BOULDER – Linebacker is among the most intriguing positions in college football. Every once in awhile you will find a guy that doesn’t have all of the physical tools but is able to dominate the position because of his football IQ.
“Controlling the input” is how National Championship winning linebacker Ben Boulware put it, who was notoriously known for his preparation and not his athleticism as the heart and soul of the Clemson Tigers defense. The Buffaloes have their own cerebral linebacker in Rick Gamboa.
Multiple players have described Gamboa as a ‘film junkie’ and the guy who they can go to if they need to know where to be.
“Rick, that’s someone that everyone looks up to on the defense,” Isaiah Oliver explained during spring ball about Gamboa. “Just because you can ask him a question about any position on the field and he’ll know the answer. He knows exactly what everyone’s supposed to do, he knows what the offense is going to do. He can break down any offense in the nation I believe just based on the amount of film he watches and the amount of work that he puts in.”
It’s starting to show up in his play. Against UCLA, there were multiple plays where Gamboa knew exactly where Josh Rosen wanted to throw it or the space in which the UCLA running backs wanted to run into. He recorded six tackles, two pass break-ups and .5 tackle for loss in the matchup at the Rose Bowl.
The 6-foot, 240-pound linebacker has racked up 40 tackles so far this season and has created a great one-two punch with Jack linebacker Drew Lewis.
“We mesh pretty well,” Gamboa said about their inside linebacker partnership. “I try to stick more of the mental part of the game, try and help him out with seeing everything on the field. Drew is real fast, real athletic and every week I just tell him that ‘it doesn’t matter if he makes a mistake just as long as you’re giving everything you got running your hardest, then you will always make a play.”
The mental part of the game is where Gamboa really flourishes, allowing Lewis to fly allowing the field. Gamboa said he’s trying to instill the importance of watching film with the younger guys.
“With me, I’ve always liked watching film,” the California native said. “It has always helped me with games and trying to figure out where the offense is going and stuff like that. So just helping them with the film and letting them know that that is another way that they can get better. Pre-snap things and going over your keys is just always something that’s going to help you.”
In this day and age, most college kids would prefer to binge watch TV shows, but Gamboa isn’t your average college kid.
“I would definitely say film,” Gamboa said when asked if he would rather put on game tape than watch TV. “I don’t watch much cable TV, sometimes I’ll watch TV shows on Netflix and stuff like that. For me, I’ve always just liked to watch film. Especially because it’s something I like to do before I fall asleep, it lets me relax and get my mind on football and also helps me go to sleep because you’re watching things over and over so that when I wake up it’s fresh in my mind.”
The junior linebacker will have to hope that the game tape will translate to the field as he tries to slow down Arizona’s vaunted rushing attack on Saturday.