With Kenneth Olugbode and Rick Gamboa playing at a high level at inside linebacker, Addison Gillam has had a tough time getting on the field this season for the Colorado Buffaloes.
The junior is taking advantage of his opportunities, though, and making it tougher to keep him on the sidelines.
"He played well Saturday (against Oregon State) and he's getting better and better," CU head coach Mike MacIntyre said. "He's able to put more and more plays together. He's a big part of our football team and he'll be a bigger part as the season goes along."
Gillam had a sensational true freshman season in 2013, registering 119 tackles — the most by any CU player in the last eight years — and earning freshman all-American honors.
After an injury-plagued 2014, he suffered a season-ending knee injury during Week 2 of the 2015 season.
Although healthy again, Gillam has played a backup role this season to Olugbode (a three-year starter) and Gamboa, who led the team in tackles after taking over for Gillam last season.
Through three games, Gillam was on the field for just 39 defensive snaps and he registered only four tackles.
The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Gillam hasn't lost his speed and aggressiveness, though, and his ability to sprint sideline-to-sideline and make tackles has become more important as the Buffs start playing more athletic teams in the Pac-12.
On Sept. 24 at Oregon, he was on the field for just 16 snaps, but made six tackles. Last week against Oregon State, he played a season-high 30 snaps and recorded seven tackles, a pass defense and a quarterback hurry.
"He's real close (to returning to his dominant form)," MacIntyre said. "He has shown flashes of it.
"He's building it up and it's good to see."
On Saturday, the 21st-ranked Buffaloes (4-1, 2-0 Pac-12) will visit Southern California (2-3, 1-2). Given the speed and athletic ability of the Trojans, it's a good bet Gillam will play a key role.
Just a few hundred yards away from where the Buffs were practicing on Wednesday morning, police shot and killed a man wielding a machete inside of CU's Champions Center.
While the incident caused some road closures in the area and led to people being evacuated from the building, it did not affect the Buffs' practice, which continued as scheduled until just before 11 a.m.
"The kids didn't know what was going on whatsoever while we were practicing," MacIntyre said. "We explained to them after practice a little bit."
CU decided to not make players available to the media for post-practice interviews. MacIntyre said the coaches were unable to return to their offices "for a while" and said the players would be in their training facility "until they release us."
Price is right for kicking job
After a stellar debut at place-kicker last week, walk-on freshman Davis Price is expected to continue in those duties on Saturday.
"Davis kicked well for us last Saturday," MacIntyre said. "Right now he's going to be doing most of our place-kicking. He could kickoff (also). We're trying to work on all of that and figure it all out and see if he can handle both."
Price was named Pac-12 special teams player of the week after making both of his field goals — including a 54-yarder — and all five of his extra points. He went into the game as the backup to Chris Graham, but after Graham had his first PAT blocked — the second one he's had blocked in as many games — Price took over.
MacIntyre said the Buffs will try to punt away from USC's talented returner, Adoree' Jackson — if they can. "He has a way of going and getting it," MacIntyre said. "He'll end up catching a few, but hopefully we can pin him and get him down." ... Co-offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini praised the play of quarterbacks Sefo Liufau and Steven Montez, but said it's really been a group effort. "The reason those guys have been playing well is because the group is playing well," he said. "We push these guys during the week. We're coaching them hard and the kids are responding and taking to the coaching."
Brian Howell: firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.