Countdown to Spring Practices – Linebackers

… Program Note … CU spring practices open on March 19th. Over the next few weeks, there will be a unit-by-unit preview posted every week leading up to the start of spring ball.

In addition to a look at the current roster and questions which Coach Prime & Co. will be looking to address this spring, we’ll take a look at the odds of whether the described unit is likely to face attrition after the spring. The CU roster is currently hovering around 95 scholarship players, with a deadline of August 1st to get to the NCAA mandated maximum total of 85.

Previously posted:

Up next Friday: Defensive Backs

— Linebackers (10) …

Returning starter (bold); walk-on (italics); early-enrollee (EE):

  • Seniors … LaVonta Bentley (TR) …
  • Juniors … Marvin Ham … Isaac Hurtado
  • Sophomores … Mister Williams … Eoghan Kerry … Aubrey Smith … Demouy Kennedy (TR) … Thomas Notarainni … Caiden Robertson
  • Red-shirt freshmen … Jack Remington … Nathan Hallmark(TR)
  • 2023 Signees … Victory Johnson (EE) … Morgan Pearson (EE) … Kofi Taylor-Barrocks

The Stats … 

2022 stats for returning players …

  • Marvin Ham … 195 plays … 13 tackles (7 unassisted) … four third down stops
  • Mister Williams … 116 plays … 9 tackles (6 unassisted) … one pass broken up
  • Aubrey Smith … 79 plays … 10 tackles (7 unassisted) … three third down stops
  • Isaac Hurtado … 2 plays …
  • Elsewhere ...
  • LaVonte Bentley … at Clemson … Played in 40 games with two starts, totaling 73 tackles, 11.5 for loss, five-and-a-half sacks, two pass breakups, and two forced fumbles in 417 defensive snaps … Played in all 13 games in 2022 registering 21 tackles, three for a loss including one sack in 163 defensive snaps
  • Demouy Kennedy … at Alabama … one assisted tackle

Nationally … CU in 2022 … 

  • Passing defense … 264.7 yards/game … 113th in the nation
  • Rushing defense … 245.1 yards/game … 131st (last) in the nation
  • Team sacks … 9 … 131st (last) in the nation
  • First downs allowed/defense …  309 … 121st in the nation
  • Team tackles for loss … 4.1/game … 126th in the nation
  • Total defense … 509.8 yards/game … 130th in the nation
  • Scoring defense … 44.5 points/game … 131st (last) in the nation

What to watch for …

Colorado ranked 78th in the nation in the Transfer Portal last season, but one of the few bright spots was graduate transfer linebacker Josh Chandler-Semedo. The senior starter from West Virginia came to Boulder and led the team in tackles, with 101 (73 unassisted). Chandler-Semedo also led the team in sacks (3) and tackles for loss (10).

Chandler-Semedo’s running mate on the inside was fellow Quinn Perry, who had 18 career starts at Colorado. Perry was third on the team in tackles (safety Trevor Woods was second), finishing the season with 77 tackles (47 unassisted), with a team-leading nine third-down stops.

With both senior starters gone – from a defense which was abysmal – the new coaching staff is truly starting from scratch. Mister Williams started two games at inside linebacker last fall, while Marvin Ham has four career starts on his resume. Both have playing experience, but are have not enough game time to be considered the clear favorites to start in 2023.

The coaching staff has brought in two transfers (so far), to go with three true freshmen. One of the transfers, Demouy Kennedy from Alabama, won’t be on campus until this summer, so Buff fans will focus their attention on Clemson senior transfer LaVonta Bentley. Of the freshmen signed by the new coaching staff, two – Victory Johnson and Morgan Pearson – have enrolled early, so there are at least some fresh bodies to try and fill the void.

Taking on the job of molding the linebacker crew is assistant coach Andre Hart. Hart is one of eight former Jackson State assistants and/or analysts to follow Sanders to Colorado. However, Hart was one of the few assistants that coached with Sanders before he took the job at JSU.

About a decade ago, Hart went to volunteer in Dallas, Texas, which was where Prime Prep Academy was located. He connected with Sanders that day and they discussed their ambitions for the future. “I told him I want to be a head coach”, Hart said, “and since that day has happened, he has brought me along and taken me everywhere that he’s been.”

Experimenting with alignments and evaluating players will be Hart’s task this spring.

“I can’t wait to see them on the field with pads on, though, so I can get a true evaluation of the game as they play it, but right now, they’re eager,” Hart told CUSportsReport. “Their eyes are open, they’re soaking everything up like a sponge and they’re ready to go and they believe in the change that we have going on here.

“Sometimes you come into a program, like we went to Jackson State and you have to figure out, how do you change the culture? Will you keep the same kids or not? They’re making it very difficult on us and who we decide to keep and who we may have to move on from.”

The phrase, “who we decide to keep, and who we may have to move on from” could be the mantra for the entire team this spring, and the linebacker corps is certainly not immune.

Andre Hart talks about his players … 

Linebackers coach Andre Hart meets with the press on March 2nd … 

Burning questions for spring … 

  • Is Clemson transfer LaVonte Bentley a star-in-the-making, who was playing behind too many blue chip players for the Tigers? Or is he a highly-rated high school prospect who has never lived up to his potential?;
  • With CU adding five new inside linebackers to the roster this season, how many of the five returning scholarship inside linebackers will make it through to the fall roster?; and
  • With CU having lost both of its starters on the inside from last season, and with no significant starting experience among the ten linebackers on the roster, will the coaching staff be trolling the Transfer Portal for starting experience later this spring?

Attrition likelihoodMedium … It’s hard to imagine that there will be ten scholarship inside linebackers on the roster come August 1st. That being said, it’s also not hard to imagine that the coaching staff will be sifting through the Transfer Portal ranks to find an inside linebacker who has starting experience. So … there should be some attrition here, but injuries and the inability to find anyone better to fill the roster may compel the coaching staff to hang onto more inside linebackers than they would like, should there not be sufficient separation among the ranks during spring drills.


One Reply to “Countdown to Spring Practices – Linebackers”

  1. Mister Williams – have said many times I like Mister Williams film in high school. He has added size and showed some quickness last year but he also made some horrifically bad reads last year. Now some of that would be becuase the defensive alignment last year was truly the worst defense I have ever seen, and some of it could be that I think the linebacker coach wasn’t very good, and some of it could be just new player. Good coaching, good alignments and reps fix a lot of bad play. I still have hope.

    Hamm – for as much as he has played and as little as I have seen, I expect him to be lapped. I think he is an attrition candidate.

    Kerry – he has added some size since he was a freshman and looks filled out on the well off videos. I like what I saw in the spring game last year as a true freshman but that was against our offense last year so it is not saying much. I think this is an intriguing possibility.

    Johnson – kid looks the part, but a true freshman middle linebacker is only done once in a great great while.

    Smith – love the tackle to play ratio above but have to say I don’t remember seeing him in the game. I wonder if this is the sleeper.

    No idea on the two transfers. I think the guy from Clemson is pretty much a lock at one spot unless hurt so it is a fight between the other guys for the number 2. I see a potential for a good group but it will require a much better scheme than last years, which put linebackers in a position they could not succeed at, and better coaching, much better coaching. I watched a few Jackson state games last year and I liked how the linebackers played under hart so I believe they will have better coaching this year than last. I have to think the defensive alignment will be better under Kelly as well.

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