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CU Buffs linebackers eager for opportunity

With Nate Landman out, Colorado will have others step up during Alamo Bowl

CU Athletics
Junior Quinn Perry is one of the linebackers who could get more playing time for Colorado in the Alamo Bowl.

For the past three years, when a tackle was made by the Colorado defense, it was often Nate Landman in the middle of it.

When the Buffaloes (4-1) face No. 20 Texas (6-3) in the Valero Alamo Bowl on Tuesday in San Antonio (7:05 p.m., TV: ESPN), they’ll do so without Landman, who ruptured his right Achilles’ tendon against Utah on Dec. 12 and is out for the season.

Filling in for Landman at inside linebacker?

“I think it would be a committee approach,” CU head coach Karl Dorrell said this week.

Senior Akil Jones is expected to occupy one of the starting linebacker spots, as he has most of the year. Jones has 18 tackles, including five tackles for loss, in four games this season. He had 10 of those tackles and two TFLs against Utah, when Landman missed half the game.

Jones said he’s often relied on Landman’s communication and leadership, but it’s now Jones in that role.

Junior Jonathan Van Diest could get the start at the other linebacker spot, but junior Quinn Perry and freshman Marvin Ham are expected to play next to Jones, as well.

“Whoever I’m playing next to, whether that’s Quinn, Jon, Marvin Ham, it doesn’t matter,” Jones said. “We’re going to be the ones that are going to be trying to run the show, picking up the slack with communication, because that’s going to be a big focus for us.”

Head coach Karl Dorrell said this week that all three players have stepped up in practice as they look forward to the opportunity.

“All three of those guys know both spots with the money and the mike backer, so they know those spots,” Dorrell said. “They’ve all had reps in there and we’re going to rotate those three who do a lot of really good things for us. They’re involved in all of our packages, all of our sub packages and personnel groups, so they’re excited.

“They have a little skip in their step and they’ve got some energy because they know they’re playing and they’re going to play extensively, so I’m excited to watch those guys play.”

Van Diest started the first five games of the 2019 season and then started at Arizona on Dec. 5. After playing just five defensive snaps the first three games, he’s played 76 snaps over the past two while filling in for Jones (who missed the Arizona game for the birth of his son) and Landman (against Utah).

“We are just trying to have a mentality of the next man up,” Van Diest said after the Utah game, when he had six tackles. “Just do what I can, make my plays. Just be there with my teammates.”

Van Diest has 11 tackles this season, Perry has four in 40 snaps and Ham has played just three defensive snaps in his career to this point.

New experience

The Alamo Bowl is allowing up to 11,000 fans in the stands, which is about 17 percent of capacity.

For Buffs’ star running back Jarek Broussard, it will be a new experience. He’s only played five college games, all this year, and only one had fans in attendance. CU had 554 friends and family for the opener at Folsom Field on Nov. 7.

“I’ve never really experienced a college football atmosphere with fans because this is really my first time touching the field (this year),” he said. “I guess that plays a huge role (in the game), but I mean I don’t really know the difference, so I look forward to playing with fans to see what that’s like.”

Texas head football coach Tom Herman.

Looking forward

Texas has had multiple starters opt out of the bowl as they prepare for the NFL draft, or others that will be out because of injuries or COVID-19.

Longhorns head coach Tom Herman said that several young players will get a chance to play bigger roles, and the game will give the team somewhat of a look ahead to 2021.

“It is a bit of a turning of the page,” he said. “This will be a good test for some of these young guys, but most of them have experience and it’s really more of a precursor to spring ball, obviously keeping our fingers crossed that we have spring practice.”

It’s not all about next year, though. The Longhorns are 3-0 in bowls the last three seasons, all under Herman.

“It is a culmination of a really good season and an opportunity to send these seniors out as the winningest senior class since Colt McCoy’s (in 2009), which is an accomplishment, to say the least,” Herman said. “To send these seniors out with their fourth straight bowl victory I think is important to everybody in this program.”

Lytle update

CU offensive lineman Chance Lytle is from San Antonio, but won’t get a chance to play in the Alamo Bowl because he suffered a lower leg fracture against Arizona on Dec. 5.

Dorrell said Lytle’s surgery went well and he’s looking forward to what is a bright future.

“I think Chance has found out a lot about himself as a football player, that he discovered that he loves the game, and that he can be very good at it,” Dorrell said. “I think in his mind he’s looking forward to recovering from that and building off of the positive things that he did for us this year.

“He’s a guy that I think he does have potential of playing on the next level. So, I think he did enough positive things for himself that he’s energized about really getting back to health and getting himself ready for 2021.”

Notable

CU arrived in San Antonio on Saturday night and was scheduled to practice Sunday and Monday. … In its history, the Buffs have played just four times in a bowl as an unranked team going against a ranked team. CU is 2-2 in those games, defeating Oregon (Aloha Bowl) in 1998 and Boston College (Insight.com Bowl) in 1999 and losing to Rice (Cotton Bowl) in 1938 and Clemson (Champ Sports Bowl) in 2005.