April 25, 2006

Breaking down the defense

Like on the offensive side of the ball, the open competition this spring provided some interesting position battles on defense. The defensive backfield will likely feature three new starters from a year ago, while the Buffs' linebacking corp again appears to be strength of the defense and one of the top units in the Big 12. BuffStampede.com takes a final look back at Colorado's 2006 spring practices, with a position-by-position review.

Defensive end -

Analysis: Going into spring ball all the talk was about the lack on depth on the interior of the Buffs' defensive line. But it was at defensive end where the issues arose this spring. Alex Ligon (torn pectoral), Alonzo Barrett (dislocated elbow) and Sam Zimmerer (illness) were all sidelined. And Taj Kaynor was moved inside to tackle. Seniors Abraham Wright and Walter Boye-Doe emerged from what became a three man rotation at defensive end. Wright led the team with six sacks in the three spring scrimmages. He has adapted well to the new defense. "I am ripping inside more than I used to last year," Wright explained. "Sometimes I'm even lining up inside, like a three-technique, inside the guard and the tackle. Last year was the total opposite." After battling injuries the last two seasons, Boye-Doe finally appears ready to make a big contribution. He racked up seven tackles and four sacks during the spring game.

Projected Starters: Abraham Wright, senior; Walter Boye-Doe, senior

Defensive tackle -

Analysis: While Boye-Doe and Wright were all over the field making plays at defensive end, George Hypolite and Brandon Nicolas were relatively quiet this spring. Both are expected to step in as starters, replacing Vaka Manupuna and James Garee, who started every game for the Buffs last season. Hypolite saw action in 11 games as a true freshman last season. Nicolas transferred to CU from Notre Dame. "He's doing okay," Hawkins said of Nicolas about three weeks into spring ball. "Knocking off the rust is probably part of it, and there's a new scheme. So he's back to square one a little bit." Hypolite (265-pounds) and Nicolas (270-pounds) both came into spring ball lighter than they were listed last fall. Adding some strength and weight to their frames will be a top priority for new strength and conditioning coach Jeff Pittman when he gets to Boulder in May. On an 8,000 calorie-a-day diet, Taj Kaynor already began to appear bigger than his listed 250-pounds at the end of spring ball. He hopes to get up to 275 or 280 by preseason camp. Marcus Jones rounds out the depth. The senior-to-be has recorded only one tackle in his collegiate career. "I think part of the reason Marcus isn't playing is his work ethic," defensive line coach Romeo Bandison said during spring ball. "It's changed dramatically, but you have fours years of habit to change over spring time."

Projected Starters: Brandon Nicolas, sophomore; George Hypolite, sophomore

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