Rocky Mountain Showdown
What: Colorado vs. Colorado State
When: 6 p.m. Friday
Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver
TV/Radio: ESPN / 760 AM
After recruiting him out of high school and spending the last three years coaching him, Colorado’s Mike MacIntyre has known Addison Gillam for a while.
This season, MacIntyre sees something different in his junior linebacker.
“I see biceps and triceps and he’s bigger and stronger,” MacIntyre joked.
While MacIntyre’s response drew some laughs, it was said with excitement and pride in knowing Gillam is ready to get back to his old self when the Buffaloes take on Colorado State in the season opener on Friday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver.
Finally healthy after two injury-riddled seasons, the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Gillam is bigger and more powerful than he’s been going into any of the previous three seasons.
“I feel 100 percent; I feel like everything is going really well,” said Gillam, who missed the final 11 games last season with a knee injury. “I haven’t had any other problems with it since the surgery and no setbacks or anything, so I’m looking forward to it.”
A freshman All-American in 2013, Gillam was in and out of the lineup with personal and health issues during the 2014 season. Last year, he started strong, but was injured early in the Buffs’ second game.
Shortly after his injury, Gillam had arthroscopic surgery, and it was believed he would miss only two or three games. He never could get healthy, though, and had a second surgery that knocked him out of the season and kept him from playing during spring drills.
Gillam returned to the field for fall camp, although the Buffs didn’t push him.
“We treat him kind of like an old vet in practice,” MacIntyre said. “He hasn’t gone every day.”
Gillam said the limited practice schedule has kept him fresh and allowed him to stay strong.
“I think so,” he said. “It helped me keep my weight. Every year in fall camp I lose a bunch of weight, but this year I’ve been able to keep it, been able to stay healthy and I’m looking forward to (the season).”
Knowing the struggles Gillam has been through physically and personally the past two years, MacIntyre said Friday will be exciting for all the Buffs.
“We’ll look forward to watching him get back out there, there’s no doubt,” MacIntyre said. “The kids know it, too, because they’ve seen what he’s gone through.”
Nobody is more excited than Gillam, who said he hasn’t felt this good since his freshman year.
“Yeah, definitely,” he said. “Emotionally, physically … everything.”
Ready to roll
On Wednesday, the Buffs held their final full practice before the opener. They will have a walk-through on Thursday, as well as film sessions.
“As a coach you always want another day, it seems like, but we’re ready to play and they’re excited about going to play.
“There’s always something that comes up during the game, but I feel like we’ve covered everything we should cover and go from there.”
Senior defensive lineman Josh Tupou is set to play for the first time since 2014. The 6-foot-3, 325-poiunder was suspended for the 2015 season, and has spent this past month getting himself in shape.
“He’s got in a lot better shape and he’s big and strong,” MacIntyre said. “Hopefully he doesn’t have to be out there a whole bunch of plays in a row at a time, but if he is he can do it. He’s done well as far as from camp started to now he’s really worked hard and has done extra stuff to make sure he tries to get himself in better playing shape from where he used to be.
“It’s been a long time since he’s played in a game, so I’m pretty sure there will be a few moments when he needs to take a breather.”
Game day set-up
CU will have six of its nine assistant coaches on the sidelines on Friday, with the other three in the coaches booth.
On defense, coordinator Jim Leavitt, line coach Jim Jeffcoat and safeties coach Joe Tumpkin will be on the field, while cornerbacks coach Charles Clark will be in the booth.
Offensively, co-coordinator Brian Lindgren and tight ends coach Gary Bernardi will be in the booth, while co-coordinator Darrin Chiaverini, line coach Klayton Adams and running backs coach Darian Hagan will be on the sidelines.
“It’s the way we feel like will be the best for us to function, where we need our eyes to be, who we need to be down on the sidelines and communicate,” MacIntyre said.
Brian Howell: email@example.com, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.