Drew Lewis could make a case for being the best athlete on the Colorado football team.

With the season opener — and Lewis' first-ever start at CU — coming up next week, he's trying to get the mental aspect of the game down, too.

Junior inside linebacker Rick Gamboa has been limited in practice the past several days, which has forced Lewis, also a junior, to sharpen up his game.

"With (Gamboa) not practicing too much right now and me taking more reps with (freshman Akil Jones) at inside backer, it's helping me to be on my own and make the calls on my own," Lewis said. "That's definitely one place I need to improve."

Earlier this month, CU linebackers coach Ross Els raved about the athleticism of Lewis, but said Lewis "relies on Rick a little bit too much."

This week, he hasn't been able to do that.

"That's exactly what I need, to be able to become independent and be able to do it myself," Lewis said.

While Gamboa and Lewis are likely to be on the field together a lot this year, Gamboa knows how vital it is for each player to be sharp mentally.

"That's one thing I learned the past two years with injuries and people going down, you can't always rely on one person," Gamboa said. "There's times you have to rely on yourself and figure things out. Right now, those reps are definitely helping him."

Lewis said that at the beginning of camp "there were times I found myself not doing too well or lacking from play to play."


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With the opener less than 10 days away, he said, "I can see the whole big picture coming together right now. I feel a lot more comfortable out there, everything is a lot more smooth, even making the checks."

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at howellb@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.