Positional Outlooks: Inside Linebacker

Welcome aboard David! - Jon 

(This is my first post as an official "Contributor" and let me tell you, it feels good! Thanks so much to Jon and Bob for noticing and rewarding my unhealthy obsession with the Buffs. And to Ash for linking to my Practice Reports and saying such nice things about me)

I'm writing some positional outlooks for our beloved Buffaloes. They are based on what I've read and seen of the players we've got.

Thoughts:

Sure, we lose some experience here, but we gain a ton of athleticism and skill. Mike Sipili is finally looking pretty consistent out there (funny what your last year of eligibility will do to your mindset) and Major looks like he will be a mainstay. The guys behind them look pretty good too, and we go at least two-deep at both spots with minimal drop off. And some of the guys vying for time are still young. It also looks like they added a couple of keepers this year.

The cast:

  • Michael Sipili, Sr
    • There was a time when it looked like he might not be able to stay with the team, but he has stuck around just fine. He is one very athletic guy too, and he finally seems to have settled at the perfect weight. He has added pounds and dropped them seemingly every year, trying to find the perfect balance of strength and speed, and he finally has it right. He is as strong as an ox, and he can run. And the fact that he played in and started games each season he has been here does not hurt. He got onto the field a bunch as a true freshman, if you remember, and was pretty good. He has since learned his lesson and overcome some adversity, so he is another good guy for the young ones to learn from. He knows the system well, and he makes whoever lines up next to him better. His tackling technique has improved, as has his explosiveness. He should be an impact player for us in his final season.
  • Evan Harrington, Jr
    • He has been talked about a bunch as being a workout warrior. He definitely translates that onto the field, too. He has been running with the threes, but not because he hasn't been playing well. It's because there are some good players (and guys who know the system) ahead of him. But after another couple weeks of practice, I could see him moving up the depth chart a bit. He's fast and he can hit like a guy 20 or 30 lbs bigger. He's short, but we have had successful short LBs before. If we could continue to attend practices, he would definitely be a guy to keep your eye on.
  • Jon MajorSo
    • He's starting to look like the guy we all thought he would be when we signed one of the top LBs in the country and the best player in the state. He is recovering nicely from the nasty knee injury, and looks to be as fast as he was before, if not even a little faster. He can run and hit and he is really instinctive. He still has some technique stuff to work on, like shedding blocks and he could stand to be better at tracking guys in coverage, but I am being pretty nitpicky with him. He's awesome. This year he should be good, and he could be great the year after that. He should be one of the next noteworthy CU LBs that Cabral has pumped out. He seems to have a starting position pretty well locked up, but they definitely will do some rotating with guys to keep them fresh. Like I said, he could stand to improve in coverage a bit, and they guy behind him is a former safety.
  • Patrick Mahnke, Jr
    • He actually has the most playing experience behind Sipili, only it is not at LB. He was moved from Safety after last season, a move which seems to be working out pretty well. He was a little slow as a safety, and now he is a pretty fast LB. He is still on the small side (He can't be any more than 215, if that), but he was always a hard hitter, and he brings some attitude. I think folks will remember the big hit he had against Nebraska two years ago that may or may not have been slightly dirty (but we don't mention that part...). Anyway, he's definitely in the mix, and he adds some flexibility to the defense with his skill set. He really is better suited for LB, but he has some of the coverage skills of a DB. He will definitely get some snaps.
  • Douglas Rippy, So
    • Here's a guy who, like Conrad Obi, passes the sight test. He's pretty chiseled and muscular, and he's also darn fast, but he hasn't found a way to translate that to the field. When he did play last, he looked lost, and he has since switched to ILB from the outside. He has got a lot of work to do in the recognition and technique areas, but he's got all the physical tools. Hopefully he can put it all together, but he has a few years to do it.
  • Derrick Webb, Fr
    • One of the big reasons that Rippy is a third-stringer, is this guy. Webb also has some pretty impressive physical tools, and he has a better grasp of the defense. He looks completely different than he did last year. Last year he looked soft and almost pudgy. He is lean and mean this year, with a completely different body shape. Seeing some of these guys change so much physically so quickly makes me think we've got a pretty good Strength and Conditioning Coach in Jeff Pittman. Anyway, Webb will be fighting for snaps this year, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him get some time on the field. He played in place of Mike Sipili in the scrimmage.
  • Gage Greer, Fr
    • Great name aside, I don't know too much about him. He apparently is a Boulder kid, mostly likely walking onto the team. I've seen him in some drills, and he's got sufficient size, but that's about all I've noticed. He's competing with some talented guys, but we'll see what becomes of him.
  • Lowell Williams, Fr
    • The only things that will keep him off the field this year are his size and the guys ahead of him. He is really thin, but he can hit like a freight train and has great instincts. His frame can handle a bunch more weight, so we will see how he looks next year. He should be a player. Doesn't look lost out there like many freshmen do (in fact, very few of our freshmen look lost out on the field).

In 2010:

Sipili will get his chance to shine and Major will finally start to gain the experience he needs to become great. We've got a pretty physical group of LBs, and they're all improving their technique and recognition. They will benefit from having an improved D-line, and they should be pretty productive this year. I can also see them causing far more turnovers than they did last season. While they aren't the most experienced bunch of guys on the field, that shouldn't hinder them too much. And they've got the advantage of having one of the best position coaches in the country.

Beyond 2010:

I hope they consider red-shirting Evan Harrington, because we can probably get by just fine without him this year and it would be nice to stretch his eligibility out while he learns the ins-and-outs of the defense. But we have a relatively bright future here at ILB. Majors will continue to improve as he tries to live up to his top billing coming out of high school. Webb looks like he can be a monster, and Williams looks like he'll bring some talent to the table eventually. If we can get solid contributions from Mahnke and Rippy, we'll be set here for a while. But that always seems to be the case under Coach Cabral.

Positional Outlooks:

Running back
Defensive tackle

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to email me at: David.Gerhardt@gmail.com

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