Having lost eight starters on its defense, the Colorado football team has plenty of holes to fill.
That creates opportunities for several players, and redshirt freshman Akil Jones is one hoping to take advantage.
The 6-foot, 220-pound Jones, from San Jose, is part of a talented, but thin group of inside linebackers that the Buffaloes will depend on this season.
CU lost starting jack linebacker Kenneth Olugbode to graduation and senior mike linebacker Addison Gillam may not be back. Gillam, who has 39 career games under his belt, took a "sabbatical" from the team this spring and his status for next season is up in the air.
That leaves junior Rick Gamboa, a third-year starter at mike linebacker, and junior Drew Lewis as the only inside linebackers with any game experience, and Lewis has played only 46 snaps on defense.
"The spring, all-around, it was something new for me and I just took advantage of it and got after the opportunities I was given," said Jones, who came out spring at No. 2 on the depth chart, behind Gamboa, at the mike position. "Coaches said I've been doing well and excelling and I just look forward to being able to step on the field and just continue to excel."
Defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said he has concerns about depth at inside linebacker, but was pleased with how Jones and Lewis — awarded as CU's most improved linebacker — performed this spring.
"Drew and Akil both have a lot of athleticism for an inside linebacker," Eliot said. "They have great coverage skills, they have great speed and played well in space. They're going to bring some of that skill to the table for us at inside linebacker."
Spending last season redshirting helped Jones take his game to another level, he said. He had high praise for both Gamboa and Olugbode for teaching him how to play the position at this level.
"They've shown me the way and it's starting to come out now," Jones said. "Redshirting gave me a lot of opportunity of staying in the weight room and getting extra runs in and just doing extra."
Mentally and physically, Jones feels more comfortable and ready to compete. On the field, he said reading keys and getting aligned is, "all coming together."
That's good news for the Buffs, who may need to lean on Jones at times this year. Even if Jones is ready to go, depth could be a concern as the Buffs head into the fall.
"We're definitely going to have to find some guys in the fall that can fill those voids in the depth chart for us to be able to rotate at that position," Eliot sad. "We'll see how the offseason goes and this summer and see if there's anybody else that maybe will fit that spot."
After a strong offseason to this point, Jones appears to be ready to do his part.
"Akil has a bright future," Eliot said.