While Brian Cabral exercises patience with a pair of his veteran linebackers, a trio of their Colorado teammates continue to push for increased playing time - and they're getting it.
Derrick Webb played a career-high number of snaps in last weekend's opener and, not coincidentally, turned in a career-best performance in CU's 22-17 loss against Colorado State. Brady Daigh and Kyle Washington also have become important fixtures on Cabral's ready list and are challenging for more snaps.
Playing the inside (will) position for 50-plus snaps, Webb "had his best game as a Buff," Cabral said of the junior who made a dozen tackles against CSU (nine solo), including two third-down stops and a quarterback sack. He was named CU's male student athlete-of-the- week and was in contention for the Pac-12 Conference's defensive player-of-the-week.
"He was everywhere, all over the field," Cabral said. "He played the way you want everyone to play every play. And he's a full-time special teams player. He had a great camp; (the opener) was on par with what he was doing in camp."
Webb's tackle total matched the combined total of Cabral's two senior starters - Doug Rippy (middle) and Jon Major (outside). Rippy was credited with three assists, while Major recorded nine (six solo) and had a third-down stop.
Major, said Cabral, "played hard and made some plays. But he wasn't himself in terms of seeing everything . . . CSU gave us a lot to think about (defensively). We played hard but not always smart."
Cabral simply was happy to see Rippy playing again after the severe knee injury that cost Rippy the final five games of the 2011 season. "We're still bringing him along (slowly)," Cabral said. "It was just good to see him out there; I think every week we'll see more of him."
Rippy was devastated by the CSU loss. He told reporters afterward that he botched his coverage responsibility on a CSU's last touchdown - a 32-yard screen pass that pushed the Rams back into the lead (16-14) in the third quarter.
Said Cabral: "He cares; it matters how our team does and he doesn't want to let anybody down."
While Rippy returns to full speed, Cabral can turn to his backup, Daigh, a sophomore who also made significant strides in August. Against CSU, Daigh made four tackles and forced a fumble. Cabral said he needs "to find a way to get (Daigh) on the field more" - which shouldn't be a problem given Rippy's status.
A sophomore who spent his first season at safety, Washington backs up Webb at the "will" spot. "He showed up big for us," Cabral said. But in truth, Washington was put in a pressurized position to make every play count because of how well Webb played in his ramped up time on the field.
"That was my first opportunity since I've been here to get that much time," Webb said. "Fortunately, I was able to be productive and let coach Cabral know he can trust me with that many snaps."
In addition to his 50-plus plays from scrimmage, Webb also was a member of all special teams - a role he's had throughout his CU career. His 33 special teams points led the Buffs in 2011 and were the fourth-most since statistics in that category were first kept in 1987.
Webb conceded he had his "hands full" with all he was asked to do last weekend. "But I feel like I was productive," he added. "That's a tribute to our linebackers, our preparation and how well the defensive line played."
His progress in August and his first-game performance were the result of being more experienced and more attuned to what Cabral wants at the "will" position.
"I felt I had a lot more confidence," Webb said. "That's because of this camp and how far I came. I've busted my butt in practice, so I know what I was capable of doing. I knew how much work I was putting in.
"Yeah, I kind of felt like it was 'my time' - that's how I approached it with my work ethic anyway. I know what this year needs to be for me as for as leadership. I'm becoming one of the older guys and we've got a lot of young guys on this team."
A touchdown favorite to win the opener, Webb said the Buffs were "very humbled" by their five-point loss to CSU. "We expected to win that game. The whole experience was very humbling; it lets you know you have work to do still.
"But it's not an end-of-the-world type deal. Nobody can think because we lost a first game against CSU that we're not going to be any good. We've got to get better; we've still got 11 games on the calendar."
BUFF BITS: Embree said the CSU loss "was in the books" and called Wednesday's practice good and physical. "I just hope it translates on Saturday." He said Sacramento State is different schematically from what the Buffs saw in the opener but his team "was sharp for the most part on assignments." . . . . Embree spent Wednesday's practice with the CU defense. Sophomore cornerback Greg Henderson (high ankle sprain) remained in a protective boot, but Embree would not rule him out for Saturday. He said if Henderson is able to play, "I'm playing him." . . . . Captains for this week are center Gus Handler, linebackers Paul Vigo and Webb, and defensive end Chidera Uzo-Diribe.