Countdown to Spring Practices – Linebackers

Program Note … CU spring practices open on March 31st. Over the next few weeks, there will be a unit-by-unit preview posted every other day leading up to the start of spring ball.

Previously posted

— Outside Linebackers (9) … Returning starter (bold):

  • Seniors … Jamar Montgomery; Guy Thomas; Chance Main (TR)
  • Juniors … None
  • Sophomores … Joshka Gustav; Alvin Williams
  • Red-shirt freshmen … Devin Grant; Zion Magalei
  • 2022 Signees … Shakaun Bowser; Kaden Ludwick

— Inside Linebackers (10) … Returning starter (bold):

  • Seniors … Quinn Perry; Robert Barnes
  • Juniors …
  • Sophomores … Marvin Ham; Isaac Hurtado (TR)
  • Red-shirt freshmen … Mister Williams
  • 2022 Signees … Eoghan Kerry (EE); Aubrey Smith

The Stats … 

It may come as a surprise, but the leading tackler among the linebackers last year was neither Nate Landman nor Carson Wells, but Quinn Perry, who also led the team in the quirky stat, “Quarterback Chase Downs”, with three. That being said, there are few fans who don’t recognize the hole in the defense left behind with the departure of Nate Landman and Carson Wells to the NFL.

Including transfer Chance Main – who is in Boulder for spring practices – CU has five senior linebackers. That sounds like a positive stat. But … Are these linebackers, who have yet to dominate on the field, talented players who just didn’t get a chance to get on the field as they waited their turn … Or are they not as good as the Buff Nation would hope?

The 2021 stats from the remaining roster:

  • Quinn Perry … 12 games … 483 plays … 78 tackles (53 unassisted) … four tackles for loss … three third down stops …
  • Robert Barnes … 11 games … 376 plays … 44 tackles (33 unassisted) … three tackles for loss … five third down stops …
  • Guy Thomas … 7 games … 266 plays … 36 tackles (28 unassisted) … two sacks … two forced fumbles …
  • Marvin Ham … 9 games … 138 plays … 20 tackles (14 unassisted) … two third down stops …
  • Joshua Gustav … 10 games … 190 plays … 13 tackles (11 unassisted) … one sack … four third down stops …
  • Devin Grant … 3 games … 145 plays … 13 tackles (11 unassisted) … three tackles for loss … two third down stops …

Nationally … 

  • Passing defense … 242.9 yds/game … 83rd nationally
  • Total defense … 436.0 yds/game … 101st nationally
  • Scoring defense … 28.5 pts/game … 77th nationally
  • Third down conversions, defense … .451 … 113th nationally
  • Sacks/game … 1.17 … 126th nationally
  • Tackles for loss/game … 4.8 … 96th nationally

Comments … Chris Wilson returns as CU’s defensive coordinator, and will be stepping in as outside linebackers coach, replacing Brian Michalowski. The inside linebacker coach also returns, but Mark Smith has had more on his mind this spring other than replacing his starters. Smith was one of those who lost everything in the fires in December. On December 30th, Smith tweeted out:

Just got word that every material possession we had today is now gone. Our home, cars, and everything we had in our home lost to the fires that ripped through our community. Thank you to those who reached out. Processing how to completely start over and grateful for our health.

While Smith may have been distracted this spring, the loss may have served as a bonding agent between Smith and his players. Robert Barnes, in particular, has reached out to Smith and his family.,

On December 31st, Barnes posted a tweet to Smith, writing, “Next season is for you coach .. you have my word. That’s my Why.” Barnes also reached out to Smith’s 17-year old daughter, Makenna and offered his support to her.

“My daughter said she doesn’t remember, ever, a time when one of my players has reached out to her really about anything and that meant the world to her,” Smith said. “Of course, all the players have been messaging me back and forth during the course of this, but that tweet (from Barnes) meant the world to me. It just shows that these relationships matter and there’s genuine care and concern for one another.”

There are many different ways to motivate a unit. With a linebacker roster taking the field for the first time in forever without Nate Landman and Carson Wells, anything which will help the linebackers get motivated for the season is appreciated. The CU defensive line is suspect, and the talented defensive backfield has been gutted by transfers.

A talented linebacker corps can fill holes in a defense, but this group has to prove it is up to the task, and will have a full complement of bodies on hand this spring, hoping to make an impression.

Burning questions for spring … 

  • Simple enough – who will step up to replace Nate Landman and Carson Wells? No easy task, but the answer – or the lack thereof – will go along way towards the question of whether or not the CU defense will be competitive this fall.
  • Will the Transfer Portal start paying off for the Buff defense? Robert Barnes … Jack Lamb (Update: Lamb has medically retired) … Chance Main … Isaac Hurtado … the University of Colorado is relying heavily on the Transfer Portal to infuse talent into the linebacker unit. Will the 2022 season be the season when the newbies pay dividends?
  • CU has some great linebacker names on the roster – Joshka Gustav, Zion Magalei, Shakaun Bowser, Mister Williams. They all sound like linebackers. Will one or more earn their way into CU linebacker lore?


2 Replies to “Countdown to Spring Practices – Linebackers”

  1. Morning,

    Well 20 linebackers for 3 spots.
    Lotta plays.
    Lotta experience
    Lotta depth.
    Lotta work to do.

    Where is the weakness in this groupt.
    Is the 4—3 gonna change their lives?

    Certainly there will be in reality a 5-2 offering (disguised—blitz?) Would like more of this action.
    But still comes to the run stoppers. Dline has to do their jobs. What are there 10 of those guys. Gonna need more. Several more.

    All this what if, and maybe that, and did you see that, and I heard that is fun. Yup

    Hurry September

    2022 Buffs…………….The story

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