November 24, 2010

A look towards 2011: Linebackers

Starting today, we will sprinkle our recruiting coverage with some analysis on what is returning to the field next season for the Colorado State football team. In addition to who is coming and going, we will also look at who the Rams have offered scholarships to and who is still out there in terms of possible recruits.

Colorado State's linebacking corps was the strength of a much-maligned defense this fall. Ricky Brewer returned from a one-year suspension to lead the team in tackles with 105, with eight of those coming for a loss. Myke Sisson has arguably been the Rams' most valuable defensive player since he stepped on campus. This season, he managed 95 stops, 4.5 sacks, one interception and a mind-blowing seven forced fumbles. Alex Williams played strong in the middle, accounting for 61 stops, five for loss and 1.5 sacks this season.

Who is leaving: Ricky Brewer and Alex Williams have used up their eligibility.

Who will return:  CSU will return three players with starting experience next season in Mike Kawoluk and Mychal Sisson. Chris Gipson also started at linebacker in the past and is now playing some fullback. Kawulok stepped in for an injured Williams last season and played well. Kawulok ended the season with 44 stops and three forced fumbles. He will be flanked next year by All-league selection Myke Sisson. Mike Orakpo was originally slated to join the Rams in 2009, but ended up coming into the program last spring. He had a strong season, collecting 37 tackles, including 2.5 for a loss, two sacks and a forced fumble. He will get a shot to fill the other open spot in the Rams' 4-3 alignment.

Who is working their way up?  The recruiting class of 2010 contained three linebackers and got a fourth during the spring semester. The clips featuring Eric Niederberger made him an internet sensation on our message boards, while Charles Favors and Marquis Hood both signed with the Rams out of Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando. Niederberger was able to redshirt this season, while Favors spent the season on special teams, seeing action in seven games and coming up with one tackle. Hood spent the past year at a junior college in Michigan.

Who is in the boat for 2011: High school linebackers tend to be the most athletic guys on the field and are intriguing as recruits because a high school linebackers can grow into defensive linemen, shrink to safeties, move to the offensive side of the ball as a fullback/tight end or just end up playing linebacker. Colorado State does not yet have a linebacker committed for the 2010 season, leaving them with at least two slots to fill between now and Signing Day. Granted, today's running back or tight end could become tomorrow's linebacker and the Rams have four running backs and two tight ends committed thus far.

Who has been offered:   Where the inside linebackers are concerned, the Rams have gone back to Florida to offer Anthony Harrell, of Tampa. Harrell has offers from West Virginia, Wake Forest and Vandy. Harrell has said playing in the SEC is his dream, which makes CSU a longshot. Johnathan Yenga hails from Texas. Brady Daigh of Mullen High School in Denver has told Adam Munstertieger that he is solid in his commitment to Colorado, despite there not being a coach in place.

The outside linebackers are a little more plentiful and up in the air. The Rams have an offer into Leilon Willingham of Mullen - a four-star prospect who has said he has no favorites but would like to get away from the state of Colorado. Grandview's Eddie Yarbrough has been agreeable to listening to Colorado State's overtures and is a possibility. Tevin Newman has offers from Washington State, Colorado State and Youngstown State. Chris Pompey is another new name to the CSU mix and holds offers from CSU, Florida International and Georgia Southern.

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