Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Colorado’s coaching staff has been through a number of changes this offseason, starting with head coach Mel Tucker and continuing through seven assistants that are new to the Buffaloes.
For junior receiver KD Nixon, however, one of the most significant changes has occurred with a familiar face.
Receivers coach Darrin Chiaverini was one of three assistants who was a part of the previous staff and retained by Tucker, but so far this offseason, it’s been a new version of Chiaverini.
“Honestly, it’s a blessing (that he’s back),” Nixon said, “but at the same time, he’s stepped his game way up. You can tell that this receivers group is trusting coach Chev way more.”
Co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach for three years under former head coach Mike MacIntyre, Chiaverini was given more responsibility a year ago when he was handed the keys to the offense as the play-caller. After Tucker was hired, Chiaverini was retained, but without the co-OC and play calling duties.
The only position coach Nixon has known in college is now a bit different.
“He gives us more attention, he’s more structured with us,” Nixon said. “He puts in more time with us. It’s something that we, as receivers, wanted. As an OC, you have to be both; you have to teach the whole offense. Right now, we’re taking advantage of him just being a receivers coach. I love it. Even though he probably still wants to (be an OC), I’m thankful for it.”
Yes, Chiaverini would prefer to be in the driver’s seat of the offense, but he’s also embracing his new role and enjoying the fact that he’s still coaching for his alma mater.
“I enjoy coaching, just in general,” said Chiaverini, who caught 97 passes for 1,199 yards as a Buff from 1995-98. “If I was making no money, I would be volunteering somewhere and helping. I enjoy the coaching aspect of football. I’m a Buff and I love this place and do I want to call plays again someday? Yeah, of course I do. But in the mean time I’m going to help (offensive coordinator Jay) Johnson and I’m going to help coach Tuck and do the best job I can with our guys and make them play at a high level. I think that’s what’s key for me right now.”
When he was co-OC, Chiaverini certainly didn’t ignore his receivers at practice, but he agrees he’s giving the players more attention this year.
“I think whenever you’re a coordinator, you’re looking at the bigger picture,” he said. “When you go back to an assistant coach, you’re focused on your group.”
It’s a group that Chiaverini has great affection for because he has known them so long.
“I’ve recruited all of them,” he said. “I think with coaching, when there’s that trust between a player and a coach and we’ve been around each other a lot, I can reach them a little bit differently now. That’s what I’ve been trying to do this spring with them is try to reach them a little more in-depth and get down to the details with them.”
The receivers group includes Chiaverini’s son, Curtis, a sophomore walk-on, but his relationship goes back years with others. Senior Tony Brown was recruited to Texas Tech by Chiaverini and then transferred to CU to be reunited with him; they’ve known each other for nearly seven years. Nixon and Laviska Shenault are true juniors that Chiaverini has been recruiting since they were sophomores together at De Soto (Texas) High School.
“I think that’s what makes it really special or me,” Chiaverini said. “I recruited everybody in that room and I sat down with their moms and dads and I sat down with their family members. I think it’s special when you can stay somewhere long enough to where you can develop players and see them through their journey. That’s really cool for me.”
That journey includes watching Maurice Bell, a third-year sophomore with no career catches, emerging into a potential weapon. On Wednesday, Chiaverini said, Bell “had his best practice since he’s been here.”
The journey includes watching redshirt freshman Dimitri Stanley and sophomores Daniel Arias and Jaylon Jackson flashing star potential.
Of course, the journey also includes seeing Shenault and Nixon developing into two of the best receivers in the Pac-12, if not the country.
It’s a journey Chiaverini is continuing this season, and Nixon, for one, couldn’t be happier.
“Chev is one of the best coaches,” Nixon said. “He’s teaching us and he’s got the time to show us love, to check on our grades, to call us and check on us at night. I can’t say it enough: I’m thankful he’s the receivers coach.”