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Buffs short-handed at LB

Half of team's 14 linebackers have missed much of spring

Colorado football coaches are likely to discover a lot about current members of a very young football team today when the Buffs hit Folsom Field for the first scrimmage of spring.

Regardless of what happens over approximately 125 plays in the 1 p.m. scrimmage, coaches won't know nearly as much as they would like about their linebackers.

After navigating their way through the entire 2007 season short-handed at linebacker and requiring players such as Jordon Dizon, Brad Jones and Jeff Smart to play almost every down, coaches were excited to amp up competition in the heart of the defense this spring with 14 linebackers on the roster and more set to join the program in the fall.

Bad luck and poor performance in the classroom has put the team right back in the same boat it was in last fall. Seven of the 14 linebackers have missed significant time in the first six practices.

It started when true freshman Lynn Katoa was arrested last month for felony assault. He was indefinitely suspended before the start of drills. In the second practice of spring, redshirt freshman Josh Hartigan suffered a neck injury that has prevented him from participating.Juniors Marcus Burton and Jake Duren and sophomores Michael Sipili, Nate Vaiomounga and B.J. Beatty all have been held out of practice this week in what coach Dan Hawkins calls his "mentoring program." All are focusing on improving their performance in the classroom.

"It doesn't help you. That's for sure," Hawkins said. "You need to have everybody here putting it full-throttle and doing everything.

"But that being said, you can't sacrifice your standards."

It is pure coincidence that the hardest hit area by academic problems this spring is linebacker. Hawkins emphasized that no coach serves as a better mentor to his players than longtime CU linebackers coach and assistant head coach Brian Cabral, who is entering his 20th year coaching the position in Boulder.

Cabral has been asked to make the most of bad situations in the past and he's trying to do so once again.

"Obviously, I'm not getting anything accomplished with them," Cabral said. "Those guys need to be out here and they're not here, but academics discipline is going to override any football."

Hawkins said today's scrimmage, which is open to the public, will be designed to be as much like a game as possible. Even with a shortage of linebackers it will probably be the most valuable scrimmage work during the first three springs of Hawkins tenure because everyone knows the system now and the program has enough offensive linemen once again to make scrimmaging a legitimate exercise.

Hawkins said making it more game-like will help identify who is ready to play. Of the 85 active players on the spring roster, 55 are freshmen or sophomores and 18 more freshmen are slated to join the program this summer. Coaches still expect a high level of performance with players finishing each play and knowing their assignments.

"It's always still very high," Hawkins said of his expectations. "I don't think you ever lower the bar that way. I think it's even more important for us. "They need to be in an uncontrolled environment where they're by themselves out there playing football."

Fans who choose to attend will get a chance to see a handful of young offensive and defensive linemen competing for playing time. The same is true of a gaggle of young defensive backs.

The quarterback position is always a focal point and CU is adding a hurry-up facet to its offense this spring with players no huddling and getting the plays signaled in from the sidelines. It will be tested today for the first time.

Notable

Most of Friday's practice was focused on position-specific drills, in part, to benefit about 100 high school coaches participating in the annual coaches' clinic. Hawkins said the practice was one of the most productive so far. ... CU is expecting about 40 high school juniors on campus for the annual junior day today. ... Senior defensive tackle George Hypolite has been named to the Lott Award watch list along with 41 other players from across the nation. The award is given each year to the best defensive player in college football.

Comments

Posted by MDBuff on April 5, 2008 at 11:24 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Anyone know the latest with Katoa?

Posted by extrapoint on April 5, 2008 at 12:47 p.m. (Suggest removal)

its in the hands of the lawyers now. might as well take a real long nap.
I'm wondering if Katoa told the D tackle from Salt Lake to stay away.

On a positive note, I am thrilled to see a hurry up offense.

Posted by mifrfi on April 5, 2008 at 2:40 p.m. (Suggest removal)

While the article awhile back put Simas in a negative light regarding grades, this article by omission is positive for Simas. At least he's able to practice... What's up with these guys!?!

Posted by dpease on April 5, 2008 at 4:05 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I like the fact that Hawkins wants to make sure that his players are doing what they have to do in the classroom now, but what happened during the last quarter and a half? It is pretty simple - make the grades or no football. We need to address this issue now (in the AD's office) so that it doesn't continue to affect more players down the road. CU is not an easy University for football players or not (unlike the football factories in the Big XII) and I like that distinction, but most people should be able to get at least C's to remain eligible. Not to mention the fact that these guys all have academic advisors to help them w/ their studies. Put the work in on and off the field! I'm tired of hearing about players being in academic peril - STUDY!!
Go Buffs!

Posted by archalon on April 6, 2008 at 7:06 a.m. (Suggest removal)

A suprise that Cabral's guys are pointed out as having multiple academic problems. He's a good coach and mentor, he will turn the kids around. Most disappointing on the list was Sipili - come on, after last year, you'd think he'd be clear of trouble and have solid grades. He had plenty of time to study last fall.......

Posted by bufffan8 on April 6, 2008 at 12:41 p.m. (Suggest removal)

For what's it worth, Katoa appeared to be in pretty good spirits working the yard markers yesterday.

Posted by BuffNut99 on April 7, 2008 at 10:23 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Katoa at the scrimmage is a very good sign - perhaps not to his chances of playing this year but it tells me that he's in it for the long haul and not looking to transfer.

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