During his short time with the Colorado football team, Nate Landman has gained a reputation for being around the football and earned the nickname, "The Hammer."

On Friday night against Colorado State, the Buffaloes will unleash The Hammer, as the true sophomore linebacker from Danville, Calif., is slated to get the first start of his career.

"It's a great relief. Hard work paid off," Landman said of earning a starting job heading into the season.

It's a testament to Landman's talent and hard work that he has earned a starting job. Seniors Rick Gamboa (117 tackles) and Drew Lewis (119 tackles) are both back after starting all 12 games last year.

CU coaches recognized that Landman is too good to be standing on the sidelines, however, and Lewis has been moved to outside linebacker.

"Coaches want to get the best guys on the field, and I think by having all three of us on the field, we can do that," Landman said. "Drew is a great player and it's very unselfish of him to go out there and play a new position, but he's excelling in it and doing well."

Lewis will also play some at inside linebacker. Landman said he's excited to play next to both seniors this year.

"It's going to be nice playing next to Rick and having Drew in there," Landman said. "We're going to have a good rotation."

In limited time last year, Landman displayed his talent and showed his ready to play at this level. He's a bit more motivated now, however, as he goes into the year as a starter.


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"It kind of confirmed what I've been doing and gave me a further goal, now that I know I'm going to be playing a lot more snaps," he said. "It kind of pushes me to study more, and get in the weight room, eating to ramp things up to a new level."

Getting leverage up front

CU's defensive line will be in the spotlight tonight and this season after a rough year in 2017.

While plenty of familiar faces are back, the line has a much different look. Nose tackle Javier Edwards is back and much leaner, as is his top backup, Lyle Tuiloma. Seniors Jase Franke and Chris Mulumba are also back.

That foursome combined to play 1,389 snaps in 2017 and figure to have prominent roles again.

However, it's the newcomers that have really gained the attention this offseason. True freshman Israel Antwine is slated to start - which would make him the first true freshman defensive lineman to ever start the opener for CU - while junior college transfer Mustafa Johnson is also expected to start. Redshirt freshman Terrance Lang has turned heads, too.

Coaches and players have commented this month about the improvement they've seen with the line winning more battles in the trenches.

"I'm seeing that for sure," Lewis said. "Our dudes, they're getting focused up and coach (Kwahn) Drake is doing a great part in making sure they're ready to play a lot better than what they were last year. I'm seeing it from a lot of guys."

For the defense to play better overall, it's essential for the line to show improvement on game days.

"Everything they do that reflects on the defense," Gamboa said. "They're the heart and soul of the defense up front. A lot of what they've done this offseason has definitely been helping the defense."

Notables

A few notes going into tonight's game:

  • In last year's game, CSU's offense marched into CU territory seven times in 12 possessions, but came away with just three points. Some fortunate (for CU) penalties helped, but after crossing the 50-yard line, the Rams had a field goal, two interceptions, a fumble, a punt and two failed fourth down attempts.
  • CU's offense sputtered last year, too. In fact, the Buffs failed the score in the final 43 minutes, 36 seconds of the game.
  • Grad transfer Travon McMillian is one of the most intriguing additions for CU this season. The senior running back will make his Buffs debut against the Rams and could join an exclusive group. Only seven players in CU history have rushed for 100 yards in their debut game with the team. The last to do it was Marcus Houston, who finished with exactly 100 yards against CSU on Sept. 2, 2000. 
  • CU head coach Mike MacIntyre comes into this game with a 6-1 all-time record against CSU, including 4-1 during his time with the Buffaloes. The six wins are the most for MacIntyre against any team. The only other team he's defeated even three times is Oregon State (3-2).
  • Buffs quarterback Steven Montez needs just 8 yards passing to reach 4,000 for his career. He currently ranks ninth in CU history with 3,992 yards, but needs 795 to move up the list.
  • Gamboa is just 8 tackles away from 300 for his career. Only 15 players in CU history have hit the 300-tackle mark.
  • One CU player is celebrating a birthday Friday: tight end Brady Russell, a former walk-on who recently earned a scholarship, turns 20.

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at howellb@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.