Burton's Season In Jeopardy

With one prominent linebacker's status for the season uncertain, another's eligibility is up in the air as the Buffs forge forward in August camp. Also inside, notes from Tuesday morning's practice.

What was once thought to be a potential strength of CU's 2007 defense is suffering from thinning ranks.

Linebackers coach Brian Cabral confirmed after Tuesday morning's practice that junior linebacker Marcus Burton's season is up in the air. The possibility looms that Burton will be declared academically ineligible for the fall.

Burton and the team won't know his final status until grades are posted from the second summer term, which ends Friday. (It often takes days for professors to post grades after the class is complete.) Burton practiced in Monday's morning session, but was absent Tuesday morning.

As would be expected, coaches are forging ahead, despite Burton's uncertain status. "We'll get the best 11 on the field," Cabral said.

Burton usually plays the will linebacker position, behind senior Jordon Dizon. With mike linebacker Michael Sipili's status also up in the air due to the fallout from an altercation he was involved in over the summer, coaches were considering moving Burton to the mike position, where he would compete with senior R.J. Brown.

But if both Sipili and Burton don't play this year, it will thrust some untested players into significant, if backup, roles. Sophomores Jake Duren (mike) and Jeff Smart (will), both walk-ons, would be in the mix, as would true freshman Tyler Ahles.

Ahles is every bit of 6-foot-3 and is listed at 235 pounds.

"I like his instincts. He's a little out of shape, but I like his instincts," Cabral said of his first impressions of Ahles. "He seems to be a fast learner. If his body can catch up to his brain, he'll be doing better."

Cabral said Ahles will continue to work at both inside linebacker positions for now.

• Freshman WR Kendrick Celestine finally got a flight out of Baton Rouge, La., and was at practice Tuesday morning. He said he had to run some extra sprints for his tardiness. Although he was a little behind in terms of X and O's, Celestine displayed his speed in drills. He gets off the line and gets up the field quickly.

Celestine is roommates with fellow rookie receivers, Markques Simas and Josh Smith. Celestine said he thinks he's got a chance to play this year if he can get the mental side of things down.

Hawkins said all three are "knocking on the door," in terms of competing for a spot in the receiver rotation. But, he added, it will come down to who makes plays when the team puts the pads on and scrimmages over the coming weeks.

CU's first scrimmage is Sunday. Sunday's start time, and the start time for the other two scrimmages of the August camp, is 10 a.m., the same time as the CU-CSU game on Sept. 1.

• Speaking of Smith, the freshman hauled in two passes from quarterback Matt Ballenger, shifted into high gear and took the ball to the house. They were the most flashy plays of the scant scrimmage situations the team went through Tuesday morning.

Hawkins noted Smith's catches. "I love the long ball, I do," he said. "As I've kind of come along in this game, I think you've got to pound it and punch it. That's just my style. Having the guys who have the confidence and ability (to get down field in a hurry) and the guys who can get it to them…it just adds to the thing we're trying to do here."

Walk-on receiver Steve Melton also had a big play, an acrobatic grab as he was falling to the ground.

Melton originally played on scholarship at UCLA in 2004, then transferred to Saddleback CC, where he played with Nick Nelson, now his teammate at CU.

• Coaches are not allowed to text message recruits this month, per a new NCAA rule. Hawkins, known for using text messages extensively, said he's going through withdrawals. He hopes the NCAA adjusts the ruling when they meet to discuss it later this week.

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