The leap from high school to college football isn’t an easy one, as Nikko Reed found out a year ago.
Entering his second season with the Colorado Buffaloes, Reed is much more comfortable.
“I have been more locked in than I was last year,” the true sophomore cornerback said after a recent practice. “I feel like camp was a bit of a struggle for me last year, but now that I’ve kind of gotten used to it, I’m locked in more.”
The struggle, Reed said, came from trying to learn the cornerback technique while going up against bigger and faster competition than he ever saw in high school.
Despite the struggle, Reed flashed his talent last season, playing 199 snaps and recording eight tackles, two pass breakups and an interception. He also had one kickoff return, taking it 100 yards for a touchdown in the finale against Utah.
This year, the Buffs are counting on Reed to take the next step, as he’s projected to be a starter. CU has very little experience in the secondary, so it is leaning on Reed and his 2021 recruiting classmates Kaylin Moore, Tyrin Taylor and Trevor Woods.
“Nikko is having a great camp, Kaylin’s having a really good camp and Tyrin,” CU head coach Karl Dorrell said. “They’re doing veteran things right now.”
Rather than feeling pressure, the 5-foot-10, 175-pound Reed said he’s excited for his opportunity to potential start and make an impact.
“I just feel like it’s just next man up,” he said. “When you’re up, you’ve just got to make it happen. I was gonna have to come up at one point, so now is the time. I’m not really tripping off any pressure or anything like that. It’s just I’m up now, so now I’ve got to take over.”
Reed said he isn’t letting an exciting finish to his freshman season get to his head.
“It’s a new season,” he said. “I’m just trying to take that into (this) year and build more on it. … To me, I’m still nothing. I gotta make a name for myself still.”
He is, however, much more confident than he was a year ago.
“I feel like I have way more confidence than I used to have just because I’m getting a feel for the game,” he said. “Slowing down (the game) for me has helped me out a lot because last year the game was just moving so fast.”
Like Reed, Woods got his feet wet last year in a backup role. And like Reed, Woods is now being counted on as a young leader. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound safety has been limited in camp because of an injury, but Dorrell is pleased with his development.
“When he’s out there, you can tell he’s very confident,” Dorrell said. “You watch his movement and his command of when he makes adjustments with the rest of the secondary because he’s the quarterback of the secondary. He’s very comfortable making those calls and those adjustments that are being made. It’s just a matter of him getting back to health, which he’ll be back probably (this) week and just keep his development going. He doesn’t know everything yet, but he’s learned quite a bit that first year as a freshman. He does have a little more swagger to him now that he’s been in the system for a year.”
In his element
For more than three decades, Dorrell has been in coaching and nothing gets him excited like the start of the football season and preseason camp.
“I love training camp, just because it’s that point in the summer that the NFL is back, and getting ready for the season, high school ball is getting back ready for their season and college is getting ready for their season,” he said. “There’s that, I think that air in terms of football is coming. It’s right here and I think everybody has great anticipation about it.”
The first couple of weeks of August are particularly fun for Dorrell because he can focus solely on football before the players begin classes.
“That, in a lot of ways, it makes me feel like I’m an assistant again, because I can dive in and just be all ball and that’s been my nature most of my career,” he said. “Camp is a lot of fun for me. I love it to death and I know it’s a necessary process about getting in football shape. The whole element of just practicing and developing a team and those guys gaining their identity through the process and watching how each team, each year kind of grows and creates their own identity, it’s a fun process to see.”
Dorrell said the offensive line is a work in progress, but the Buffs are building depth. “In the past, we just didn’t have enough quality depth from our first team to our second team and I would say that’s completely changed,” he said. … Receivers coach Phil McGeoghan, who is also assistant head coach, said the Buffs had a below par practice a few days ago but responded well Saturday and Monday. “I felt like the last two days collectively as an offense, I thought it’s been where we need to be to get better and win football games,” he said. … The Buffs were in full pads for the first time in camp on Monday.