Throughout his five seasons in Boulder, Nate Landman was one of the best linebackers to wear a Colorado uniform over the past two decades.
Replacing Landman, who graduated after last season, won’t be easy. Yet even without him, the Buffaloes feel they might be better overall at inside linebacker.
“We have so much more depth and talent there than we’ve had,” head coach Karl Dorrell said. “I feel really good about first- and second-team linebackers. I think there’s hardly any drop-off.”
Senior Quinn Perry is back as a returning starter and has had a strong start to preseason camp. The Buffs also return senior Robert Barnes, who got better as last year went along and had a good offseason.
The summer addition of Josh Chandler-Semedo boosted the group even more. A transfer from West Virginia, he led the Mountaineers in tackles a year ago and has been what the Buffs hoped he would be when they recruited him.
“It popped on tape really quickly how smart he was, how he played both an inside linebacker position and an outside linebacker position and he did both of them very proficiently,” Dorrell said of recruiting Chandler-Semedo. “And he’s able to do that here. It’s been a seamless transition for him because his football IQ is really, really strong.
“His confidence as a leader … he’s able to kind of feel comfortable doing it because he knows football and I think he’s been a great addition for us.”
While the seniors are likely to lead the group, Dorrell said newcomers Eoghan Kerry, a true freshman, and Isaac Hurtado, a junior college transfer, have been impressive this offseason.
“Those guys came in (January) and they don’t have any full snaps under their belt in terms of game snaps, but they’ve completely revamped our linebacker position,” Dorrell said.
Sophomore Marvin Ham II and redshirt freshman Mister Williams are also returning players who add experience to the group.
Nose for the ball
True freshman safety Dylan Dixson was the highest-rated player in CU’s 2022 recruiting class, according to 247Sports.com. Through the first 10 days of preseason camp, he’s making his presence known.
“I’m really impressed with what Dylan Dixson is able to do right now,” safeties coach Brett Maxie said. “His motto, and all of our guys need to probably take heed to it, he just runs to the football. If we just get guys running to the football, he’s gonna always have a chance. He’s going to always be around the football and he’s going to have some opportunities to get his hands on (the ball) because wherever the football goes, that’s where he goes.”
Maxie said that quality is innate in a player and added that “effort is everything” for a defender.
“We define effort as a noticeable change in momentum at the moment of recognition,” Maxie said. “Well, when (Dixson) recognizes that … man, he goes.”
True freshman safety Xavier Smith is still recovering from an injury suffered in high school. Maxie said Smith started running last week and is progressing well. “When his time comes, he’ll be ready,” Maxie said. … Junior college transfer safety Jeremy Mack “picks up things extremely quick,” Maxie said, adding he’s had a few 6 a.m. film sessions with Mack. … Junior Jaylen Striker, who formerly played cornerback, is now at free safety and Maxie said that is a “natural spot” for him.