Colorado Preview 2006 - Defense
Preview 2006 - Colorado Defense
What you need to know ... The college football world mostly
remembers the defensive meltdowns against Nebraska and Texas at
the end of the regular season, but outside of two games against
the eventual national champions as a few quarters here and
there, this was one of the nation's better defenses. Now it
should be even better. The overall team speed is average, but
there are several all-star playmakers to get excited about from
the 1-2 linebacking punch of Thaddaeus Washington and Jordon
Dizon to talented defensive backs Terrence Wheatley and J.J.
Billingsley. Defensive tackle will be the big concern early on
with the search for a steady second corner also a pressing need.
Thaddaeus Washington, Abraham Wright, 5
Interceptions: J.J. Billingsley, Marcus Burton, 2
Star of the defense: Senior LB Thaddaeus Washington
Second cornerback, tackle depth and experience
Player that has to step up and become a star: Sophomore
NT Brandon Nicolas
Unsung star on the rise: Senior DE Walter Boye-Doe
Best pro prospect: Washington
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Washington, 2) FS J.J.
Billingsley, 3) CB Terrence Wheatley
Strength of the defense: Linebacker, safety
Weakness of the defense:
Strong on potential but short on proven
production, the hope is for several sophomores and a few career reserves
can patch together a line that can be as close to as strong as last
year's group that helped the defense finish 11th in the nation against
the run. It's not just an inexperienced line; it's small. Sophomore
tackles George Hypolite and Brandon Nichols had better be great out of the gate or there could be real
problems. Abraham Wright has all-star potential at one end, but the
other side will be a battle this fall once Alex Ligon and Alonzo Barrett
come back healthy.
The key to the unit: Backup tackles have to develop in a hurry to
create a good rotation, or the starters have to bulk up in a hurry this
summer. A second pass rusher has to emerge on the left
side to help out Abraham Wright.
Defensive Line Rating: 7
- DE Walter Boye-Doe, Sr. - 10 tackles
Boye-Doe started to blow up at the end of spring ball taking over the
starting spot on the left side. Ankle problems have kept him in check,
but now he should be ready to roll and become a strong end now that he
knows what he's doing after moving over from linebacker.
- DT George Hypolite, Soph. - 10 tackles
An undersized 265-pound tackle, Hypolite saw significant time as a true
freshman and showed a little of his unlimited potential. He's still
very, very raw, but he's a fantastic athlete with too much quickness to
not turn into a strong interior pass rusher.
- NT Brandon Nicolas, Soph.
The transfer from Notre Dame will get the first shot at taking over for
Vaka Manupuna on the nose. While he's
not nearly as big as Manupuna, he's a strong 270 pounds who'll have to
prove early on that he can consistently hold up against the bigger
- DE Abraham Wright, Sr. - 27 tackles, 5 sacks, 5 broken up
One of the team's most disruptive forces, the 240-pound senior tied for
the team lead in sacks and had several near misses that forced big plays
made by someone else. The former JUCO star will be turned loose and be
asked to do even more in the backfield.
- DE Alex Ligon, Sr. - 18 tackles
A good pass rusher who slipped last season after making 4.5 sacks in
2004, the 265-pound senior is trying to return from tearing a pectoral
muscle this winter. He's the team's biggest end and has the potential to
be good starter on the other side of Abraham Wright.
- DE Alonzo Barrett, Jr. - 15 tackles
Barrett might have slipped a bit in the pecking order after dislocating
his elbow this spring, but he's a good-sized 255-pound end with a little
bit of starting experience. He's a good pass rusher who wasn't able to
go full-tilt last season after injuring his knee.
- DE Maurice Lucas, Soph. - 20 tackles
Lucas took over the starting role inside over the second half of last
season forfeiting his redshirt, but the experience helped him in a run
for work on the right side. He's a good-sized athlete and a strong
tackler who'll be an All-Big 12 performer before his career is over. He
might not be quite ready to take that big step this year.
- DT Marcus Jones, Sr.
The career reserve must find playing time because of his size. At 295
pounds, he's the biggest tackle by far adding more bulk on the nose than
the 270-pound Brandon Nichols.
If this isn't the team's strength, it'll be close thanks to
one of the Big 12's best linebacker pairs in Jordon Dizon and Thaddaeus
Washington. The two combined for 173 stops last season and should hover
around the 200 tackle range if they both stay healthy. There's no reason
to worry about losing Brian Iwuh on the strongside with the expected
emergence of tall Brad Jones and the speed of backup Joe Sanders.
The key to the unit: Jordon Dizon and Thaddaeus
Washington have to keep playing like they have over the last two seasons
and more speedy players have to emerge among the reserves.
Linebacker Rating: 8.5
- Jordon Dizon, Jr. - 61 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 TFL
Able to play inside or out, the versatile Dizon can play anywhere in the
linebacking corps and should be in the hunt for All-Big 12 honors on the
weakside. He's only 6-0 and 220 pounds, but he's a tackling machine with
143 tackles in his first two seasons. He wasn't asked to do much against
the pass last season making most of his big plays against the run. This
season he'll likely be more of a pass rusher.
- Thaddaeus Washington, Sr. - 112 tackles, 5 sacks, 8 TFL
Washington went from being a tackling machine who made plays all over
the field to a tackling machine who made plays all over the field and
also got to the quarterback. With 205 stops over the last two seasons,
he's one of the nation's most productive returning linebackers. He's a
strong 240 pounds with an uncanny knack for never missing a tackle.
- Brad Jones, Soph. - 19 tackles, 1 TFL
It'll be up to the 220-pound Jones to take over for star outside
linebacker Brian Iwuh, and he appears ready after making plays all over
the field this spring. At 6-4, he's an imposing
presence with more speed than Iwuh and fantastic potential to be a top
defender in pass coverage.
- Marcus Burton, Soph. - 29 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 2
Burton stepped in as a good backup in his true freshman season
highlighted by a 99-yard interception return for a touchdown against
Oklahoma State. He's a big weakside linebacker who's strong enough to
handle himself in the middle if needed.
- Joe Sanders, Jr. - 1 tackle
Sanders can play inside or out moving to the strongside this season and
looking great this spring. He's one of the team's faster defenders and
should push hard for time all year long behind Brad Jones.
The Buffs will likely lose co-defensive MVP Garrett Burl
after he violated team rules and was suspended, but they'll get back corner Terrence
Wheatley after missing all of last year with a broken wrist. There's
plenty of talent and lots of options to play around with around Wheatley
and All-Big 12 talent J.J. Billingsley at free safety. The biggest
battle will be at strong safety where Ryan Walters and Tyrone Henderson
will combine for time, while the second corner spot will be up for grabs
until the opener. If Henderson is a backup, Colorado will have some of
the best reserves in the conference.
The key to the unit: A steady number two corner has
to emerge and more big plays need to be made against the better passing
Secondary Rating: 8
- CB Terrence Wheatley, Jr.
Back from a broken wrist that cost him all of last year, Wheatley should
be an All-Big 12 performer adding an upgrade to the speed in the
secondary. He's a strong open-field tackler and a good kick returner,
but his real talent is in coverage with his 4.4 speed and good enough
ball skills to make him too dangerous to throw at. The key will be his
health after having problems with his hamstring as well as his wrist.
- FS J.J. Billingsley, Sr. - 85 tackles, 1 sack, 6 TFL, 2,
interceptions, 5 broken up passes
It's been a strange ride for Billingsley over the last few years with 94
tackles in 2004, a knee injury, an academic suspension, and honorable
mention All-Big 12 honors last season after finishing second on
the team in tackles. He's lightning fast and is always around the ball
making big plays.
- SS Ryan Walters, Soph. - 16 tackles
It'll be interesting to see if Walters holds down the starting spot this
fall ahead of Tyrone Henderson. After a great spring with plenty of big
plays and with more pop
than Henderson on his hits, Walters needs to show he can be as
consistent against the pass. At the very least, he appears to be a top
defensive prospect for the next three seasons.
- CB Gardner McKay, Soph. - 5 tackles, 1 broken up pass
With Gerett Burl suspended from the team and not likely to be back,
it'll be up to McKay to hold down the right side and be a key playmaker
with teams staying away from Terrence Wheatley. He has sprinter's speed
and the height at 5-11 to stay with the taller receivers, but he's
rail-thin at 160 pounds.
- FS/CB Lorenzo Sims, Jr., Sr. - 46 tackles, 1
interception, 17 broken up passes
The former honorable mention All-Big 12 corner will find a spot
somewhere on the field if he's healthy. He's needed at corner, but he's a more natural
safety. He led the team in broken up passes and should be a big play
nickel back if he doesn't end up starting somewhere after getting over a
variety of injuries.
- SS Tyrone Henderson, Sr. - 78 tackles, 5 broken up passes
While not all that big 5-10 and 180 pounds, he's fast and can hit with
146 tackles over the last two seasons finishing third on the team last
season. He's a sure-thing stopper in the open field, but he'll have to
battle with the bigger Ryan Walters for the starting job.
- CB Terry Washington, Sr. - 13 tackles, 3 broken up passes
The former JUCO transfer will do a little of everything from returning
kicks to playing in nickel and dime packages to playing a little corner
behind Terrence Wheatley. He's bigger than Wheatley with enough speed to
handle the job on the left side if needed.
Mason Crosby is one of the best kickers in college
football, and now he'll handle the punting game as long as he doesn't
slip as a placekicker. Stephone Robinson will
be the main kick and punt returner again, but he needs to use his elite
quickness to do more after averaging 18.2 yards per kickoff return and
9.9 yards per punt return.
The key to the unit: Mason Crosby has to be almost as
good a punter as he is a placekicker. The coverage units could stand to
Special Teams Rating: 9
- PK/P Mason Crosby, Sr. - 21-28 FGs, 31-31 extra points
Crosby has one of the biggest legs in college football blasting 13 of 19
field goals from beyond 40 yards with a 58-yard bomb last season. He's
an All-American who's not just a bomber, he's also clutch. Dan Hawkins
has already said he'll allow Crosby to try a 70-yard shot this season.
Crosby will also take over the punting duties from John Torp, who was
one of the best in the nation averaging 44.6 yards per kick.