Excitement is building around the Mel Tucker era in Boulder, as the new head coach of the Colorado football team has infused the Buffaloes and their fans with renewed energy.
Tucker wants the Buffs to play fast, even in practice. He wants his players to be physical because, he said, "There's only one way to play the game of football and that's just all-out, physical football."
After two consecutive 5-7 seasons that halted the momentum of a miraculous 2016 — and five losing seasons during the six-year tenure of Mike MacIntyre — the Buffs were in need of a spark, and Tucker has provided it.
"It's really hard to explain, but the Mel Tucker era, it's a blessing," junior receiver KD Nixon said earlier this month.
Offseason workouts have been intense. Practices are intense. Players are getting bigger and stronger. Along the way, Tucker has said pretty much all the right things to generate the energy he was hired to provide.
For now, however, it's best to not get too ahead of ourselves. After all, Tucker has yet to coach a game. The Buffs have yet to lose a game — or two, or three — under his watch and shown how they'll respond.
The energy created by Tucker and his staff is refreshing, there's no doubt. But, it's not unusual.
There was a lot of excitement when MacIntyre went through his first spring with the Buffs in 2013. The hiring of Jon Embree before the 2011 season got players pumped because of all the NFL experience he and his staff were bringing to Boulder. When Dan Hawkins was hired before the 2006 season, it was a big-time jolt for the program.
Hawkins lost his first six games en route to a 2-10 debut season. Embree lost his first two on his way to a 3-10 first season. MacIntyre won his first two, but the Buffs finished 4-8. All three wound up getting fired with overall losing records.
To be fair, the Colorado program is in better shape and filled with more talent now than it was in 2006, 2011 or 2013. Nevertheless, expectations should be tempered just a bit, as there is plenty of work to be done in Boulder.
Quarterback Steven Montez sounded like the veteran that he is on Friday when he reminded everyone that the Buffs haven't exactly arrived yet.
"Looking good (in spring) is not the same as looking great or looking where we need to look to start playing games," he said. "We still have a lot of room for improvement. We're taking steps in the right direction."
The Buffs were going in the wrong direction last year, which is why Tucker is here in the first place. He's successfully executed a U-turn in momentum and for now that'll do.
Many athletic department staff members have been impressed by Tucker's first few months on the job, including changes he's made to the strength and conditioning program and the open-door policy he has in his office.
Nixon certainly isn't the only player singing the praises of his new head coach — as well as the assistants. Offensive line coach Chris Kapilovic, outside linebackers coach Brian Michalowski, quarterbacks coach/offensive coordinator Jay Johnson and others have all been embraced by players this spring. From seniors to freshmen, the changes have been welcomed with open arms.
"We're competing more, it's more intense and we're just having a great time," Nixon said.
Now, it's up to Nixon, Montez and the rest of the Buffs to turn this offseason hype into on-field success.