Spring Preview: Linebackers

On paper, the heart of the Colorado defense in 2006 should be its linebackers. Making that happen begins this month. Inside, a look at the linebackers as the Buffs are set to begin spring ball on Monday.

"We have a lot coming back in terms of linebackers next year," linebackers coach Brian Cabral said earlier this year. "They should be the strength of our defense …to me, the core of your defense starts with your linebackers, and I really like where those guys are right now."

Despite losing part-time starter Akarika Dawn to graduation, the Buffs are still deep the middle, where senior Thaddaeus Washington and junior Jordon Dizon look to form a solid pair.

Washington (112) and Dizon (61) combined for 173 tackles a season ago. Also in the mix on the inside is Marcus Burton, a kid who combines good size and speed, who came out of nowhere to contribute significantly as a true freshman last season.

After bouncing back and forth between linebacker and tight end, Joe Sanders finally spent an entire season in one spot, inside ‘backer, in 2005 and will provide depth. Jason Ackermann is coming off a devastating knee injury suffered at the end of the 2004 season, and this spring will be key in determining how effective he can be on the repaired limb. Sophomore Maurice Cantrell and three walk-ons — R.J. Brown, Jeff Smart and Bryan Stengel — round out the depth chart in the middle.

Unlike he did as a member of the previous coaching staff, Cabral will coach the outside linebacker as well as the two inside positions this year. His first task is getting Brad Jones up to speed in his quest to fill some big shoes – Brian Iwuh's.

"I really like the progress that Brad Jones made (last fall)," Cabral said of the lanky, athletic sophomore. "I think he's ready to step into his own."

Veteran walk-ons Ben Carpenter and Chad Cusworth add depth to the outside position.

The Roster
Jason Ackermann, ILB, Sr., 6-1, 225*
@Career stats: 8 games, 12 tackles

&R.J. Brown, ILB, So., 6-1, 225
Career stats: Has not played.

Marcus Burton, ILB, So., 6-0, 230
Career stats: 11 games, 29 tackles, 1 sack, 2 INT

Maurice Cantrell, ILB, So., 6-0, 220
Career stats: 4 games.

&Ben Carpenter, OLB, Sr., 6-3, 225
Career stats: 6 games, 1 tackle

&Chad Cusworth, OLB, Sr., 5-11, 220
Career stats: 13 games (special teams).

Jordon Dizon, ILB, Jr., 6-0, 220
Career stats: 24 games, 143 tackles, 10 TFL, 4 sacks

Brad Jones, OLB, So., 6-4, 220
Career stats: 12 games, 19 tackles, 1 TFL

Joe Sanders, ILB, Jr., 6-3, 220
Career stats: 11 games, 10 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 INT

&Jeff Smart, ILB, R-Fr., 6-0, 210
Career stats: Has not played.

&Bryan Stengel, ILB, R-Fr., 6-0, 210
Career stats: Has not played.

Thaddaeus Washington, ILB, Sr., 5-11, 240
Career stats: 33 games 231 tackles, 26 TFL, 5 sacks, 2 INT

Players lost: Akarika Dawn, Kyle Griffith, Brian Iwuh.

*Vitals for all players are per CU SID as of March 6.
@ Career stats do not include bowl game appearances.
& Walk-on.

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