With the first official summer practices of 2009 kicking off on Friday morning (bright and early at 7:45 AM), we here at GoldandGreenNews.com thought it would be nice to get our viewers (who we love so dearly) a run down of what to expect this season from each position on the CSU roster. So what do ya say we get started, eh?
Heading out of the New Mexico Bowl last season, the CSU Rams figured that they'd be pretty much set at linebacker heading into the 2009 season as the only loss would be in four-year starter Jeff Horinek at the Mike position. Unfortunately, that is not the case as CSU head coach Steve Fairchild announced this spring that strong side linebacker Ricky Brewer, who was second on the team in tackles as a sophomore in 2008 with 103, would be suspended for the entire upcoming season. That now leaves two huge gaps to fill at both the Mike and Sam spots, so who is going to step up?
Start me up.
The main bright spot in the Rams' linebacker corps is at the Will (AKA weak side) position, as it's manned by none other than Colorado State's first ever freshman All-American, Mychal Sisson. Last season as a redshirt freshman, Sisson led the Rams with 105 tackles, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries, one of which CSU fans will remember for a long time as he scooped a Max Hall fumble and ran it in for six points during the first quarter of the Rams' heartbreaking 45-42 loss to BYU.
While Sisson is really the only linebacker set in ink at this point, the latest CSU depth chart lists Alex Williams as the starting Mike LB and Michael Kawulok patrolling the Will (for those of you who haven't caught on, Sam is strong, Mike is middle and Will is weak. It's just more natural for me to say it the way I do than putting it in Layman's terms).
Williams, a junior, sits a 6-foot-1, 222 pounds and appears to be a real play maker. During spring ball, CSU's Defensive Coordinator, Larry Kerr, couldn't seem to say enough good things about Williams and the job he was doing. Last season he saw playing time in all 13 games with a total of five tackles, three of which were solo. He really seems to be a level headed young man and is close friends with one of the Rams' top player-coaches from 2008 in middle linebacker John Clark (who spent this summer playing for the Colorado Ice), which is always a great thing. Take it from me, when Clark speaks about football philosophy and coaching strategy, he knows exactly what he's talking about.
Now on to another in the long line of Kawulok brothers playing college football. One of his older brothers, Chris, played tight end for the Rams last season while the other, Matt, was playing the same spot at San Diego State. Really, there isn't too much we know about Michael yet, but in 7 games last season as a redshirt freshman he did tally six tackles, including an assisted tackle for loss. If there is any indication from what his brothers did before him, Michael should be a solid FBS athlete.
The Back-up plan.
I am sure CSU is really stressing strength and conditioning this summer, especially at linebacker, because the Rams do not want to see any of these guys go down, especially Kawulok, a backup playing in a starting role. If something were to happen to any of these three starters, here is what the depth chart looks like.
Sam: Kawulok, Luke Diehl, Broderick Sargent
Mike: Williams, Chris Gipson, Jacob Biddle
Will: Sisson, James Skelton, Andy Clements
I feel that the deepest parts of the CSU linebacker corps right now is at the Mike position as all three of those players listed were making legitimte runs at the starting spot this fall, especially Gipson. Behind Sisson, I think Skelton could do a pretty good job, be he's just no where near as athletic as Mychal, who played safety in high school, I might add. And behind Kawulok there's Douglas County's own Luke Diehl along with Broderick Sargent and Davis Burl. Honestly, I wouldn't be against seeing Sargent in action a little bit this season, but I have been anxious for three years now to see what Diehl can do on the college gridiron.
What to expect?
Everyone knows what to expect from Sisson, but what about Williams and Kawulok? Honestly, I feel that we'll have another big year with Sisson leading the Rams in tackles, but right behind him will be Williams? Wanna call me crazy? Go ahead, but the kid can play. He's going to be an excellent run stopper this season filling holes made by the big uglies on the other side of the ball. And what about the next Kawulok? Expectations are going to be high from the general public, given the fact he's filling in for the talented Ricky Brewer. I'm just hoping for a consistent year more than anything else.
The D-Line could make things easier... or tougher.
With an unstable defensive line a year ago that graduated three of its four starters, this season could bring one of two things, hope (if you're an optimist like myself) or despair. Now give credit to defensive end Tommie Hill who made the play of the game in the New Mexico Bowl last season, but still, out of the 10 sacks the Rams had last season, only four came from the front four. So what's next?Personally, I think things are going to be alright on this front. While defensive tackle Guy Miller and defensive end Corey Macon (who should here forth be nicknamed the "Alaskan Assassin"... hopefully) have a combined ZERO starts between the two of them, DT James Morehead and DE Ty Wittier have five and eight career starts, respectively. If this defensive line can step the season, it could make life easier for the linebackers.