It may take a bit longer to recover after practice than it did a year ago, but for Jonathan Van Diest, simply being on the field is a blessing.
An inside linebacker with the Colorado Buffaloes, Van Diest is healthy again after tearing the ACL in his left knee last November.
"It feels great," he said. "For being out that long, I'm sure anyone could be just as pumped and excited to come back to the game and to hit again and play. Especially to know what I'm doing this time around, it's a big game changer. I can move faster and I'm not thinking as much."
A redshirt freshman from Cherry Creek High School, Van Diest has dealt with injuries the past three winters, but this is his first knee injury.
"I'm feeling, a lot better," he said. "I still have to deal with the typical soreness. It's eight months after surgery, so it's still going to feel kind of sore and slow, but it's just every day trying to move faster, hit harder and just get it back to 100 percent again."
Because of his injury, Van Diest had to sit out of spring drills, which put him a bit behind his competition. He's much more familiar with the defensive scheme, however, and pushing to move up the depth chart.
Senior returning starters Rick Gamboa and Drew Lewis and sophomores Akil Jones and Nate Landman are ahead of him, but that's not worrying Van Diest.
"I'm still going to try to do the best I can and I'm not going to say that, 'Hey, I'm here on this depth chart so I'm going to settle,'" he said. "Never settle. These (veteran) guys are really smart and they know what they're doing and they have a lot of experience, so I'm going to try to become the best football player I can be while learning from these guys."
Van Diest might find himself on the field quite a bit on Saturday, as the Buffs conduct a half practice/half scrimmage at Folsom Field. That session, which runs from 9:15 a.m. to Noon, will be open to the public.
Head coach Mike MacIntyre said the scrimmage will feature plenty of players like Van Diest who are fighting for playing time.
"Definitely seeing some of the guys that haven't played a lot that are still battling for positions," MacIntyre said. "Guys like a Rick Gamboa, for example, he'll just play a few plays and come out. Kind of like a preseason game in pro football, but we don't have a lot of preseason games."
The Buffs do some scrimmaging on the days they are in pads, and the veterans get reps in those session. Saturday will allow younger players an opportunity to play in the stadium and in front of some fans.
"Getting out there in the stadium, we'll look at some of the younger guys or the guys that we feel are competing to start or play a tremendous amount more," he said.
During the scrimmage portion, the Buffs will also practice with their coaches being in their game day locations. For co-offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini and quarterbacks coach Kurt Roper, it's going to be a different view.
Chiaverini has been on the sidelines during game days his first two seasons with the Buffs, but now that he's calling plays, he'll be in the coaches' booth.
"You can call it from down, there's no doubt, but he wants to go up and do it," MacIntyre said. "It's a little bit calmer up there at times."
Roper has spent the bulk of his career as an offensive coordinator and play-caller, spending game days in the booth. With CU, the plan is for him to be on the sidelines.
"It is (different) for me," he said, while adding that he thinks it will be beneficial to be on the field with the quarterbacks.
"It's a nuts and bolts game, so at the end of a drive, we have to fix the issues that are at hand," he said. "There are some emotions that get in it and hopefully we can stay on an even keel."
Following Saturday's scrimmage, the Buffs will have a selfie session with fans. ... Finals for the last summer class session are wrapping up, which will take some pressure off the players over the next two weeks. "The kids are excited," MacIntyre said. "They don't have to go class for a couple of weeks." ... During Friday's practice, the Buffs worked on a lot of different situations, including in the kicking game.