'35 Sacks'

Call them the A-Team — Abraham, Alex and Alonzo. In 2004, the three defensive ends — Wright, Ligon and Barrett — combined for 11 sacks. The trio set an ambitious goal prior to summer workouts to raise that number significantly. Inside, what does the A-Team want to do to opposing quarterbacks this fall? Also, some notes from Wednesday's practice, including an update on the CU running game.

Junior Alex Ligon had 4 1/2 sacks last fall. So did his classmate Abraham Wright. Fellow defensive end Alonzo Barrett came off the bench and played sparingly last season as a true freshman (99 plays), but had two sacks.

Improving the defensive pass rush has been a point of emphasis since the spring. Right before the team began summer workouts, the three ends got together and came up with an bold plan.

"Me, Abraham and Alex, we have a goal to get 35 sacks between us this year," Barrett said on Wednesday.

Ligon confirmed.

"At least one sack a game each," he said.

How ambitious is that goal? Consider that last season, the Buffs had 31 total as a team. From 1989-94, the CU defense's most productive era in terms of sacks, the Buffs averaged 35 sacks per season. Only nine times in the history of the program has a Colorado player had 10 or more sacks in a season. Dan McMillen holds the CU single-season record with 14.

Let's just say, if any one of the three players gets to double-figures in sacks, it will be called a success.

Nevertheless, defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz — who was also the DC from '89-'94 — likes his defensive ends' attitude, even though he cracks a grin when he's told of the lofty goal.

"If your gonna aim, you better aim high," Hankwitz said. "I'd be the first one high-fivin' them if they did that."

Of the three, Barrett, the backup to Ligon, has displayed perhaps the most natural ability to get to the quarterback and bring him down before he can get his pass off. Hankwitz said, in an ideal world, Barrett would have redshirted last season and spent the year getting stronger in the weightroom.

Right now he weighs 245 pounds, but eventually wants to play at 250.

"We've got a lot of confidence in Alonzo," Hankwitz said. "He showed us a lot of things as a true freshman — his ball awareness, he has good leverage, and he made plays when he was in there.

"He has excellent movement; he can run stunts, he can contain and he has a nose for the ball."

Barrett also displayed a knack to make plays during the spring, leading all defenders in sacks during the three scrimmages.

"I do what my coaches tell me to do – just take my dip and rip," Barrett said of his technique. "But it's just a matter of being relentless and running to the ball every chance I get."

The trio hope to get some chances to get to the ball Sept. 3, when Colorado begins its season at home vs. Colorado State.

"We need to get a good pass rush on (CSU quarterback Justin) Holland," Ligon said. "Last year he had a lot of time to throw the ball. We need to get more pressure on him because when he gets pressure, he gets rattled."

Hankwitz has emphasized a more aggressive pass rush since he came back as CU's defensive coordinator prior to the 2004 season. Last year's 31 sacks was up from a woeful 19 in 2003. He's positive, but cautious about the improvement in that area over the spring and through August practices.

"We feel like we're making some progress in that area," Hankwitz said. "The thing is, you won't really know until you get into a game."

LV being prepared for No. 3 TB
Mell Holliday tweaked an ankle and has been out of pads the past two days, Barnett said. That means the team will probably prepare V-back Lawrence Vickers for the No. 3 tailback spot, behind Hugh Charles and Byron Ellis, against Colorado State.

Despite a rash of minor injuries, Barnett said Wednesday he thought this camp was the best the Buffs have had in recent memory as far as avoiding big injuries. Only wide receiver Blake Mackey has been lost for the season since camp opened (knee).

Barnett said most everybody who was out of practice in recent days would be back in action this season, most for the CSU game.

Quotable
"We only go against ourselves and we haven't played anybody yet, but I think we're further along in the running game than we have been for two years.

"It's a combination of the offensive line, the backs, the tight ends and the fullback." — Barnett when asked Wednesday about the status of this year's running game.

Creighton still playing both TE and FB
Junior Paul Creighton has practiced primarily at tight end this fall, but Barnett said Wednesday he is the team's No. 3 tight end and No. 3 fullback. At fullback, he's behind Lawrence Vickers and Schaub. But expect Creighton to see the field first this year at tight end, where he's backing up Joe Klopfenstein and Quinn Sypniewski.

Schollie situation up in the air
With Monday's departure of cornerback Corey Reid, who is transferring to Eastern Michigan, on top of two transfers last week, Barnett said Wednesday he thought he had three scholarships he could award to walk on players. He gave one to fullback Brendan Schaub last week, but apparently has an third.

Asked if he had decided yet what he would do with them, or when he would decide, Barnett said, "I don't know. I've got to weigh all that."


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