Mel Tucker has gained a reputation for being a top-notch recruiter, and the Colorado Buffaloes’ new head football coach is hoping to continue landing great talent in his new job.
Tucker, announced Thursday as the Buffs’ head coach after spending the last three seasons as Georgia’s defensive coordinator, has coached or recruited nine first-round NFL draft picks over the years. That number is likely to increase to 10, as current Georgia cornerback DeAndre Baker is projected as a first-round pick in the 2019 draft.
What exactly does Tucker look for when recruiting talent from the high school ranks?
“Obviously you want guys that can win one on one,” he said. “They can win their box, whatever position that is. The evaluation process is critical. It takes talent to evaluate talent. We first have to identify the players. We have to evaluate them.
“At that point, once we decide these are guys that can be difference makers and help us reach our goals — these young men can help us win championships — it’s all about marketing at that point. We know what we’re looking for. We know what it takes to compete and to win. It’s not always all about talent. It’s talent and character. We know what we’re looking and we’re going to go get it.”
Working at Alabama and Georgia the past four years, Tucker has done most of his recruiting in the south, but said he is well aware that Colorado, California and Texas are major recruiting areas for CU.
“We plan to keep those pipelines and actually enhance those pipelines and make them even stronger,” he said. “The west coast, California, Texas, Louisiana are critical. A program such as this has to recruit nationally and let’s not forget our own state. There are tremendous players here and we have to make sure we keep them home and we’ll do everything we can do to do that.”
Meeting the players
Tucker met with CU’s players on Thursday morning, giving them his initial message.
“I know the young men in that room are hungry and they want to win,” Tucker said. “They want to compete for championships. They want to be relevant. I promised them that if they follow the process and they buy in and they do the things we’re going to ask them to do, we will achieve at a high level and they will reach their full potential and we’ll be able to compete for championships and be in that conversation year in and year out.”
CU did not make players available to the media, but quarterback Steven Montez posted a picture of Tucker on Twitter and wrote, “Relentless. Welcome To The Black And Gold Coach Tucker.”
The father of another player told BuffZone that his son is “pumped” about Tucker and added, “And, I mean really pumped.”
Staff decisions looming
Tucker will immediately begin the process of building his coaching staff, but he said it may not be until next week that decisions are made.
“Obviously our staff will be extremely competent in Xs and Os and they will be relentless recruiters,” he said. “What that staff makeup will be remains to be seen, but time is of the essence and we’ll get moving in the right direction from a staff standpoint right now.”
The coaching staff could include some of the current coaches, although it’s not known which, if any, would be retained.
Director of football strength and conditioning Drew Wilson and director of football academics Katie Bason are expected to remain with the program, according to a BuffZone source.
Tucker said he wants a tough, disciplined team at CU, but also said it’s important that players know he and the staff care about them.
“Most all of the coaches that I’ve worked for or played for were extremely tough,” he said. “However, being tough on players is not a bad thing. If you have the two components of love and discipline, I think they understand where the toughness is coming from and why it’s important.
“We’ll build them up (mentally). A person can go two weeks on one compliment. When they do it wrong, we’ll point that out, but when they do it right, we’re going to go nuts and they know they did it right. That’s how you build people up as opposed to tearing them down. I’ m a big believer in that.”
On Thursday, the Associated Press announced its all-Pac-12 team. Defensive lineman Mustafa Johnson was named to the first team, while receiver Laviska Shenault and linebacker Nate Landman received second-team honors.