When he came to Colorado as a freshman in 2013, Addison Gillam immediately jumped into the spotlight.
It was evident from the beginning that he was a special talent that needed to be on the field, and he quickly earned a starting job.
Now a fourth-year junior, Gillam looks at the players he's competing with at inside linebacker and realizes that a starting role is hardly guaranteed, for anybody.
"I really started to notice that last year in camp," he said. "Throughout the whole team, there was like way more competition and it was awesome seeing everybody get a lot better."
While his teammates have improved, Gillam is looking to return from a knee injury that ended his season after just two games last fall.
Gillam's return and the improvement of the rest of the group makes inside linebacker an intriguing position for the Buffs this season.
"I'm really excited," Gillam said. "I like the competition. Having the competition pushing you; it makes everybody 10 times better."
Before the start of preseason camp in August, BuffZone.com will take a look at each position group for the Buffaloes. In this installment, we take a look at the inside linebackers.
Position: Inside linebackers
Returnees: Rick Gamboa (So., 6-0, 230); Addison Gillam (Jr., 6-3, 225); Kenneth Olugbode (Sr., 6-1, 215); Ryan Severson (Sr., 5-10, 210); Christian Shaver (Jr., 6-3, 230); Travis Talianko (Sr., 6-1, 215)
Additions: Akil Jones (Fr., 6-0, 225); Drew Lewis (So., 6-2, 225); Jacob Stoltenberg (Fr., 6-0, 205; walk-on); Ethan Todd (Fr., 6-2, 220; walk-on)
Losses: Grant Watanabe (left team)
2015 recap: Last year was tough on this group, because injuries took a toll. Gillam (the Buffs' leading tackler in 2013) injured his knee in Week 2 and didn't return. Olugbode (leading tackler in 2014), injured his leg in Week 5 and missed two games. Severson missed time with a concussion. Talianko missed the entire season with an injury. All of that led to the Buffs relying quite a bit on freshmen, such as Gamboa, Watanabe and NJ Falo (who has moved to outside linebacker). Gamboa replaced Gillam in the starting lineup, led the team in tackles was a reliable player most of the year. When Olugbode was healthy, he was solid, as well. In fact, he provided one the big moments of the year with an interception return for touchdown in a victory over Colorado State. There's no question, however, that this group struggled with inconsistency as they played in defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt's defense for the first time.
2016 outlook: If healthy, this could be one of the best units on the team. The Buffs now have three different players who have led the team in tackles at one point during their careers. They also add Lewis, a former Washington Husky who excelled in junior college last season. Of those four, only two will start. Going into camp, the starting duo is Gillam and Olugbode. Gillam has had two consecutive injury-plagued seasons, but he had a great offseason. He comes into the fall in the best shape of his career, and a fire to prove he can be as good — or better — than he was in 2013. Olugbode is a senior and a leader (he was named a captain). When together, Gillam and Olugbode are a cohesive duo. Even if those two stay healthy, Gamboa is sure to see the field. He was too good last season to spend this season on the bench. Lewis has the ability to be right there with them. Severson gives the Buffs quality depth and experience. After missing last season, Talianko has some work to do to earn playing time. Coaches like Shaver's ability, and he can play inside or at outside linebacker, giving them depth at both spots. Jones is a great talent, but might be a redshirt candidate this year because of the veterans ahead of him.
Brian Howell: firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.