Rams Land Juco Linebacker

Colorado State University's much-maligned defense should get some immediate help next year from a source very familiar to at least one current Ram.

Jon Radford, a second-team junior college All-American at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, has verbally committed to play for CSU next fall and is expected to sign a letter of intent within the next few days. Once he signs a letter of intent, Radford is expected to enroll at CSU in January and be eligible for spring football.

Radford, a 6-foot-1, 230-pound inside linebacker, led the Southwestern Junior College Conference with 106 tackles. He was the teammate of starting CSU defensive tackle Blake Smith at Tulsa (Okla.) Union High School, and Smith was his recruiting host during a campus visit last weekend in Fort Collins.

"Jon is a good player, and I definitely think he can step in and play right away at Colorado State," said Steve Patterson, who served this season as interim coach and defensive coordinator at Northeastern Oklahoma. "He has great work habits, and he runs real well. Some people were concerned about his size but he's just one of those guys who makes plays. He's a football player."

Patterson said Radford drew early recruiting interest from both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State before both opted to not sign a junior college linebacker. Utah, UNLV, Oregon, Louisiana Tech, LSU and Central Florida were among his suitors before he committed to CSU.

Radford was heavily recruited out of Tulsa Union but was an academic non-qualifier. He earned an associate's degree in three semesters, making him far more attractive to college recruiters who want junior college players to practice in the spring so they are ready to contribute in the fall. Patterson said Radford has another advantage in that Northeastern Oklahoma runs a defensive scheme similar to CSU's.

Radford should add immediate depth to a CSU linebacking corps plagued last fall by youth, injuries and lack of depth. If he plays in the middle, he will compete with senior starter Courtney Jones, sophomore Nathan Pauly and freshman Jeff Horinek for playing time.

CSU coach Sonny Lubick, who cannot comment on players until they have signed letters of intent, said last month he was seeking two to three junior college players to provide some immediate help for a defense that ranked 111th nationally (out of 116 teams) in rushing defense and 91st in total defense. If all goes well, CSU could add a defensive lineman and a cornerback from the junior college ranks before completing this recruiting class.

As for high school players, CSU still has eight verbal commitments, with most of those players completing their on-campus visits the past two weekends. A handful of other players will visit this weekend before a two-week "quiet period" during which coaches cannot contact recruits.

Junior college players with two-year degrees can sign letters of intent this week. High school players and other JC players can sign Feb. 2.

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