “I think it’s really up to that group in terms of who wants to take it. We’re confident that we have the quality work of really good players in that spot but it is a challenging and very competitive situation for them because if they want the job, they have to be consistent, much like what Carson (Wells) is, and really compete within that group.”

“All three of those guys we were counting on playing but none of them has separated themselves enough to warrant for him to be the mainstay. I like it, but whoever wants it, they need to have the most consistency, the most production and match what Carson is doing on the other side. If it doesn’t quite add up that way, then we’ll continue to have the rotation.”

“But it’s a good situation because they’ve all gotten better. Joshka and Guy, Guy is healthy, back from his surgery getting transitioned in and getting reps. Jamar had a really good spring — he got a little bit dinged towards the end of spring with a concussion, but he was having a really good spring. All three of those guys have great qualities but no one’s taken the job yet. It’s really up to them.”

Comments … From the Daily CameraWells was sensational last season, racking up 16 tackles for loss in only six games. One of the better edge rushers in the Pac-12, he’ll lead this group and get the bulk of the snaps. CU often uses just one true outside linebacker at a time, and it will typically be Wells on the field. However, CU likes the development of Montgomery and Thomas and they could see their playing time increase this year. Gustav continues to get better and might be tough to keep off the field, as well. Grant, Magalei and Midgett are all young players who need some time to develop and their time could be coming in the future. In addition, the Buffs could use Arkansas transfer Blayne Toll – listed as a defensive end – in an outside backer role at times. Oklahoma transfer Robert Barnes is slated for inside linebacker, but he could move around and play some outside linebacker, as well.

Final word … If it were not for Nate Landman, Carson Wells would be considered to be the star of the defense. Wells has 21 starts to his credit, led the nation in tackles for loss, and was an honorable mention All-Pac-12 performer this past fall.

Despite the dominance, Wells didn’t collect many postseason honors … but his team recognizes his value.

“Obviously, you start this deal off with Carson Wells, a guy who had a really great season in an abbreviated year,” defensive coordinator Chris Wilson said. “Really good scheme fit for us.”

Wells suits the Buffs’ scheme because he knows the playbook and puts in the work to be ready on game days. Following a dominant 2020, Wells hasn’t backed off.

“He’s only improved this offseason, especially in the weight room,” Wilson said. “He had a really good spring, so I really believe just that his continued growth and the way he works and how important it is to him, he puts us in a great position to play well at that position.”

Guy Thomas and Joshka Gustav had their moments in 2020, but more will be expected from them in 2021. If they are not able to deliver, the Buffs may look to transfer Robert Barnes – the former five-star prospect from Oklahoma – to make an impact.

Between Wells, Montgomery and Thomas, Wilson said, “We’ve got a really good veteran group of guys there.”

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One Reply to “Fall Camp Roster Review – Outside Linebackers”

  1. Phil Steele is definitely most credible of the preseason magazine crowd. He does his own homework and is objective. I’ll take his word for it that the LBs are really really good.

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