Heart of the Rams

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Sep 012011
 
Authors: Kevin Lytle

Nothing.

That’s what CSU linebackers coach Bernard Clark knew about Rams linebacker Mychal Sisson when he was hired in March.

That can be attributed to Clark not watching every college game. But the obscurity of the Mountain West and the CSU program make it so one of the nation’s best defensive players hides in relative anonymity in Fort Collins.

After coaching Sisson and watching the tape, Clark is sold.

“His quickness and his tenacity when it comes to playing the game,” said Clark on Sisson’s strengths. “He has the ability to make big plays. Myke does a lot of the things you can’t teach.”

This spring Clark and Sisson have spent hours in the film room to enhance Sisson’s reading of offenses to make him an even more lethal weapon.

Sisson feels that the biggest difference between now and his freshman year is his ability to play a tactically strong game.

“When I was a freshman I was just running around trying to make plays, now I’m making plays, but I’m doing everything within the scheme of our defense,” Sisson said. “Everything is second nature to me now. Sometimes I see plays before they even happen because of film study and what coaches have taught me.”

Earlier this year Sisson was left off the Butkus Award watch list, given annually to the nation’s best linebacker. The NCAA’s reasoning was that Sisson, at 5 feet 11 inches, is undersized for a linebacker and is more of a safety playing in the box. That judgment comes despite the fact that Sisson has played linebacker in all 37 of his college games.

But trying to decipher the method to the NCAA’s madness is a topic for another day.

The fact of the matter is that Sisson is one of the best defenders in the country, and the undisputed leader of the Rams’ defense.

“If you’re talking about the elite linebackers in the country, you would have to mention him in that breath,” coach Steve Fairchild said. “Just based on what he’s done the first three years. It would be an oversight not to keep him in that conversation.”

Those first three years have certainly produced some impressive results.

Sisson has averaged 97 tackles per season and led the Rams in total tackles his first two years, while finishing second on the team last year despite battling a knee injury.

Additionally, Sisson led the nation in forced fumbles a year ago with seven and is currently leading the nation in tackles for loss.

But after back-to-back three-win seasons, Sisson is more focused on returning the Rams to a successful season than collecting individual accolades.

“Bowl game, definitely,” he said about where CSU should be at the end of the season. “We’ve just got to get out there and prove everybody wrong, and we’ll end up in a bowl game.”

No matter the outcome of the season, it’s safe to say Clark will know a lot more about Sisson than nothing.
_Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Lytle can be reached at sports@collegian.com. _

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