Spring Preview: Linebackers

<A HREF=[PlayerNode:1397314]>Jordon Dizon</A> earned the conference Defensive Newcomer of the Year from the Associated Press and conference Defensive Freshman of the Year honor from the Big 12 coaches in 2004. CU inside linebackers coach Brian Cabral says Dizon should be better in '05. Inside, a look at Dizon and the rest of the linebackers as CU prepares for spring ball.

Coaches: (ILB) Brian Cabral, (OLB) Mike Hankwitz
Players: Jason Ackermann, Maurice Cantrell, Ben Carpenter, Chad Cusworth, Akarika Dawn, Jordon Dizon, Kyle Griffith, Lionel Harris, Chris Hollis, Brian Iwuh, Brad Jones, Joe Sanders, Thaddaeus Washington

Last fall, Dizon became the first true freshman in school history to start the season opener at inside linebacker and finished the year with 82 tackles (third best on the team).

Dizon moved to linebacker after playing safety the first handful of practices last August. The youngster missed some of the teaching that went on early in camp. April will give Dizon a chance to deepen his understanding of the inside linebackers' role in the CU defense.

"He missed all the base fundamental stuff," Cabral said. "He's got a lot to learn, and he'll learn a lot. I think he's already beginning to understand better how he fits within the defense and what he has to do to execute the defense. There's a lot of fundamental things he'll benefit from (this spring), as will everybody else."

Everybody else includes Akarika Dawn, who enters spring co-No. 1 with Dizon at the will linebacker position. Maurice Cantrell and Kyle Griffith will also compete there.

Thaddaeus Washington came on strong in the second half of last fall and has established himself as a clear starter at the mike position. Backing him up will be Joe Sanders, who has moved from the "buff" (outside) linebacker position. Also, Chris Hollis is back after spending most of last season on the sidelines with a neck injury. Jason Ackermann will miss spring drills recovering from knee surgery, while Walter Boye-Doe is out with an ankle injury, and will move to defensive end in the fall.

Even without Ackermann and Boye-Doe, Cabral likes the depth and experience he'll work with.

"I think in terms of experience it may be one of the better years," Cabral said. "They've all played a lot."

An emphasis for the entire defense this spring will be getting better at third-down situations. That includes linebackers getting better at dropping back into coverages, putting pressure on the quarterbacks and playing more physical all together.

"I'd like to see us be more physical against the run and be more effective blitzers," Cabral said.

Mike Hankwitz will once again coach the buff linebackers. He thinks returning starter Brian Iwuh has a chance to improve, after leading the team in tackles (98) last season.

"Iwuh hadn't played buff linebacker before, so there was a lot of learning going on," he said.

Also expected to make an impact beginning next month is Brad Jones. The 6-4, 220-pounder has moved from inside to outside ‘backer. Jones redshirted a year ago despite showing flashes of potential in practice.

"We saw a lot of promise (from Jones) in our preseason practices, but he wanted to (redshirt) and we felt it was in his best interest," Hankwitz said. "Now this spring it'll be a great opportunity to show what he can do. He's a good athlete. He played inside and outside in high school. We're looking for that type of athlete."

Ben Carpenter, Lionel Harris (who's moved from safety) and Chad Cusworth give the position some depth.

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