The compliments from coaches are flying at Colorado linebacker Kenneth Olugbode so fast and often this spring, the sophomore from San Jose, Calif., ought to have a mushroom cloud of confidence.
Coach Mike MacIntyre and defensive coordinator Kent Baer each described Olugbode as "really, really smart" in separate interviews after Monday's practice. Last week after the first scrimmage of spring drills, MacIntyre also described Olugbode as "really freakin' good."
No pressure kid.
Actually, Olugbode isn't the type to feel pressure from praise being heaped on him. He was asked about MacIntyre's assessment of him Friday and he smiled and said, "I kind of agree I guess.
"I thank him for the compliment as well, but I just try to do my best at all times," Olugbode said.
Olugbode played in five games on defense in the second half of last season and also finished among the top 10 special teams points earners on the team. Baer, who coaches the linebackers in addition to his coordinator responsibilities, said Olugbode really impressed him on multiple occasions but none more so than a late-November game against Southern Cal.
Baer had to ask Olugbode to play outside linebacker in the game after an injury to a teammate despite the fact Olugbode had never practiced a down at the position.
"He had never taken a rep and he played good," Baer said. "He listens in meetings and he's pretty smart. He's still got a lot to learn, but he's really, really smart."
Olugbode is practicing this spring at the Will linebacker position that has been manned at CU the past three years by Derrick Webb, who is hoping to find a spot in the NFL this summer. Olugbode's main competition for the job is fellow sophomore Ryan Severson, whose primary contribution as a freshman last fall was returning 36 kickoffs for an average of 22.1 yards per return
"The offense is running fast-paced football, so we get a lot of reps in in a short amount of time," Olugbode said. "I get to see a lot of different plays and a lot of different formations and that gets me ready for what I'm going to see in the fall also."
Olugbode's best asset to this point is his speed. He is a bit undersized at 6-foot, 210 pounds, but not many opponents are going to run away from him in open space.
"There are certain challenges, like I know I definitely can't try to take a lineman head up because he's 300 pounds and I'm 200, and it would be difficult for me to try to push him back," Olugbode said. "But I know with speed I can beat him to the corner and beat him to the edge and use my better footwork and good hands to keep him off of me.
"I personally don't see size as a big factor. It's not the size of the dog. It's the size of the fight in the dog."
Olugbode said his primary focus this spring and summer is perfecting the use of his hands in keeping blockers off him so that he can use his speed to his advantage.