Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Near the Colorado football locker room is a big board that counts down the number of days until the Buffaloes report to fall camp.
That day — Aug. 1 — can’t get here soon enough, senior linebacker Rick Gamboa said.
“I think everybody is real excited for the season,” Gamboa said recently.
With finals at CU wrapping up, the players will be getting some well-earned time off before returning for summer school and workouts in June. When they return, Gamboa said he hopes the Buffs can continue the momentum built during the offseason to this point.
“It’s been going well,” he said of post-spring workouts. “At this point, (strength and conditioning coach Drew) Wilson is pushing us more and trying to get faster, get us stronger, ending the school year right.
“He’s just trying to get everybody’s mindset ready for the tough summer workouts.”
Coming off a disappointing season, the Buffs (5-7, 2-7 Pac-12 in 2017) were pleased with winter workouts. That carried over to spring practices, from Feb. 22 to March 23. Gamboa, who has started 38 consecutive games, said he was encouraged by the work done by the Buffs in those practices, especially on defense.
“Especially with all the new guys we had and some of the new coaches we had on defense, from where we started to where we ended spring ball, it’s definitely good to see,” he said. “A lot of new guys are just real excited seeing what college football is (about).”
Despite his experience, and finishing second on the team with 117 tackles last season, Gamboa has spent this offseason striving to be even better individually.
“There’s always things I can do better, whether it’s getting to the ball faster, making better checks and things like that,” he said.
Part of Gamboa’s quest to get better has come in the form of teaching.
After spring practices, the players started doing weekly player-led practices on Wednesdays. Coaches can’t be present, so it’s up to veterans, such as Gamboa, to guide the team.
“Especially being an older guy, I’m doing most of the coaching, especially for the young guys, whether they’re taking the wrong step or going the wrong way or reading the right thing,” he said. “I think it helps me a lot, seeing what I have to focus on with myself.
“Sometimes I look at other people, the way they take steps or the way they read something and I’ll go back and go in and say, ‘OK, let me see what I can do better.'”
Gamboa said the player-led practices typically start with individual work, with each position group working on technique. There will also be some full defense work, 7-on-7 and team drills with the offense going against the defense.
The players will resume those practices this summer, and Gamboa said the work being done in those sessions will pay off.
“It definitely helps,” he said. “Some guys don’t understand things always in meeting rooms, so it definitely helps them actually on the field being able to do it. I think it helps a lot of people working on techniques and little things. Especially not having a coach out there, you have to focus more on yourself.”
Inside linebacker is expected to be a strength for the Buffs, with Gamboa and fellow senior Drew Lewis (team-high 119 tackles last season) both returning. True sophomore Nate Landman (17 tackles in 79 snaps) and redshirt sophomore Akil Jones are also back; both had strong springs.
Gamboa said the player-led practices are particularly helping that group.
“We’re always looking at each other and telling each other when we’re not doing something (right),” he said. “I definitely think it helps communication-wise. We’re always trying to push each other and make each other better.”
All that work has made Gamboa and his teammates eager to put it into action and get back into full practices.
“(The players) just want to get through the summer already and get to fall camp,” he said.