Mychal Sisson is 20 years old, a redshirt sophomore and very possibly the newly crowned leader of the CSU Rams defense.
Sisson, a linebacker, is expected to be the only member of last year’s CSU linebacker corps to be returning for the 2009 season. The Rams lost middle linebacker Jeff Horenik to graduation and outside linebacker Ricky Brewer to a one-year suspension for an undisclosed violation of team rules.
Because of the heavy losses, head coach Steve Fairchild is expecting Sisson, an all-American his freshman year, to play a critical role in heading CSU’s defensive attack this season.
Fairchild explained he is confident in the native Texan’s ability to guide the Rams.
“He had a tremendous year for us last season, he’s very experienced and he’s a high effort guy,” the second year CSU coach said. “I think he is ready and we need him to be ready.”
In his freshman year, Sisson put up impressive numbers for CSU, posting 108 tackles — eight for a loss — and two fumble recoveries.
Sisson, 5-feet 11-inches and weighing 200 pounds, said he’s ready for his new role, adding that he started becoming a leader last season.
“Even when Ricky (Brewer) was there, I knew I had to step up and play a lead role,” he said. “Now with him gone I have to play more of a lead role, and some other players have to step up. Right now, I have to lead the defense and show them how things go.”
Defensive coordinator Larry Kerr said that Sisson is more of a lead by example type of player, which is exactly what the Rams need.
“There’s no doubt he’s ready to do it and does most of it by example and not by talking,” Kerr said. “Just the way he plays is leadership. As long as he’s going out and getting after people, other guys will respond to that. He’s got that in him.”
With Sisson expected to retain his starting position from a season ago, Fairchild and Kerr are still working to fill two vacant spots in the linebacking corps. In the first few spring practices, both coaches have given the majority of starting reps to sophomore Michael Kawulok and junior Alex Williams.
Fairchild he has liked what he’s seen from the duo early on, but explained it’s hard to truly get a feel for linebacker’s abilities at this point in the season.
“It’s hard to really evaluate linebackers until they can put pads on and have to tackle,” he said. “The next 12 or 13 practices will be a good evaluation of what we have there and who’s going to win the starting job.”
Kawulok, who started one game last season, said that he is trying to make the most of any opportunity he is given. The Boulder native posted six tackles last season.
“It’s a good opportunity for the younger guys to step up and prove to the coaches what they can do,” Kawulok said. “It feels good, but it’s still early. It’s nice to get a bunch of reps.”
Even though the start of the regular season is five months away, questions are already being raised about the linebacker corps’ inexperience. Fairchild admitted that he shares this concern, but believes that with time, CSU linebackers will remain a strength of the team.
“If you’re young and talented, that’s better than older and not playing very well,” the one time CSU quarterback said. “It’s the same as last year, we’ll just hope to keep getting better every day and we’ll eventually be where we want to be.”
Football beat reporter Adam Bohlmeyer can be reached at email@example.com.