Colorado's seniors were on the field prior to the regular season finale against Utah on Nov. 26, taking part in senior day festivities at Folsom Field.

Inside the CU locker room, junior safety Afolabi Laguda gathered the rest of the team.

"Fo brought everybody together in the locker room," CU strength and conditioning coach Drew Wilson said, "and he said, 'Whatever it takes, we have to win this game. I do not care what we have to do; we do not lose this game today.'

"Nobody said a word, everybody bought in and obviously we won the game."

Now a senior, Laguda has developed into a leader the Buffs need as they look to keep the momentum going from last year's turnaround, when they went 10-4 and won the Pac-12 South.

"I just want to win games," Laguda said. "Every game on the schedule I see we can win. I just feel like if I'm that guy that has to push a little harder to do it, then so be it."

Laguda, who grew up in Atlanta and spent a season at Butler (Kan.) Community College before coming to Boulder in 2015, said he wants to carry on the foundation laid by former teammates Chidobe Awuzie, Tedric Thompson and others who were a part of last year's squad.

"I feel like we need to take advantage of that (momentum) right now as a team," he said.

CU opened spring practices on Wednesday, and Laguda knows he can play a big role in keeping the momentum going, as he's one of only three returning starters on defense. Laguda started all 14 games last year and finished fourth on the team with 80 tackles.


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"Being a guy who got to play and got a taste of success, people want that taste of success," he said. "It doesn't matter who you are; you can be anybody, but if you played and you were successful, people will listen."

With Awuzie, Thompson and other seniors no longer around, head coach Mike MacIntyre has seen Laguda take on a leadership role this offseason.

"He grew as a leader last year as the season went along, but with Tedric stepping out and Chido stepping out, he's a vocal leader, too, and he does the right things," MacIntyre said. "He's been a good leader in the offseason."

New defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot has never had a chance to coach Laguda before now, but it hasn't taken long to realize how much Laguda brings to the table.

"I think Fo did some really good things for them last year," Eliot said. "He's impressed me in the winter workouts, too. There's a guy with size, speed, athleticism, experience. That guy has been impressive to me."

Laguda believes CU's defense is loaded with impressive players, despite losing eight starters to graduation.

"We have some guys that are not even young, they're just hungry to prove themselves," Laguda said. "I know it's going to be interesting. I know we have pieces. It's about finding the right pieces to go inside the puzzle. I don't think we'll fall off. If anything I think we'll be better. We're all hungry."

Having tasted success last year, Laguda is hungry for more. He knows the best way to get more is to embrace CU's new defensive coaches, take younger players under his wing, and put what he learned last year into action this year.

"I need to do the right things on the field and off the field and just be accountable to myself so I can be accountable to others," he said. "I know a big chunk of responsibility will be on my shoulders this season, so I just want guys to be able to trust me."

Brian Howell: howellb@dailycamera.com, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.