With NFL scouts watching intently, five former Buffaloes defenders will attempt to up their draft stock during Saturday’s 92nd edition of the East-West Shrine Game from St. Petersburg, Florida. Here’s a look at the Buffs playing for the West squad and where they are projected to be taken in April’s NFL Draft.
Ahkello Witherspoon, Cornerback
A transfer from Sacramento City College, Witherspoon started 21 games at cornerback for the Buffs over the last 3 seasons. During his senior campaign, Witherspoon, along with teammate Tedric Thompson, led the nation with 23 passes defended. His lone interception in 2016 helped seal a 41-38 win at Oregon.
With this year’s NFL Draft full of high quality cornerbacks, Ahkello Witherspoon is projected to be selected in the 5th round according to CBSSports.com.
Tedric Thompson, Safety
The Valencia, California native is tied for 5th on Colorado’s all-time list with 13 interceptions, 7 of which came during his final year in Boulder. A first-team All-Pac-12 selection by the Associated Press for 2016, CBSSports.com has Thompson listed as the 8th best strong safety and projected to be drafted in the 5th or 6th round come April.
Jimmie Gilbert, Outside Linebacker
The first Buff to be named an AP All-American since 2011 (Ryan Miller), Gilbert capped off a stellar senior season with 51 tackles and 10.5 sacks, 2nd most in the Pac-12 behind Utah’s Hunter Dimick. Gilbert also led the Buffs with 14.5 tackles for loss, 22 3rd down stops and caused 6 fumbles. Despite the impressive numbers, CBSSports.com ranks Gilbert as the 24th best outside linebacker prospect for 2017, projecting him as a possible 7th round selection.
Kenneth Olugbode, Inside Linebacker
The San Jose, California native led the Buffs with 130 tackles this season, giving him 299 for his career, 16th best all-time at Colorado. He also led the Buffs with three fumble recoveries, none bigger than this scoop and score vs Utah to send Colorado to the Pac-12 Championship game.
Despite being ranked as the 24th best inside linebacker by CBSSports.com, Olugbode is currently projected to go undrafted come April.
Josh Tupou, Defensive Tackle
The 6’3, 325 LB defensive tackle was a co-recipient of the Buffs 2016 Defensive Trench Award, going to the most outstanding players(s) in the front 7. Tupou finished this season with 49 tackles, 1 ½ sacks and 10 quarterback pressures. He’s listed as the 21st best defensive tackle in this year’s draft class, which should see him taken in the 6th or 7th round.
Best of luck to these five former Buffs competing for the West squad in what could be considered their first job interview. The East-West Shrine Game kicks off at 1pm MT on NFL Network.
OTHER KEY DATES LEADING UP TO THE 2017 NFL DRAFT
January 28: Reese’s Senior Bowl, 12:30pm MT, NFL Network
Colorado defensive back Chidobe Awuzie (projected to be a 2nd or 3rd round pick) and quarterback Sefo Liufau (the 12th ranked QB according to CBSSports.com) will be playing for the North squad.
February 28-March 6: NFL Draft Combine, NFL Network
TBD – Colorado Pro Day
April 27-29: NFL Draft