The linebacking unit of the 2012 Buffaloes will be the backbone of a defense that will be relying on a number of freshmen and inexperienced contributors. Fortunately, they should be able to be the consistent force that the defense will need. Especially if the depth that Coach Cabral has been developing can give us some relief snaps. Let's take a looksee!
- Jon Major, Sr - He is back outside at the Sam LB spot, which is where he can really play to his strengths. Hopefully he continues to regain the elite speed that he showed before his knee injuries early in his time at CU, but he's valuable even without it. He is still strong shedding blocks and filling against the run, but with the added speed, could be a true weapon in coverage. Even so, he's solid and dependable and he will benefit from having larger defensive ends this season. He won't make quite the highlight hits that Rippy can, but he is a very talented and important piece of this defense. I can't wait to hear how fast he looks this summer.
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- Doug Rippy, Sr - He's full-go heading into August camp. Thank goodness. He was only just beginning to put all of his talent and physical abilities together when he went down with that knee injury last season, so I'm excited to see where he is development-wise now. A big, strong force inside who can overpower blockers, Rippy is poised to have an excellent year. He is one of the players on this team who can truly change a game, especially if he's been spending good time in the film room while he was out. He still was inconsistent last year, but he finally showed the determination and drive to improve and play well. A motivated and healthy Doug Rippy is an excellent thing for this team.
- Paul Vigo, Jr - I said in my last report on Vigo that I hoped he would stick at a position so he could settle somewhere and fight for some playing time. Well, that writeup was in the pre-spring safety section, because that's where he was practicing then. Now he's buried on the depth chart at inside linebacker. He has very good speed for the position, but at just 200 lbs, I can't see him being able to hold up that close to the line of scrimmage for very long. The other safeties that have moved to LB are bigger, but Greg Brown is determined to increase team speed, and this is one way to do it. If Vigo can bulk up a bit he may be able to work his way into the rotation, but I just don't think he has the build for it. We have seen him get physical out there, though, so hopefully that translates well.
- Derrick Webb, Jr - As strong as Rippy is, Webb may be the hardest hitter on the team. Though he's the starter for now, watch to see how many reps guys like Washington get behind him. Webb was very hit-or-miss (I can't decide if the pun is intended or not...) last season, especially once Rippy went out. Hopefully with the two seniors playing next to him, he can make some strides in his recognition, because he has the potential to be another impact player at LB. He doesn't have great speed over all, but he can close like a missile. He needs to work on wrapping up more consistently this summer.
- Brady Daigh, So - Daigh is a big boy who should get some time here and there in relief of Rippy. I'm excited to see him take the reigns in 2013 as a local guy who shows a ton of potential, so I hope he spends this last season as a backup soaking up as much as he can from the guys ahead of him and Cabral on the sidelines. He will be counted on to be the QB of the defense and one of the leaders of the squad after this group of seniors goes. It sounds like the coaches are planning to go easy on Rippy this summer, so Daigh should get his chance to shine.
- Woodson Greer, So - Like Daigh, Greer is going to spend this season backing up one of the senior leaders of this defense and he'll need to be ready to step into that role in 2013. He has great size and speed and is someone I'm excited for reports on this August.
- K.T. Tu'umalo, So - Hopefully they'll file him away for a redshirt year in 2012, because he still needs to grow into the position. He played a chunk of last season out of necessity at safety, but is back to practicing at linebacker, where he could be a stud down the road. He has great speed (for LB, that is), and plays mean. Tu'umalo is one to watch!
- Kyle Washington, So - There are almost too many exciting sophomores here, between Daigh, Greer, Tu'umalo and Washington! This guy has the best chance of the guys behind Webb to steal some time from him. He played as a safety last year, but has bulked up to 220 lbs and can hit well enough for the coaches to move him to LB. He can fly and I think Webb will really be pushed by him, which will be good for both of them. Washington has the skillset to be a true difference-maker on the weakside.
- Lowell Williams, So - Williams looks like another guy who may have been passed on the depth chart by the Embree recruits. He's a small linebacker with a small frame, but you don't always have to be big to succeed on the weakside in college. Still, I think he's going to have a hard time overtaking the kids ahead of him in the depth chart.
- Scotty Jarvis, So - Don't know anything about him. Walk-on transfer.
Our linebackers should be good in 2012. Hopefully Rippy picks up right where he left off, if not even further along his development curve, and I'm hopeful that Major can continue to regain his speed & quickness. Those two guys are good, and it's hard to think that Brian Cabral won't have Webb (or Washington if he can keep pushing for time) playing at a high level next to them. There isn't a ton of experience behind the starters, but there is talent there. I'm going to be sifting through all the reports out of August for snippets about the young guys here. I like our chances to have a surprisingly good group of linebackers in 2013, even after losing Rippy and Major.