After catching just four passes in three-plus years at Auburn, Jalen Harris has found a new home, and possibly a greater chance to shine, in Boulder.

"Thank God for another opportunity to let me showcase my skills," he wrote on Instagram last week when announcing his decision transfer to Colorado.

In recent years, CU would seem to be one of the last places a tight end would want to transfer, but under new head coach Mel Tucker, Boulder might be the perfect spot for Harris, who has one season to play as a graduate transfer.

"I don't think you recruit a grad transfer here if you don't plan on using the tight end, as a receiver and as a formation matchup guy," Tucker said.

Jalen Harris
Jalen Harris

Former head coach Mike MacIntyre often used tight ends as blockers, but very rarely used them as receivers. Tight ends caught six passes this season, and averaged 5.7 catches over the past three years.

Tucker and new offensive coordinator Jay Johnson see great potential in the tight end position, however.

"I think the tight ends are a very integral part of our offense," Johnson said. "We need to mold it to who we have, so that's going to be important, but I think the tight ends are the MVP of the offense."

The key to that, of course, is having talent and depth at the position. Tucker took over a team very thin at tight end, which makes Harris a key part of the recruiting class that CU signed this week.


"I coached against this young man for three years and I'm glad those days are over," Tucker said. "He fills an immediate need for us.

"We plan to use the tight end here extensively. He's going to be a mismatch guy, a run-and-catch guy we can flex out. He's going to be stout at the point of attack."

At 6-foot-5 and 255 pounds, Harris has exceptional size for the position, and he also brings valuable experience. He played in 42 games at Auburn, including three this season before deciding to transfer.

Although Harris caught only four passes at Auburn (two for touchdowns), he's proven to be a talented receiver in the past. In high school, he caught 52 passes for 878 yards and five touchdowns.

"He's a team guy and he executed the role they asked him to execute (at Auburn)," Tucker said. "I think he's excited about the opportunities here because of how we plan to use the tight ends."

Harris won't be the only option for Tucker and Johnson, though.

Rising sophomore Brady Russell returns after making his mark this year. He began fall as a walk-on, but earned a scholarship and wound up atop the depth chart. He caught five passes for 41 yards.

Darrion Jones, a junior college transfer who will be a senior, spent much of the season adjusting to Division I football, but played a lot more late in the year. Like Harris, he brings exceptional size (6-6, 250) and athletic ability to the position.

Talented sophomore Jared Poplawski returns, too. The previous staff was excited about his potential, but injuries have plagued him. He injured a knee late in 2017, and then missed the 2018 season with a shoulder injury. If healthy, he's got the ability to help the Buffs.

Walk-ons Derek Coleman, Vincent Colodny and C.J. Schmanski bring depth to the position.

Overall, it's a group that could become a key to the new-look CU offense in 2019.

"Offenses that implement the tight end, they're difficult to defend," Tucker said. "That's one other aspect that you have to plan for."

It's an aspect that Johnson is certainly planning to use as he designs the offense for the Buffaloes.

"I want to see them be able to do some things in the pass game, but also they have to help us in the run game and they've got to help us in (pass) protection," Johnson said. "They're kind of the unique ones; they get to do it all.

"I put high regards on those guys and look for them to be helping us out."


CU receiver KD Nixon recently had surgery on a torn meniscus. He was injured in the finale at California on Nov. 24, but does not expect to miss spring football. He posted on Instagram that the surgery was successful and he's looking forward to the 2019 season.

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at or