Spring Review -- Linebackers

One of the biggest question marks going into the spring was the linebacker position, where depth and experience were an issue. While those concerns will linger heading into August camp, some players emerged in April which points to good things for 2004.

Sophomore Thaddaeus Washington began to live up to the big billing that followed him from high school in Louisiana to Boulder two summers ago. By the end of spring ball, his position coach Brian Cabral, who had been hesitant to praise the linebackers early in camp, said he was pleased with Washington's progress over the previous weeks.

While Washington's hitting ability has never been questioned, he began to make his reads and find himself in good position as the spring wore on. And even as concerns about his ability in pass situations lingered, Washington had two interceptions and knocked down another pass during two scrimmages in April.

If Washington continues with his progress, CU should be in good shape at middle (mike) linebacker, as junior Chris Hollis returns in the fall as well after missing most of the spring with a foot injury and will back up Washington.

Former tight end Joe Sanders is listed as third at the mike spot coming out of spring after being moved to the defense midway through practices. Although Sanders was rusty – he hadn't played or practiced linebacker since high school — he showed enough flashes to keep him on that side of the ball for now. Walk-on John Martin is fourth on the depth chart, and has the size and enough skills to push the players in front of him.

Junior Akarika Dawn said he spent the spring practices and scrimmages trying to hone the linebacker technique after playing his freshman year and some of his sophomore year in the defensive secondary. Look for Dawn to steadily improve as he gains experience at the position. Pushing Dawn all spring was sophomore Jason Ackermann, who racked up double-digits in tackles through the team's three scrimmages and showed a knack for being around the ball.

Good news at linebacker came the last week of practices when sophomore Walter Boye-Doe – who missed all of spring ball after considering a transfer due to family issues – recommitted himself to the Buffs. His presence will add talent, if not experience, to the mix in August.

One of the success stories of camp was the emergence of Brian Iwuh, who will man the new buff linebacker position in the 4-3 defense. Iwuh turned heads as a true freshman in 2002, earning a start in the team's final two games and making some plays. He didn't quite live up to expectations in 2003, playing the weak safety. But if his performance this spring is an indication, Iwuh should be a solid playmaker for Colorado in 2004, as the buff backer position suits his combination of size and closing speed.

But after Iwuh, the Buffs list former QB Ben Carpenter and walk-on former DB Chad Cusworth. One of the imperatives of August, then, becomes to develop some quality depth at the buff backer position. Look for both incoming freshmen Brad Jones and Maurice Cantrell to get a look here. True frosh Greg Newman could play into the mix at one of the inside positions as well.


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