Mel Tucker has spent much of his coaching career working with and developing talented cornerbacks.
His players have included Deandre Baker of Georgia, who, under Tucker’s tutelage, won the Thorpe Award as the nation’s top cornerback last season.
If Tucker and his staff are able to develop the next Baker at Colorado, they’re going to have to do it with a small pool of players – at least for now.
Spring practices came to a close on April 27, and since then five scholarship players have entered the transfer portal, with four of them being cornerbacks.
Yet, as Tucker prepares for his first season as the Buffaloes’ head coach, he doesn’t sound too worried about a position group that’s now thin on bodies and experience.
“You do have guys that do want to transfer – graduate and transfer or that type of deal – and that’s part of it,” he said. “Over the years, I’ve benefited from guys that have left a school and transferred to where I was, so sometimes you lose guys and you try to take it in stride and try to always keep the best interests of the players in mind.”
Although the Buffs have gone from nine scholarship cornerbacks to five in the past few weeks, Tucker is offering no excuses. From the day when he was hired in December, he said this would be a no-excuses program, and he has never wavered from that.
“I feel like we’ll be able to get the job done with the guys that we have and the guys that we have coming in – freshmen that are coming in,” Tucker said last week.
While that comment came a couple of days before junior Ronnie Blackmon informed CU of his decision to transfer, it’s a good bet Tucker wouldn’t change his tune even after Blackmon’s departure.
Tucker felt Blackmon could “have a role for us” this season. The Buffs may also miss the experience of Dante Wigley, who started eight games last year and 15 in his two seasons in Boulder but opted not to play his senior year at CU.
Junior Kevin George and redshirt freshman L.J. Wallace, both slated for backup roles, also have entered the transfer portal.
Tucker, however, isn’t focused on those who are leaving. Rather, he likes the potential in the group that is expected to play corner for the Buffs.
Delrick Abrams Jr., is the lone senior of the group and after transferring from Independence (Kan.) Community College last year, he started eight of the 10 games in which he played.
Abrams has the potential to be the Buffs’ best corner and Tucker said, “I like what he brings to the table.”
Junior Mekhi Blackmon, another junior college transfer last year, worked quite a bit with the first team in spring practices. Although he has a slight frame at 6-feet and 160 pounds, Blackmon has shown good ball skills. During spring, cornerbacks coach Travares Tillman said Blackmon “has been a breath of fresh air.” Blackmon had two interceptions – including a pick-six – in the spring game.
The only other experienced corner on scholarship is sophomore Chris Miller, who continues battling the injury bug. Arguably CU’s best corner when healthy, Miller was having a great camp last August until a hamstring injury sidelined him for several weeks and caused him to miss the season opener. He then played in six games before missing the last five with a fractured thumb.
In the midst of a good offseason, Miller suffered a dislocated shoulder during a winter workout and missed all of spring workouts.
“I’m interested to see what Chris Miller is going to be able to do,” Tucker said. “He was banged up in the spring, so I didn’t get a chance to see him play, but he has the tools.”
Tucker watched film of Miller from last year and said, “He’s going to be OK.”
True freshmen KJ Trujillo and DJ Oats round out the list of scholarship corners. Trujillo was limited in spring, but impressed Tucker with his skill, and Oats brings exceptional speed.
The Buffs may not be done building the cornerback room for next season, however. CU has one scholarship open and Tucker said, “We’re always still in the market for guys that are maybe available late this summer. I’m always on the lookout for guys.”