BOULDER CO - NOVEMBER 13: Interim head coach Brian Cabral of the Colorado Buffaloes leads his team against the Iowa State Cyclones at Folsom Field on November 13 2010 in Boulder Colorado. Cabral earned his first win as he made his debut as interim head coach after head coach Dan Hawkins was fired this week as Colorado defeated Iowa State 34-14. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
With recruiting heating up and the 2011 regular season around the corner, it is a good time to assess how the Buffs are looking at each position going into the season and for the upcoming years. So far we have covered quarterbacks, running backs, tight ends, offensive line, wide receivers and the defensive line. Next up are the linebackers. Below is the depth at the position by eligibility year as we stand today:
|Summer Eligibility Chart - Linebackers|
|Patrick Mahnke||Jon Major||Derrick Webb|
|Douglas Rippy||Liloa Nobriga|
|REDSHIRT FRESHMEN||2011 SIGNEES||2012 VERBALS|
|Lowell Williams||Brady Daigh||Clay Norgard|
2011 Season and Depth: The Buffs lost two of its better linebackers from 2010 in Michael Sipili, Colorado's leading tackler, and B.J. Beatty, one of the guys who could provide pressure on the opposing team's quarterback. This year, linebackers coach Brian Cabral won't have his usual great depth at the position and will be counting on his top players to stay healthy and others to show their true potential. The Buffs don't have much experience returning and if a player like Jon Major gets hurt, it could really set the unit back.
Major, a 6'2" 230 pound junior, will be counted on to have a big year for the Buffs' defense in 2011. Colorado has a few players to fill in for Sipili and Beatty but none have proven themselves like Major. Last year, Major sprained his MCL in the seventh game of the year against Texas Tech, causing him to miss the rest of the season. Before he was injured, Major led the team in tackles with 57, averaging 8.1 per game. Even missing the last four games, he finished fifth on the team in tackles. He was one of the most consistent Buff defenders when healthy, registering five 8+ tackle games in the seven contests he played in.
Major totaled ten tackles this spring in the three scrimmages, second amongst linebackers behind linebacker Doug Rippy who had 24. Many are looking to Major to provide stability and leadership to a linebacker corps that is not as deep as in years past. The junior from Colorado has been named a team captain in 2011.
As mentioned above, Rippy had a great spring but certainly has less game experience at the linebacker position compared to the others on the depth chart. Buff fans have heard it repeatedly for the last three years: Rippy is one of the most physical gifted athletes on the team. He looks the part of a division one linebacker and is one of the first guys you notice on the field as someone who physically belongs. But that imposing stature and athletic ability hasn't landed the junior-to-be much game action in his stay at Colorado. A year ago, he only saw action in six games, 27 plays overall registering four tackles.
That all may be changing in 2011.
The 6'2" 225 pounder had a breakout spring, running with the first team linebackers and catching the eye of the coaching staff.
"We always knew he had the ability, it was just a matter of time before he would break out," Colorado linebackers coach Brian Cabral said. "He's having a breakthrough spring."
The coaching change may have also caused Rippy to rededicate himself to football. From the end of the 2010 season to the start of spring ball, he dropped 22 pounds working hard with new strength and conditioning coach Malcolm Blacken. He was quoted many times this offseason how he is faster and stronger.
Rippy is still with the first team this fall as the starting inside linebacker. He played sparingly in the first fall scrimmage due to the starters being on a play count to avoid injury, a good sign for Rippy as he looks to have the inside track for the starting spot.
As for the third linebacker spot, the odds on favorite looks to be sophomore Derrick Webb. Webb saw action a year ago and played in seven games as a redshirt freshman registering 17 tackles. Derrick was injured this spring which allowed Rippy to make a move up the depth chart. If Webb stumbles, sophomore Liloa Nobriga is waiting in the wings. Nobriga has the second most tackles of the returning linebackers behind Major. Senior Patrick Mahnke is expected to also see considerable action this season as well.
6'2" 235 pound true freshman Brady Daigh has made an impact already this fall. He is running with the second team and has gained a good amount of attention from Cabral and head coach Jon Embree. It is apparent that Daigh isn't afraid to hit. He did very well in the first fall scrimmage and continues to see a good amount of time.
2011 Signees: The Buffs signed three linebackers in the 2011 class in Brady Daigh, Woodson Greer and K.T. Tuumalo. Daigh, as mentioned above has already made a move up the depth chart this fall. Daigh, from Mullen High School in Colorado, came to CU known as a guy who can make big hits and he has done that so far. Daigh was the first player to commit to Colorado in this 2011 class. Scout.com listed him as the 32nd best middle linebacker and rivals.com ranks him as the 35th best inside linebacker in the country. He earned first-team All-Colorado and All-State honors by the Denver Post as a senior.
K.T. Tuumalo, a 6'2" 195 pound inside linebacker from Hawaii, certainly needs to add some weight but he had quite a good high school career. As a senior, rivals.com ranked him as the 5th best player in the state of Hawaii and the second best linebacker. He earned third-team All-State honors and was named first-team All-ILH and was the Defensive Most Valuable Player for Punahou. He totaled 97 total tackles, with 18 for losses including 12 quarterback sacks, along with two interceptions.
Woodson Greer, a 6'3" 235 pound linebacker from California, certainly has the best college size of the incoming freshmen backers. As a senior, scout.com ranked him as the 48th best outside linebacker in the nation and the seventh best from California. He also earned first-team All-CIF Southern Section Western Division, first-team All-Mission League and first-team All-South Bay Area honors. For his career, he totaled 281 total tackles, which included 113 solo tackles and 12.5 sacks.
2012 Verbals: The Buffs have one linebacker verbal in the 2012 class. Clay Norgard, a 6'2" 240 pound Colorado prep, is rated as a three star prospect and the 37th best linebacker in the country by rivals.com. He also ranked as the seventh best prospect in the state of Colorado. His dad played for the Buffs back in the 80's.
Bottom Line for Buffs Fans: Jon Major headlines the linebackers for the Colorado Buffaloes in 2011. Major is being counted on to have a healthy, breakout year to replace Michael Sipili and B.J. Beatty from a year ago. If Doug Rippy maintains his dominance throughout the year like he has shown so far and Derrick Webb continues to improve, CU should be solid at the spot. The linebackers will certainly benefit from an experienced group of defensive linemen in front. Staying healthy will be key since Colorado lacks experienced depth at the position. Look for true freshman Brady Daigh to see some action this year and potentially make an impact.