Reality has started to hit Tedric Thompson that his time in Boulder is nearing an end, and the Colorado senior is determined to make his final year a great one.
"I think we're all hungry," said Thompson, the Buffaloes' starting strong safety. "We know how good we are and how good we can be. Those losses that we had (in previous years), it's still sticking with us, so I think that's why we're so hungry."
Thompson is especially hungry as he enters his final season with the Buffs.
"I try to take nothing for granted," Thompson said. "Each day, after every practice, my college career is just getting shorter and shorter. That's something crazy I think about every day after practice, another day that I can't take back."
Because he can't take those days back, Thompson spent his entire offseason making the most of each day, with an eye to the future.
One of the Buffs' best defenders since his arrival as a true freshman in 2013, Thompson had a great season last fall. But, he came out of it disappointed that he wasn't better. He felt he could have been a lot better in pass coverage.
On Wednesday, CU head coach Mike MacIntyre said it's obvious Thompson focused on that area of his game.
"He's really improved his cover skills," MacIntyre said. "We put him in a lot of cover situations, not just filling an alley, and I think he's really improved that from last year. He worked on that hard in the spring and the offseason and I've seen a big difference out here."
Thompson knows he's still got work to do — he's working on sharpening his tackling and communication skills — but is pleased with the progress he's made in coverage.
"I feel way more confident out there than last year and my previous years of playing football," he said. "One person I give credit to is (senior cornerback Chidobe Awuzie). Since I was a freshman, I've always asked him everything. I was always in his ear and I'm still doing that."
Thompson said his coaches have made a big difference, too, but he also credits CU's talented crew of receivers.
"I go against Devin Ross and now Shay Fields is starting to play in the slot, who is another versatile receiver," he said. "I'm going against so many different types of receivers, I think it's making me better."
A better version of Thompson could be dangerous for CU opponents, because he's already been an exceptional player for the Buffs. Last season, he had 80 tackles, three interceptions and nine pass breakups. He has more interceptions over the last two years (six) than anybody on the roster.
"To me, when you look at his production numbers, compared to anybody else in the secondary, he's neck and neck there with Chido," said Buffs secondary/safeties coach Joe Tumpkin. "You look at the balls thrown at Tedric and he was very productive in that sense.
"When you have two guys with that type of experience that have been in the program and have played as much football as those two have played, it's a good thing."
Thompson is hoping the experience pays off this season, as he, Awuzie and other veterans look to produce CU's first winning season in a decade.
"We're ready to show everybody ... and prove to ourselves how hard we work and we're ready to get these wins," he said.
CU has 82 scholarship players, three below the NCAA maximum. The Buffs lost the opportunity to fill one of those spots, however, when freshman Ca'Ron Baham arrived on campus and then quit the team. An NCAA rule prohibits CU from filling Baham's scholarship. MacIntyre has often filled open spots this late by awarding them to walk-ons. He gave a scholarship to walk-on Kyle Evans earlier this week, but hasn't decided if he will give out any more. ... MacIntyre said he's seen more strength and power in receiver Shay Fields this season, who spent the offseason strengthening his legs. ... MacIntyre said sophomore punter Alex Kinney is becoming more consistent and is doing a great job of directional punting.