Camp Preview: Linebackers

Colorado convenes for August camp on Sunday. Inside, a look at the Buffs' linebacker position.

Last season, Colorado's defense seemed to try and funnel their opponents to a capable trio of Buffalo linebackers. As a result, for just the second time this decade, CU's three starting linebackers led the team in tackles. Once again, the Buffaloes should be solid at the linebacker positions. Experienced depth will be a plus at the two inside positions, while a couple of players will have the opportunity to play for the first time at outside linebacker, behind starter Brad Jones.

Jones, going into his junior season, was third on the team in tackles last season with 72. The rangy ‘backer should benefit from being in defensive coordinator Ron Collins' system for a year, and is primed for a big season. Behind Jones are redshirt-freshman B.J. Beatty and true freshman Josh Hartigan. Both are untested. Beatty had a solid spring, while Hartigan — who graduated from high school in Florida a semester early and enrolled in CU for the spring semester — got his first taste of college football in March and April. The experience should pay off for Hartigan in August.

Senior Jordon Dizon is coming off a big year, when he led the team with 137 tackles. Another season with that kind of productivity and Dizon will leave school among the top 5 career tacklers. Marcus Burton looks to shake off a rough 2006 campaign as Dizon's backup. Burton played sparingly, then fractured a tibia and missed the final three games of the season. He had a good spring, though, and earned the linebackers' Iron Buffalo Award, given to the player who represents hard work, toughness and total poundage in the weight room in the spring.

CU's offensive linemen have a saying when someone takes a big hit. They say, "He got Sipili'd." Which brings us to the other inside linebacker position. Sophomore Michael Sipili played well enough as a true freshman last season to earn honorable mention Freshman All-American mention by The Sporting News. He carries his 250 pounds well, and, obviously, has earned a reputation among his teammates as the hardest hitter wearing a CU uniform these days. But Sipili will have to fight hard to earn a starting position. That's because senior R.J. Brown is a relentless worker, and is a pretty tough customer himself. Brown earned himself a scholarship prior to last season. He's been a special teams stalwart the past two years, and was voted a team tri-captain by his teammates for the 2007 season.

Linebackers coach Brian Cabral will need to get a few others ready to fill back-up spots in case the injury bug bites. Cabral likes true freshman Tyler Ahles' toughness. Walk-ons Jake Duren, Jeff Smart and Bryan Stengel will get a look, as well.

Leading returners: R.J. Brown (9 special teams points last fall), Marcus Burton (2 career interceptions), Jordon Dizon (280 career tackles), Brad Jones (11 starts in '06), Michael Sipili (2 starts).

The Roster
Tyler Ahles, Fr., ILB, 6-3, 235
B.J. Beatty, R-Fr., OLB, 6-1, 230
R.J. Brown, Sr., ILB, 6-1, 225
Marcus Burton, Jr., ILB, 6-0, 245
Jordon Dizon, Sr., ILB, 6-0, 225
Jake Duren, So., ILB, 5-11, 230
Josh Hartigan, Fr., OLB, 6-1, 210
Brad Jones, Jr., OLB, 6-3, 225
Michael Sipili, So., ILB, 6-1, 250
Jeff Smart, So., ILB, 5-11, 210
Bryan Stengel, So., OLB, 6-2, 210

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