BOULDER — At the beginning of the spring, when every University of Colorado player was asked to write down his chief individual goal,
Brian Iwuh didn’t hesitate.
“I put down that I wanted to be the hardest-hitting linebacker ever,” Iwuh said. “I want to become a feared player.”
With three practices remaining until the spring game, the senior outside linebacker has
announced that intention several times already — all without saying a word.
His violent play, combined with junior linebacker Thaddaeus Washington’s powerful presence inside, have established the deep and experienced CU linebacking corps as the most impressive aspect of the team heading into the coming season.
“Between Brian and Thaddaeus, when they hit you, you stay hit,” Buffs coach Gary Barnett said.
Although Washington made his mark with his physical play last season, Iwuh has been the biggest star of the spring. His hits — highlighted by a shot last Saturday that left receiver Dusty Sprague, in the words of Barnett, “talking to aliens” — have been the emotional highlight of several April practices.
“I just pride myself in doing that,” Iwuh said. “When you get hard hits, it gives you confidence in everything else you do and makes your game all that much better.”
Although it takes much more than power to play linebacker in the Big 12, Iwuh’s brutal play has already served to enhance his other skills.
It has also given him a valuable reputation among his peers.
“After knocking Dusty out last week, nobody wants to go in his area,” Barnett said. “We almost have to take him out to run any plays. He’s been very consistent.”
Such consistency is crucial at the outside or “Buff” linebacking position. Last season, Iwuh recorded 98 tackles and became only the second outside linebacker in school history to lead the team in the category.
Immediately behind Iwuh is redshirt freshman Brad Jones, who could be the most talented linebacker on the team, although he has yet to play in a game.
“Brian is moving in the direction we want him to go,” Barnett said. “He’s got great suddenness and speed and all the range that you want.”
At inside linebacker, the Buffs are especially rich, and just as physical. Although Washington is probably the best of the crew, he’s just one of four who will see playing time next season.
Senior Akarika Dawn and sophomores Jordan Dizon and Joe Sanders round out the group, and are almost interchangeable according to Barnett.
“It’s probably the best rotation since I’ve been here,” Barnett said. “They will all get the same number of snaps.”
Much like Iwuh, however, Washington’s ability to create pain in his opponents separates him from the pack. Although Washington hasn’t played as loudly as Iwuh this spring, mostly because he tackles running backs instead of receivers, he shares the same status.
He also shares Iwuh’s belief that one big strike can make all the difference.
“It helps a lot when your opponent knows that when you’re coming, you’re coming with all you’ve got,” Washington said. “You have to have a certain mentality, and me and Iwuh just have it.
“It’s just something that we love to do.”