CU Buffs’ Afolabi Laguda eager to show his best in nickel role

Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Colorado defensive back Afolabi Laguda, right, is battling for a starting job in the Buffs’ retooled secondary.

As he prepares for his second season with the Colorado football team, safety Afolabi Laguda is positive that nobody in Boulder has seen his best football yet.

Laguda got a small taste of Division I football last fall after transferring from Butler Community College, playing just 237 snaps on defense in a reserve role. Then, this spring, the 6-foot-1, 200-pound junior was limited with a broken left hand.

By fall, he should be ready to explode.

“I feel like I’m a great athlete, so I feel like with the coaching … I can definitely do some things for this team at that position,” he said.

The graduation of cornerback Ken Crawley, who is now with the NFL’s New Orleans Saints, has caused the Buffs to retool their secondary a bit.

Senior Chidobe Awuzie, who played nickel back last year, will take Crawley’s spot at corner. That opens up the nickel spot, which Laguda has a great opportunity to fill.

“The opportunity has presented itself, so it’s time for one of us to step up, me or (sophomore Nick) Fisher,” Laguda said. “It doesn’t matter. I’ll be happy for either one of us.”

Despite wearing a cast on his left hand throughout the spring, Laguda emerged atop CU’s “pencil” depth chart at nickel.

“I felt like being banged up I couldn’t really display what I wanted to display,” he said. “I feel I’m ready and I’m primed to play this season. It’s just about proving it every day and every day working for it. If I can stay consistent and stay healthy, I should be out there this fall.”

In addition to nickel, Laguda is currently No. 2 at free safety, behind Ryan Moeller, and also could see playing time there.

“It doesn’t matter to me,” he said. “Them moving me around is actually a blessing for me. It’s a good thing because it shows I can play multiple positions. I’m versatile. I just enjoy being on the field. Whichever (position) they put me at I’m just going to have a good time and play football.”

Getting to a point where he can make an impact at a Pac-12 school has taken a while. After starring at Brookwood High School in Snellville, Ga., Laguda spent the 2013 season at Tennessee State, where he redshirted. He then played the 2014 season at Butler Community College before signing with the Buffs.

Last season, he played a valuable backup role, flashing his talent at times.

“I definitely feel like it was a getting-my-feet-wet experience,” said Laguda, who had 22 tackles. “I got a little taste of what the Pac was. This season, I know what to expect, so I should definitely play faster, slow the game down and make more plays.”

If he can make anywhere close to the impact that Awuzie made at nickel, CU will be thrilled. Awuzie had 90 tackles, four sacks, nine tackles for loss, two interceptions, 10 pass breakups and was CU’s most consistent playmaker on defense.

“I work out with Chido, even in the offseason,” Laguda said. “I definitely ask him, ‘What did you do last season to help you make this play?’ It never hurts to ask questions.”

The question about Laguda is whether he can beat his competition for a starting job, and he said he will do his best to make it happen.

“I don’t really worry about the competition,” he said. “I just kind of do my thing and if they like what they see they’re going to put me out there.”

Brian Howell:, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.