Andy Colwell / The Denver Post
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Although Mel Tucker has spent his entire coaching career on defense, Colorado’s new head coach is well aware of what’s required to succeed on offense.
Just about everywhere Tucker has been — Wisconsin, Ohio State, Alabama, Georgia and 10 years in the NFL — has emphasized running the football.
At Colorado, he plans to do the same, and has said, “We have to be able to run the ball on our terms.”
To do that requires big, strong linemen, and Tucker has already emphasized that in recruiting. It also takes big, strong running backs, and Tucker’s first recruiting class at CU has emphasized that, as well.
On Wednesday, the Buffs signed two running backs — Joe Davis (5-foot-11, 210 pounds) from Valor Christian High School and Jaren Mangham (6-2, 215) from Detroit — to national letters of intent, and Tucker used the word “physical” to describe both.
“How many big backs can we put on the field; can we rotate in?” Tucker said as highlights of Mangham were shown.
He mentioned a desire to “come at them in waves in the backfield.”
CU has had a 1,000-yard rusher three years in a row, with Phillip Lindsay (2016-17) and Travon McMillian (this year), but has not had much depth at running back.
Lindsay had a school-record 301 carries in 2017, but Beau Bisharat was second among backs with only 21 carries that season.
This past season, McMillian had 201 carries, with No. 2 back Kyle Evans carrying the ball 69 times. Both were seniors.
Going into 2019, the most experienced running back on the roster is Bisharat, a rising senior who has 57 carries for 249 yards in his career.
Sophomore Alex Fontenot and freshmen Jarek Broussard and Deion Smith also return, with Davis and Mangham coming in.
While the Buffs have an unproven stable of backs, it’s a good bet that CU will find a way to make them a focal point of the offense.
“I think it starts with the run game,” offensive coordinator Jay Johnson said. “We need to run the ball effectively. That’s where we’re going to start, having the ability to run the football.”
The regular signing period runs from Feb. 6 to April 1, and CU could sign around eight more players for the 2019 class. Tucker said there’s not a specific position the Buffs are targeting to fill out the class.
“We’re looking for the best football players,” he said. “Guys that can fit in what we’re going to do here and how we want to play football: Physical, fast, relentless, smart, toughness. That’s how we’re going to play football. If that’s a defensive back, defensive lineman, offensive lineman, quarterback, we’re looking for those guys and we’re going to fill the class with those type of guys.”
Whether it’s Pac-12 foes, Colorado State or other national programs, Tucker said he’s not worried about recruiting battles.
“My philosophy in recruiting is let’s focus on what we have to offer,” he said. “Let’s sell our program. Let’s talk about our university and Boulder and the great tradition that we have here and all of our great coaches and our great locker room and our great facilities, the kids we have on the team right now.
“Obviously, we’re going to have to fight for guys, but we’re willing to fight anybody for any player at any time. If you want to get the best players, you’re going to have to fight for them.”
Tucker’s message to true freshmen coming in: “Be ready to play as a freshman. That’s your mindset. I believe in playing guys when they’re ready to play. We’re going to put the best players on the field.”