During his freshman year, Jimmie Gilbert was asked repeatedly by classmates on campus if he was on the basketball team. It was fitting. Gilbert was a lanky 18-year old, and both of his parents, and his sister Karla, played college basketball.
Gilbert could have used a redshirt year to develop his body, but he was on a team that lacked defensive playmakers, so he was rushed into action as a true freshman in 2013.
“I think all the time about what it would be like if I redshirted and had another year of eligibility,” Gilbert admitted, days before his final home game with the Buffaloes. “But at the same time, it is what it is. I can't change the past, I can't go back and redshirt. And I can't really be too upset because the experience I got my freshman year is helping me now.”
Gilbert led the team in quarterback sacks with six last year, but it wasn't until his final season with the Buffaloes that he began reaching his full potential as a pass rusher.
“It has been a struggle, to be honest,” Gilbert said. “The last three years I didn't play as much as I wanted to. We kind of did this hybrid defense between our nickel and our base defense and I was often the odd-man out. But this year has been a joy being able to play more and make plays and put on a show as much as I can.”
Gilbert currently ranks second in the Pac-12 and 11th in the NCAA with 10 quarterbacks sacks. And he has forced six fumbles, including a forced fumble late in the fourth quarter of the Buffs' win over Washington State last Saturday, which extended the Buffaloes' takeaway streak to a nation leading 24 games.
Gilbert hopes to lead Colorado to a Pac-12 South clinching victory on Saturday against Utah, and he has a personal goal he is aspiring to achieve.
“Double digit sacks is great but I really wanted to get at least one sack per game this year so now I am two away from reaching that goal,” Gilbert said. “That is something I really have to try to emphasize on this next game.”
18 of Gilbert's family members drove up from Texas on Thursday to celebrate Thanksgiving with him and watch him play in his last regular season game.
“It is really sinking in that this will be my last time playing at Folsom [Field], last time playing in front of the crowd and in front of the flatirons,” he said. “I just have to have fun with it when I am out there.”
Additional notes -
*** Tight end Chris Hill is one of six fourth-year junior walk-ons that have decided this will be their final season with the Buffs. MacIntyre said no scholarship juniors or underclassmen have indicated this will be their final home game at Colorado.
*** The Buffaloes had a Thanksgiving feast with players, staff members, and their families, on Wednesday night. The team practiced on Thursday morning before taking the afternoon off.
*** During his final meeting of the week with the media on Wednesday, MacIntyre was optimistic junior defensive standout Ryan Moeller will be back in the line-up against Utah, after he was sidelined with a concussion last Saturday.
Junior left guard Gerrad Kough will miss his second straight game with an ankle injury and junior wide receiver Bryce Bobo will be a game-time decision.
“He didn't do a whole lot today but he is a quick healer and we'll see what happens,” MacIntyre said of Bobo and his ankle ailment on Wednesday.
*** With nine wins, the Buffaloes have their most victories since finishing 9-5 in 2002. Colorado now has 14 nine-win seasons in its history. The Buffs will be gunning for their seventh 10-win season, and its first since 2001.
*** Utah running back Joe Williams has been averaging nearly seven yards per carry since coming out of retirement this fall. MacIntyre said he “kind of runs with his own style,” when asked who he would compare Williams to.
“He is able to bounce off of people but when he gets in the secondary, he outruns angles. He has great speed in that area,” MacIntyre said.