Camp Preview — Linebackers

With co-starters Akarika Dawn, Jordon Dizon, Brian Iwuh and Thaddaeus Washington back, and with a depth chart that includes a rising star, a savvy veteran and a pleasant surprise, the Colorado linebacking corps is ready to roll.

Linebackers (returning)
12 Akarika Dawn, Sr., 6-2, 240
27 Brian Iwuh, Sr., 6-0, 225
49 Thaddaeus Washington, Jr., 5-11, 240
44 Jordon Dizon, So., 6-0, 215
13 Joe Sanders, So., 6-3, 220
50 Chris Hollis, Jr., 6-1, 230
55 Jason Ackermann, Jr., 6-1, 220
40 Brad Jones, R-Fr., 6-4, 220
19 Ben Carpenter, Jr., 6-3, 225
28 Kyle Griffith, Sr., 6-2, 205
32 Maurice Cantrell, R-Fr., 6-0, 235

The most obvious indication that Colorado changed defensive coordinators prior to the 2004 season was that the Colorado linebackers made more tackles than in recent years.

Brian Iwuh started at buff linebacker, and Thaddaeus Washington, Akarika Dawn and Jordon Dizon shared starting duties at the two inside positions. The four combined for 344 tackles.

All four players return, Iwuh and Dawn for their senior years, Washington as a junior and Dizon, a sophomore.

Dizon was thrown into the fire last season when he reported to camp as a true freshman and was placed at safety, only to be moved to linebacker and become the first true freshman Buffalo to ever start the first game of the season at linebacker. Dizon's instincts were superior, but his youth showed up in pass coverage. A year and a spring's experience in his pocket, expect an improved Dizon, who will battle with Dawn for a starting spot beside Washington.

Dawn, a team leader, is primed for his best year in a Colorado uniform. Washington came into his own last season, a result of developing good work habits, according to his coach Brian Cabral.

Washington is one of the fiercest hitters in the Big 12. Another is Iwuh, who was playing the outside linebacker spot for the first time last fall.

"He'll be better," defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz told BSN of Iwuh. "He had a great offseason. He's really doing all the extra things. Having played for a year, there's a comfort level and he's more confident. We have to figure out ways to utilize his ability the best. But I felt like he improved this spring, and I think he can get even better."

The Buffs are deep at linebacker, as well. Joe Sanders took advantage of Washington missing a few practices in the spring, turning heads with his play at inside (mike) linebacker. The sophomore from Tennessee has found a home after spending time at tight end and outside linebacker. Junior Chris Hollis also returns to the mix at the mike position after missing spring with a neck injury.

Redshirt-freshman Maurice Cantrell is up to 235 pounds and will back up at the other inside position (will), along with senior Kyle Griffith.

On the outside, there's a buzz about redshirt-freshman Brad Jones. He was stellar in the team's bowl practices last December, and will see the field this season when Iwuh takes a breather. Ben Carpenter and Chad Cusworth, both juniors, round out that position.

Top to bottom, this could be the best group of linebackers Colorado has ever had. While there's probably no Butkus Award-winner waiting to happen this fall, Iwuh and Washington should vie for postseason honors. Dawn is solid, while Dizon earned freshman defensive POY honors last year. Brad Jones is a star in the making, and Sanders could be as well. Meanwhile Hollis is a savvy veteran.

Perhaps the most intriguing thing about the group is that there is clear room for improvement over last season. The linebackers were solid, but they could become dominant.

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