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BOULDER, CO, April 2, 2022: Inside linebacker coach, Mark Smith, during the April 2, 2022 University of Colorado Boulder football practice. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff photographer)

Colorado doesn’t have a lot of depth at inside linebacker this spring, but those who are on the field are adapting to a new defensive alignment.

This offseason, CU is shifting its defense from a 3-4 base to a 4-3 because the staff believes it suits the personnel — particularly at linebacker.

“It’s been really good,” inside linebackers coach Mark Smith said. “I think our personnel lends itself to that. It’s a natural fit for the guys that we have on our team. It fits our strengths of what we do. That’s one thing that (defensive coordinator Chris) Wilson has always kind of said to our defense is that we want to be custom tailors and not say, ‘Hey, here’s our system,’ and then try to just fit you to our system.

“Want to find what are the guys we have and what do they do the best and then go and put them in that position to do that. … The 4-3 has really has lent itself to that. Not that we won’t do anything (else); we still have our odd package and things that we’ll get into, but it’s been a good transition so far.”

In addition to some new wrinkles on defense, the Buffs are trying to replace star linebacker Nate Landman, who has graduated.

To fill Landman’s shoes and get better as a group, Smith challenged each of his linebackers to focus on three areas of improvement for the spring. The common theme among them was communication.

“We’ve got to be better communicators and I want to hear a bunch of chatter out on the field,” Smith said. “A lot of our mental errors that we had back during the season stem from alignment issues, so the more that we communicate, the more we can all be on the same page, the better we are.”

Missing Landman, who had an injured shoulder, for the final five games of 2021 helped in that regard. Smith saw Robert Barnes and Quinn Perry step up in Landman’s absence. Those two are now seniors and projected starters.

“When (Landman) was removed from the equation, it forced guys to step up into that role,” Smith said. “So there was a great progression in those five games and we’ve continued on that during spring.”

Outside of Barnes and Perry, the Buffs don’t have much experience. Sophomore Marvin Ham is angling for a bigger role, along with sophomore Isaac Hurtado, who is a junior college transfer; redshirt freshman Mister Williams; and true freshman Eoghan Kerry.

While Smith is happy with the progress, the Buffs have only six inside linebackers on scholarship this spring and seven overall.

“We’re a little thinner than I want us to be right now,” he said. “We need more depth in that area, but I’m really proud of the guys.”


CU picked up two verbal commitments for the 2023 recruiting class on Monday.

Adrian Wilson from Keller (Texas) Central High School and AJ Newberry from South Grand Prairie (Texas) High School both committed to the Buffs.

Wilson is a 6-foot, 170-pound safety who has 10 scholarship offers, including from Colorado State and Washington State.

Newberry is a 5-11, 180-pound running back with seven offers, including from Air Force and Georgia Tech.

Quick learner

Redshirt freshman walk-on safety Jordan Woolverton played quarterback for the Buffs last year. With a lack of depth at safety, he’s now on defense and playing well. Woolverton had one of the top defensive plays in Saturday’s scrimmage with a pass breakup in the end zone and has impressed his coaches.

“He had no experience playing safety, but he has been probably one of the bright spots in terms of making the transition to safety,” safeties coach Brett Maxie said. “I think a lot of it stems from him being a quarterback, just having some natural feel for it and instincts.”

Like Woolverton, Maxie made the transition from quarterback to defensive back in college.


Senior safety Isaiah Lewis has missed time this spring because of injury but could be back on the field next week, Maxie said. … The Buffs are off Tuesday and return to the field on Wednesday.

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