The time remaining for two former Colorado State University football players to prove they’re worthy of a position in the NFL is becoming scarce.
Since posting impressive performances for the Rams in 2013, running back Kapri Bibbs and linebacker Shaquil Barrett have been training to take their game to the next level. Both are currently free-agent signees with the Broncos awaiting Denver’s final 53-man roster, which will be released on Saturday.
Unlike former teammates Weston Richburg (43rd overall, New York Giants) and Crockett Gillmore (99th overall, Baltimore Ravens), Bibbs and Barrett went unselected in the 2014 NFL Draft in early May. They signed with Denver shortly after and joined the team during offseason training activities spanning from late May to mid June. The duo has remained with the organization through training camp and into the final week of preseason.
Now, only Thursday’s game at Dallas is left before Denver is required to cut 22 players in addition to the 13 released or waived on Monday.
“Honestly, I can’t even believe the magnitude of what’s happened. The whole draft thing went down, I signed with the Broncos; it still hasn’t even hit me yet,” Bibbs said after his first NFL preseason game. “I know my work isn’t over yet. I want to keep building on my success. I don’t want to put my head down now and say, ‘that was good enough.’”
Bibbs, who led the Mountain West in 2013 with 1,741 rushing yards and 31 touchdowns as a Ram last fall, was paired with rookie Juwan Thompson out of Duke as the Broncos’ “other” option at running back on the initial depth chart. Preceding them are Montee Ball, Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson.
Through three preseason matchups, Bibbs has 12 carries for 52 yards and picked up a 3-yard touchdown in Denver’s debut against Seattle on Aug. 7. Even if the Broncos decide to keep an additional back, his numbers don’t match Thompson’s (102 yards on 16 rushes), who has also proven he can be an asset on special teams. That is likely to leave Bibbs with either a spot on the practice squad or an opportunity to test his hand with other teams.
“That’s natural instinct for everybody to try and compare themselves (against the others trying to make the team), but at the same time you can only control what you can control. You just try to go out there and give it the best you can,” Bibbs said.
Barrett currently sits at the No. 3 spot for strongside linebacker behind veteran Von Miller and backup Lerentee McCray, who is bouncing back from spending 2013 on injured reserve after suffering a season-ending ankle injury in Denver’s final preseason game last fall.
In his senior season at CSU, Barrett led the Rams with 12 sacks and picked up 80 total tackles, 20.5 of which for loss. He also contributed four forced fumbles, three blocked kicks and an interception.
With tight end Joel Dreessen’s release in late July, no CSU player has a home on the Broncos’ final regular season lineup. Both Bibbs and Barrett have been preparing for months in effort to change that.
“I would love to have one of the Colorado State Rams on the roster, even two with me and Bibbs,” Barrett said on the opening day of training camp at Dove Valley. “I think we’ve got a good shot if we just keep building on from where we started back at minicamp and just show it off in preseason.”
Denver’s final preseason game at Dallas kicks off at 6 p.m. Thursday and will be televised on NBC.
Collegian Sports Reporter Quentin Sickafoose can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @QSickafoose.