Laguda did not look like a fish out of water last August, and he went on to play in all 13 of Colorado's games in 2015. But now a redshirt junior with a full year in the Buffaloes' system under this belt, Laguda is practicing with more confidence.
“I was nervous when I came to camp last year. I was very wishy washy,” he admitted. “I didn't know my role. I didn't really know how to be a teammate yet. I didn't really know that Colorado way. But this camp I feel comfortable and I feel like I am not looking up to a leader, that I am that leader as well as other players on the team.
“So this camp has definitely been a much, much different camp compared to last year. I just feel I am worried about football instead of other things. I am focused, dialed in. I know how the schedule goes with meetings, when to rest, when not to rest.”
A hard-hitting 6-foot-1, 205-pound defensive back, Laguda played strictly safety during his first year at Colorado. He began working at nickel back in March, and despite the fact he had a broken hand in the spring, he won the Hale Irwin Award for being the most improved defensive back during spring practices.
“[Head] coach [Mike] Mac[Intyre] was the one who kind of made that choice,” Laguda said of his increased role at nickel back. “He believed in me before I thought I could do it. He worked with me, as well as [safeties] coach [Joe] Tumpkin and [cornerbacks] coach [Charles] Clark, just coaching me up every play I was in at nickel. And then I started to believe in myself and I started making plays and playing faster and starting to grow into that role.”
Laguda is now cross-training at both safety and nickel back. He estimated that he takes at least 20 snaps per practice at nickel back. All-American candidate Chidobe Awuzie and rising sophomore Nick Fisher also work at nickel back, as do walk-ons Lucas Cooper and Daniel Talley.
In addition to his role on defense, Laguda is expected to be a starter on most, if not all, of the Buffaloes' special teams units. He won the Special Teams Belt award last season for his outstanding play on the coverage units.
The return of Josh Tupou and Addison Gillam to a Jim Leavitt-led defense that improved 46 spots nationally in scoring defense last season has created high expectations for this fall. Just how good is this Colorado defense going to be in 2016?
“Everybody is just going to have to wait until Sept. 2 versus CSU to see that,” Laguda said. “We definitely won't disappoint. I feel like we're going to do great things on defense.”