Buffs DBs Gets Boost From Pair Of Full-Time Coaches
BOULDER - Early in spring camp, much of the focus for Colorado football has been on a rebuilt secondary that has been victimized by a tremendous amount of player and coach turnover since the conclusion of the 2014 season.
Coach Mike MacIntyre, who spent much of his efforts during fall practice helping with the coaching of the defensive backs, is taking more of a hands-off approach this spring. He makes room for newly hired assistant Joe Tumpkin, who will coach the safeties, while returning assistant Charles Clark coaches the cornerbacks, giving the team two full-time defensive backs coaches for the first time since 2013.
The move not only increases the amount of attention the unit receives, it frees up MacIntyre to broaden his focus on the entire team and play more of the overseer's role that circumstance robbed him and the team of a year ago.
"What I did with the (cornerbacks) last year is I took them individually and I was around them some but not all the time," MacIntyre said Wednesday after day two of the Buffs' spring drills. "Individually, they do so many different things than the safeties do. So, in practice I'm roaming around a little bit more (now) especially during the individual periods and watching different things, taking notes and coaching the coaches."
Actually, MacIntyre reminded the media that the DB unit will really have the entire defensive staff to help direct and supervise a group that allowed the fifth-fewest passing yards in one of the nation's most pass-happy conferences in 2014.
"(Defensive line coach) Jim Jeffcoat has a graduate assistant, AJ Baer and (GA) Nate (Taye) is helping (defensive coordinator) Jim Leavitt so we have six guys working with it," said MacIntyre. "Most of the games you are playing, 75 percent of the season or more, you're playing with five DBs on the field. Sometimes a linebacker is sinking off and playing some DB type schemes and so you need all of those eyes back there and all that expertise."
Expertise is one of the biggest qualities MacIntyre saw in Tumpkin when he hired the former Central Michigan defensive coordinator less than two weeks ago. Tumpkin brings an added to dimension that the unit may have lacked a year ago, giving them their very own defensive coordinator, an expert mind who understands the intricacies of the entire defense and can offer more than what the typical defensive back gets from a typical defensive backs coach.
"He has great knowledge," said MacIntyre. "He's an excellent teacher and very fundamentally sound on what he's doing. He understands secondary play and defensive front play. He's very good with all phases of it. I've been impressed with his work ethic with the guys and his knowledge. I knew his knowledge was good. I see him in meetings and he can translate it to the players. He is very vocal with the secondary."
As for personnel on the field, the unit is hoping to count on the return of sixth-year senior safety Jered Bell, who missed all of two seasons (2012, 2014) with torn ACL injuries to both knees. Bell is now close to returning to full strength but is still awaiting word from the NCAA on whether he will be eligible for another year.
"Compliance has turned in (the petition for a sixth year)," said MacIntyre. "We hope it's a slam dunk because he's not even played a play for two seasons with his injuries on both knees. We feel it's going to be a slam dunk and we should know something hopefully sometime this spring.
"Missing two complete seasons is the standard. He didn't even play a snap so we feel good and he's a good student. There's no issue there, no GPA problems or anything like that so we feel good about it. They're in the process and we're waiting on it."
Bell started in 11 games in 2013 and was second and fourth, respectively, in interceptions and tackles.
AWINI ADJUSTING TO NEW ROLE
Air Force transfer Jaleel Awini, who redshirted as a quarterback a year ago, appears to be a comfortable fit at linebacker this spring. The team wanted to keep Awini at QB, but there was lack of depth at linebacker. With his athleticism, Awini became an ideal candidate to make the transition.
"He looked good moving around out there," said MacIntyre. "He looked good in space, he looked good moving around and running. He showed his athleticism. When we throw them into pads Friday it'll be a little bit different but he looked good and athletic.
"He didn't look like a fish out of water. I think one of the biggest tests will be how he reacts when the ball is snapped on defense. He was a good safety in high school so I think it will be all natural. To see how he reacts and see how his instincts are there will be the biggest thing, because he's definitely athletic enough."