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Denver Broncos minicamp has certain Colorado State feel

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June 11, 2015


Day 3 of Denver Broncos minicamp is currently underway at Dove Valley, and in the early going, multiple former Colorado State football players have seen their roles ramped up.

It should come as no surprise, really, that four former Rams are taking part of Broncos minicamp with Gary Kubiak as head coach. Kubiak, who took over as the head man in Denver earlier this year, has long liked Colorado State players and even had two sons play football in Fort Collins.

What does come as a surprise is the varying degrees of which those former Rams are being utilized.

At the top of the list is Ty Sambrailo, the rookie left tackle taken in the second round by the Broncos. At the time, the pick seemed to be a bit of a reach, but Sambrailo has continually proved his worth first in the rookie camp, OTAs and now in minicamp, running with the first team offensive line.

Sambrailo was forced into the fire when Pro Bowler Ryan Clady went down with the torn ACL and the former Ram has fought stalwartly to outperform second-year tackle Michael Scofield. He’s practiced so well and learned so quickly, he’s in line to be the Broncos starting left tackle as training camp kicks off in July.

“He’s done a good job. He’s smart, so that’s not a problem,” Kubiak said of Sambrailo during OTAs. “He’s a worker. I think the players respect how he’s going about his business.”

Starting in the NFL as a rookie is a difficult task, especially at left tackle where the demands include protecting the quarterback’s blindside against elite edge-rushers at times. When it’s Peyton Manning’s blindside, protection becomes even more paramount.

And while Sambrailo has been the shining star of former CSU players, others are working diligently to be noticed.

Kapri Bibbs is one Ram-turned-Bronco who’s caught the eye of coaches with his great vision and cutting ability. Colorado State fans will remember Bibbs for his other-worldly 2013 season setting school-records with 1,741 rushing yards and 31 rushing touchdowns. He often utilized that stellar vision to find hole, then moved laterally with ease to hit that hole and take off.

Bibbs was a homerun hitter at CSU, and while he may not be able to break off 50-plus yard runs with ease in the NFL, he does have the ability to be a great change-of-pace back. C.J. Anderson and Montee Ball will likely be ahead of him on the depth chart when the season kicks off, and they’re each bigger backs compared to Bibbs’ 5’11” 203-pound size that allows him shiftiness.

Bibbs called his offseason “tremendous” and said, “Just to know they’re wanting to keep me here and that Elway and the rest of the staff still has a lot of faith in me is a big deal for me because it gives me that extra kick on the field.”

“He’s doing exactly what you’re telling him to do,” offensive coordinator Rick Dennison explained. “If something’s not exactly right, coach him up and the next one’s exactly right.”

Then, there’s also Shaquil Barrett, the edge-rushing linebacker who played with Bibbs at CSU in 2013 and the six-year veteran Shelley Smith, an offensive guard.

Barrett is looking to move up from practice squad player last year to the active roster full-time this season. He’s got to impress now, in minicamp, to earn more reps in training camp. Of course, it’s an uphill battle with DeMarcus Ware, Von Miller and the newly drafted first-rounder Shane Ray all on the team as edge-rushers. Still, Barrett won’t back down from the challenge.

Smith, who came over to the team from the Miami Dolphins in free agency, looks to be a valuable backup on the inside. He’s played mostly guard but can play center as well, and is still working his way back from a knee injury sustained in Week 2 of last season. Smith excels in the zone-blocking system which the Broncos will use when running the rock, and if he’s called on, he’ll be ready.

Only 60 miles south of Fort Collins, Colorado State football is being well-represented at the NFL level, making Rams fans all across the Front Range proud.

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