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Colorado inside linebackers coach Ross Els will also coordinate special teams this season.
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Colorado inside linebackers coach Ross Els will also coordinate special teams this season.

Colorado head football coach Mike MacIntyre is still figuring out exactly how to handle his special teams next season, but he does know who will lead that area of the game.

MacIntyre is turning to new inside linebackers coach Ross Els to coordinate special teams for the Buffaloes.

Els was hired in February to coach the inside linebackers. He was also hired because of his extensive experience with special teams.

A coaching veteran of 27 years, Els coached linebackers and coordinated special teams at Ohio from 2007-10, and had the same duties at Nebraska from 2012-14. He also coached special teams at New Mexico State in 2001-02.

When Els was first hired in late February, MacIntyre said he wanted to go through spring before determining Els’ role with special teams. This week, MacIntyre said Els will coordinate the special teams during the week, but it hasn’t been determined who will actually handle the special teams units on game day.

“He’ll orchestrate it and do it all, but on game day, he won’t be able to be down there (on the field) and getting it all set up,” MacIntyre said.

New defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot will be on the sidelines during games, and Els will be in the coaches’ booth (along with secondary coach ShaDon Brown).

“I really want (Els’) eyes upstairs, because that’s what he’s always done and he has an expertise on that to help D.J. on the run game,” MacIntyre said.

MacIntyre said it’s possible that Els will be in charge of the kickoff and punt teams on game day while another coach is in charge of the offensive special teams (field goal/extra point and kick return).

“With (Els) being up in the box helping us so much on the defensive side, we have to talk through all of that,” MacIntyre said.

Surprise departure

Earlier this month, it became official that linebacker Addison Gillam has decided to forego his final season at CU. Instead, he is currently hiking the Appalachian Trail and has set up a page to help fund his adventure.

Gillam took what was called a “sabbatical” during the spring, but MacIntyre said he thought the senior — who was a likely starter at inside linebacker — would return.

“It was surprising to me because we had talked about it a lot during the season and at the end of the season, but he decided to go ahead and go on with the next chapter of his life,” MacIntyre said. “I definitely wish he would have stayed and I think when he looks back one day, he’ll probably regret it a little bit, but that’s the decision he made and I honor it and we’ll go with it.”

Without Gillam, the Buffs have only one inside linebacker (junior Rick Gamboa) with significant experience, but MacIntyre feels good about the players the Buffs have in that group.

Junior Drew Lewis “had an excellent spring,” MacIntyre said, and he likes the potential of redshirt freshman Akil Jones. For depth, the Buffs will lean on three incoming freshmen: Nate Landman, Jonathan Van Diest and Carson Wells.

MacIntyre said they’ll put the three freshmen into the fire during fall camp and see which one fits best and fits quickest.

“One of those three guys will step in and they might all three be playing because of the special teams and everything they do,” MacIntyre said. “It’ll be fun. I think we have three guys that all have a chance to compete and I think are physically built well enough to come in and compete early.”

Supporting Awuzie

Former CU cornerback Chidobe Awuzie was one of 22 players invited to attend the NFL draft, which will be held April 27-29 in Philadelphia. MacIntyre and his family will also be in Philadelphia to support Awuzie, who is projected as a potential first- or second-round selection.

Awuzie is believed to be the first Buff ever invited to attend the draft and was a part of MacIntyre’s first recruiting class at CU, in 2013.

Awuzie, cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon and safety Tedric Thompson are all widely projected to be selected during the NFL draft. Linebacker Jimmie Gilbert, nose tackle Josh Tupou and quarterback Sefo Liufau are also hoping to hear their names called.


Aside from Gillam, MacIntyre said there has not been any other post-spring roster attrition. … The NCAA will allow teams to hire a 10th assistant coach, beginning in January. Because that’s nearly nine months — and a full season — away, MacIntyre said it’s too early to speculate on what he would look for in that position. “It’s always the (right fit at the time), and it’s hard to say right now,” he said.

Brian Howell:, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.