June brawl results in sophomore Michael Sipili’s suspension
Until the beginning of classes today, most of CU’s football players have been able to spend the month of August with their minds solely on football and the team’s matchup on Sept. 1 against arch-rival Colorado State.
One exception, however, is sophomore linebacker Michael Sipili. Sipili, unlike the rest of his Buff teammates, has much more to think about these days besides the green and gold of a Ram helmet.
Sipili was told by head coach Dan Hawkins prior to the start of fall camp that he would be suspended indefinitely as a result of an altercation he and fellow CU football player, Chris Perri, were involved in on June 16. It was on that night that Sipili reportedly tackled and punched fellow CU student John Antrim. Sipili reportedly caused enough damage to Antrim’s face that he required surgery.
The indefinite suspension of Sipili, who was on track to be one of the Buffs starters at the linebacker position, presents a challenging dilemma for long-time CU linebackers coach Brian Cabral. The loss of Sipili, combined with the recent news that junior Marcus Burton will be academically ineligible for the season, leaves Cabral with the challenge of working with one of his thinnest linebacker groups ever.
“(The depth) has never been like this. Our first group is really experienced, but the second group is untested. It’s a lot of work, and slowly they are coming around,” Cabral said.
Incumbent starters Brad Jones and Jordon Dizon will be joined by junior R.J. Brown at the top of the depth chart at linebacker. The experience among the starting three is plentiful, but it shrinks quickly thereafter. Backing up Brown, Jones and Dizon are three walk-on sophomores who all have very limited or no game experience at all. The most experience any of Cabral’s back-up linebackers have is the seven snaps from scrimmage that sophomore Jeff Smart played last season. That sort of inexperience behind the starting group puts a premium on health at a position where guys sacrifice their body with every bone-crushing hit.
Sipili said that despite his best efforts to forget the incident, he still sometimes thinks about his mistake.
“It’s tough to try not to think about it. It gets tough at some points, but I’ve got to move on with it and do what I can to help the team,” Sipili said.
Cabral, who recruited Sipili to CU, says the suspension has been tough for his talented sophomore.
“I think he’s having a hard time. He’s trying to work through it, but it’s tough,” Cabral said.
Brown, the man responsible for filling the void left by Sipili, was named the Buffs special teams captain before the season started. Even though Brown has never received extensive playing time on the defensive side of the ball, Cabral said the junior is ready for his expanded role.
“R.J.’s ready. He’s earned it,” Cabral said. “He’s been on the field a lot in previous years, and he’s seen a lot of scrimmage snaps in the past.”
Sipili’s void gives Brown a chance to step in and be a productive starter for the Buffs. After being a special teams regular the past two years, Brown says he relishes the opportunity to play an extended amount on the defensive side of the ball as well.
“This is the reason I came to CU. To have the chance to play linebacker. It’s the most exciting thing in my life,” Brown said.
Having been told by Hawkins that he will not be eligible to play until his legal process plays out, Sipili must watch as his starting spot is filled by someone else. But don’t look for Sipili to slouch in practice in the meantime. Earlier in camp, Hawkins had to tell the hard-hitting sophomore to tone down his aggression after he rung the bells of a couple of his teammates.
“I’m just trying to stay focused and keep my head in the game. It’s tough, but it’s what I have to do,” Sipili said.
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer Stirling Wade at email@example.com.