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CU Buffs position preview: Confidence growing at inside linebacker

Colorado must replace Nate Landman, but likes talent on roster

DENVER, CO - September 11, 2021: University of Colorado Boulder's Quinn Perry tries to get past the block of Texas A&M's Caleb Chapman during the September 11, 2021 game at Empower Field in Denver.  (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
DENVER, CO – September 11, 2021: University of Colorado Boulder’s Quinn Perry tries to get past the block of Texas A&M’s Caleb Chapman during the September 11, 2021 game at Empower Field in Denver. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
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There will be a couple of familiar faces in the middle of the Colorado defense this year, but a key to Buffaloes’ success will be in how they replace the man who isn’t there anymore.

Nate Landman, who was one of the top tacklers in CU history, has graduated, leaving a major hole at inside linebacker. To fill that hole, the Buffs will lean on several players to elevate their games.

“We’re young overall there but we’ve got some veteran guys at the starter positions,” head coach Karl Dorrell said in the spring. “The younger talent is really talented enough that we feel comfortable that they can play.”

This summer, BuffZone.com will preview each position group for CU and in this installment, we look at the inside linebackers.

Landman led the Buffs in tackles three consecutive seasons, from 2018-20, and was on track to do so again last year when a shoulder injury sidelined him for the last five games of the season.

Losing Landman weakened the Buffs defense in 2021, but it may have helped the 2022 defense. Without him, veterans Robert Barnes, Quinn Perry and Marvin Ham II got extra playing time.

As the Buffs went through spring drills in April, coaches believe that five-game stretch a season ago has made a difference.

“They had to grow and play without Nate for the rest of the season and that actually helped us get over the hump,” Dorrell said. “Instead of having the, ‘when in doubt, just lean on Nate’ type of attitude, I think they really put the time and attention into their development this offseason.

“There are guys that are making plays that were similar to how Nate was making plays. So it’s good to see some good young players doing that and their confidence is growing.”

Perry is back after making 11 starts last year, racking up 78 tackles. Barnes, who transferred from Oklahoma a year ago, picked up his game with Landman out and is angling for a full-time starting job this year.

“Nate did a great job of implementing what a Colorado linebacker was, especially for me not knowing anything about the tradition or the culture,” Barnes said. “Just by being with him in that room for a year and being able to build off his leadership and kind of knowing where we want to set the standard for this room in the future, I think helped a lot. I think me and Quinn have been able go out there, be more vocal, not rely on just one person making the calls. Now, we’re all talking, we’re all making adjustments. I think communication-wise, it’s been night and day from this year to last year.”

Just a few days after spring practices came to a close, the Buffs got a major boost at linebacker when Josh Chandler-Semedo committed to CU. The senior spent the past four seasons at West Virginia, leading the Mountaineers in tackles in 2021, with 110.

Chandler-Semedo started 31 games at West Virginia (13 last year) and posted 260 career tackles. He was voted All-Big 12 honorable mention by coaches and was third-team All-Big 12 by Phil Steele.

CU plans to use more 4-3 alignments this season, which could lead to Barnes, Chandler-Semedo and Perry on the field together at times. But, CU will lean on some inexperienced depth, as well.

Ham and redshirt freshman Mister Williams are veterans who are fighting for rotational spots. Junior college transfer Isaac Hurtado and true freshmen Eoghan Kerry and Aubrey Smith will push for time, as well. Kerry, an early enrollee, impressed teammates and coaches during the spring.

“I’m really proud of the guys like Mister and those guys that have come on, Marvin, that are really developing well from the roles that they had a year ago to now getting on the field and playing more often,” linebackers coach Mark Smith said.

“(Kerry) has done a great job. That guy is very smart. He’s got a very, very high football IQ and he’s able to play in and out of different positions, which is very difficult for a freshman.”

Position: Inside linebackers

Returners (2021 statistics)

  • Robert Barnes, Sr., 6-foot-2, 230 pounds (3 starts, 44 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 2 pass breakups, 1 INT)
  • Marvin Ham II, So., 6-1, 225 (20 tackles, 1 TFL)
  • Quinn Perry, Sr., 6-2, 245 (11 starts, 78 tackles, 4 TFL)
  • Mister Williams, R-Fr., 6-0, 250 (3 tackles)
  • Thomas Notarainni, R-Fr., 6-3, 220 (walk-on)

Additions

  • Josh Chandler-Semedo, Sr., 5-10, 225 (transfer from West Virginia)
  • Isaac Hurtado, So., 6-3, 225 (transfer from Fullerton Community College)
  • Eoghan Kerry, Fr., 6-3, 230
  • Aubrey Smith, Fr., 6-3, 215
  • Jack Remington, Fr., 6-3, 215 (walk-on)
  • Caiden Robertson, Fr., 6-2, 220 (walk-on)

Losses

  • Jack Lamb (medical retirement; 3 starts, 21 tackles, 1 fumble recovery)
  • Nate Landman (graduated; 7 starts, 71 tackles, 6 TFL, 4 PBU)
  • Zephaniah Maea (transferred to Southern University; 1 tackle)
  • Jonathan Van Diest (graduated; 3 tackles, 1 TFL)
  • Tommy Deitchman (walk-on)
  • Geno Macias (walk-on)

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