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The WILL to make it
With all-everything Andy Avalos leaving after 4 stellar years, the Broncos are in need of a new starting WILL Linebacker. If Vegas were giving odds on who starts in Andy's spot.. here's how we think they'd rate them.
Nathan Thomas, TrueFr.
Andy Silsby, Fr.; Zac McNally Fr.
Casey Herron, MLB
Bronco fans will recognize a lot of familiar names when it comes to the linebackers this spring. Returning are two starters – Korey Hall and Colt Brooks – several more with experience – Chris Barrios, Ben Chuckovich, Jared Hunter, Josh Bean and Mike Altieri – and three redshirts – Dallas Dobbs, Luke Dixon, and Kyle Gingg. The players know that a good spring goes a long way during summer conditioning and sets the tone for fall camp. This spring, fans should look for heated competition among all three positions.
MIKE Linebacker. Coach Hawkins says that no incumbent starter is safe, but you can bet that two-year starter and first-team All-WAC middle linebacker, Korey Hall (6-1, 231, Jr) will be in the lineup on September 3 against Georgia. Hall is building a legacy and finished last season second in tackles – only one behind Avalos. But he's more than just a tackling machine. He had three interceptions – one returned for a touchdown – recovered two fumbles, racked up four sacks, and amassed 8.5 tackles for loss. Oh, and by the way, he carries a 3.08 g.p.a. in the classroom. Not bad for a farm kid from Glenns Ferry, Idaho who was not heavily recruited. Even as a sophomore, he was a leader of the Bronco defense that finished first in rushing defense allowing a meager 103.9 yards per game (Rice was second with 150 y.p.g.). Chris Barrios (5-11, 218, Sr.), Josh Bean (6-2, 220, So.), or local walk-on Luke Dixon (6-0, 220, RFr.) will provide backup duties.
SAM Linebacker. The other returning starter is strong-side linebacker Colt Brooks (6-1, 209, Jr.). Brooks, a former walk-on from Bishop Kelly High School in Boise, finished with 40 tackles, 2.5 sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss. Brooks, now on scholarship, will be pushed in spring ball by Ben Chuckovich (6-0, 210, Sr.), Mike Altieri (5-11, 212, So.), and Dallas Dobbs (6-2, 204, RFr.). Dobbs, originally from Las Vegas, signed with the Broncos last year after completing an LDS mission. He has bulked up and regained some of that football form that earned him first-team all-conference honors as a junior and senior. Dobbs excels in the classroom and boasts a 3.55 g.p.a. Chuckovich and Altieri both saw significant special teams action, along with some defensive duty.
WILL Linebacker. With Hall and Brooks likely returning to their starting positions, the weak-side linebacker spot is the only one up for grabs. Chris Barrios (5-11, 218, Sr.), Josh Bean (6-2, 220, So), Jared Hunter (6-4, 221, Jr), and Kyle Gingg (5-11, 205, RFr.) are all in the mix. Barrios appears to have the inside track, but that could all change this spring. He will be pushed hard by Jared Hunter and Josh Bean. After recovering from a broken leg in 2003, Hunter returned to the field last season and was a solid contributor. Bean, on the other hand, has all the physical tools but has only played organized football a few years and is still learning. He spent most of his time on special teams last season. Gingg ran a 4.51 at the Nike Camp in 2003 and was an all-everything player in Phoenix, Arizona. He carries a 3.50 g.p.a.
Minus one, plus one. Casey Herron (6-1, 221, Fr.) a middle linebacker from Limon, Colorado left the team and will not return in 2005. To replace him, the Broncos signed Nathan Thomas (6-1, 220, Fr) from Claremont High School in Claremont, California. He comes to the Broncos with all the accolades one would expect from a Bronco linebacker – four year letter winner, 1st team all CIF, Division II as a junior and senior, team captain, and league defensive MVP. Thomas will likely redshirt.
Rumors. It is rumored the Broncos have extended walk-on invitations to Andy Silsby, a local product from Bishop Kelly High, and Zac McNally, from high-powered De La Salle in California.
Finally, spring ball wouldn't be complete without a little mystery – and we keep hearing of a new linebacker that recently joined the team, Steven Marsala out of Kuna HS. Word is that he's looking good, and given his performance at Kuna, he has the potential, (along with Luke Dixon), to be another local-boy success story like Korey and Colt.
Getting back to that sound we heard earlier. Could it just be a giant sucking noise from North Idaho, or is it a whimper of despair coming from running backs around the league who are facing the fact that this group of linebackers is just as experienced and athletic as last years? Either way, that sound should be music to the ears of Bronco fans.