In looking ahead to the upcoming season, Colorado assistant coach Ross Els said last week he feels very good about the depth the Buffaloes have developed at inside linebacker.
Returning starters Rick Gamboa and Drew Lewis, both seniors, and talented sophomores Akil Jones and Nate Landman give the Buffs four players that Els feels comfortable putting on the field.
When the Buffs get into fall camp, that number could grow to five if redshirt freshman Jonathan Van Diest can get healthy.
"I think he's going to be a heck of a football player for us," Els said. "I'm really excited to see what he can do, hopefully pretty soon."
CU likes the potential of Van Diest, but the Cherry Creek High School graduate will have some ground to make up in the fall.
Van Diest, who redshirted last year, tore the ACL in his left knee in November and sat out spring practices.
Van Diest was able to work on the mental part of the game this spring, but Els said, "Unfortunately, it's not a video game. You ask him questions out on the screen and the majority of the time he gets the right answer, but he's got to get those reps (on the field)."
While Gamboa and Lewis are the returning starters and expected to start this fall, Jones and Landman both continued their development and solidified backup spots this spring. Van Diest could only watch.
"It was a tough spring for (Van Diest) to miss because it would have been nice to have him rotate in there with those four guys, too and see what he can do," Els said. "Great attitude, worked his tail off, great kid; we just need to get him reps."
This was the third year in a row that Van Diest has had surgery, but the previous two were upper-body injuries. Despite the knee injury keeping him off the field for now, Van Diest has been able to work on his upper body strength. He is up to about 230 pounds on his 6-foot-1 frame, and recovery from his knee injury is going well.
Van Diest is also excelling in the classroom and has displayed leadership qualities, as one of the key pieces of the 2017 recruiting class.
Now, it's a matter of getting him back on the field.
Buffs add walk-on
On Sunday night, tight end Vincent Colodny of Los Altos (Calif.) High School announced he has committed to CU as a preferred walk-on with plans to join the Buffs this summer.
A 6-foot-3, 230-pound prospect, Colodny had offers from FCS schools, but ultimately chose CU over a preferred walk-on opportunity at Utah, according to 247sports.com.
Colodny gives the Buffs much-needed depth at tight end. They are set to have just three tight ends on scholarship: juniors Chris Bounds and Darrion Jones and sophomore Jared Poplawski, who is coming off an ACL injury. CU also has walk-ons Derek Coleman and Brady Russell.
Colodny is the fifth player to commit to CU as a preferred walk-on for the 2018 class, along with inside linebacker Jake Yurachek from Friendswood, Tex.; safeties Dustin Johnson of Cherry Creek and Ethan Villarreal of Fairview; and kicker Evan Price of Evergreen.
Last year, cornerback Ronnie Blackmon led the Buffs in punt returns and kickoff returns, while receiver KD Nixon also handled kickoffs. Both are back, but Els said the Buffs are a long way from deciding who will be in those positions next year. While it could be Blackmon and/or Nixon, the Buffs have other options and also some talented recruits coming to Boulder this summer. "That's going to be a work in progress," Els said.