During fall camp last year, Colorado football coaches raved about a true freshman from Texas who was turning heads on defense.
A year later, Jimmie Gilbert is hoping to get noticed again.
Now a sophomore, the 6-foot-5 Gilbert is coming back from a shoulder injury that took him out of spring practice and bumped him off the radar a little bit.
"Coming back from labrum surgery, I have a lot of rust, so I'm just trying to knock that off right now the first few days," Gilbert said. "Then, when we get in pads, just try to hit the ground running."
Playing behind standout senior Chidera Uzo-Diribe a year ago, Gilbert had a solid freshman season. He played in all 12 games, registering 11 tackles — including one sack and five third-down stops — in 261 snaps.
"Coming in behind Chidera, I was mainly just looking to learn and try to get as much information from him as I could, as far as rushing the passer, stopping the run and technique-wise," Gilbert said. "I'm very happy with my freshman year."
Like most freshmen, Gilbert spent the bulk of his time trying to learn the college game. That's where having a veteran like Uzo-Diribe helped.
"When it comes to pass rush, don't run down the middle," Gilbert said with a laugh when asked what he learned last year. "When it comes to stopping the run, technique does it; as far as when it comes to pass rushing, it's want to."
Gilbert said he has a lot of "want to" this season. The Buffs have a very young group at defensive end, and Gilbert is hoping to make his mark early and often.
"I'm definitely excited about his potential and his talent and what he does," defensive ends coach Andy LaRussa said.
Although he wasn't able to participate in the spring, Gilbert has done all he can to make himself better, including adding weight. He played at 218 pounds a year ago, he said, and is now up to about 230-235.
"I plan on putting weight on as the years go by," he said. "For now, I'm just trying to maintain my speed, maintain my ability to speed rush off the edge. I'm not trying to put on too much weight too fast."
Although he would have rather been on the field in the spring, Gilbert said he was able to take some positives out of the experience.
"It kind of hurt me, because I'm coming behind all the guys as far as techniques and new stuff we learned," he said. "But, it also helped me. It gave me time to fix my body, get healthy. That way when I come back, all the techniques and power that I need that I didn't have last year, I can use this year."
LaRussa said he was pleased with how Gilbert made the most of his time off, but that the sophomore needs to find a new gear during camp.
"Sitting out all spring, that's kind of hard, so he's definitely very hungry and real excited about it," LaRussa said. "You have to work out some of the kinks. Mentally he did a good job of staying in the game, but now physically it's a little bit different."
Once the Buffs start hitting — Wednesday was the day in pads — Gilbert will see where he stacks up physically. So far, he appears to be on his way to turning some heads again, and he can't wait to go full speed.
"I'm very excited," he said. "I'm trying to make as big of an impact as I can, fill in the gaps where I need to and try to improve the team as much as I can personally."