Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
Colorado’s Jaylon Jackson has always possessed play-making ability, but little opportunity in recent years to show it off.
On Friday, the sophomore receiver didn’t have a crowd watching him, but he did once again show his teammates and his new coaches that he can be dynamic. Jackson hauled in a 62-yard touchdown pass from Steven Montez for a late touchdown during a closed-door scrimmage in the Buffs’ indoor practice facility.
“Jaylon Jackson caught a two-minute, last minute Hail Mary to win the game,” Montez said. “That was a big play today.”
In CU’s first scrimmage of the spring — and the first under head coach Mel Tucker — there were a lot of plays and positive signs of progress.
“I was encouraged today because it was the first time that we were able to scrimmage live and I could tell that there was a little bit of anxiety and tension because it was for real,” Tucker said. “We really stepped up and competed.”
Friday was the ninth of 15 spring practices. Given that it’s spring and the Buffs are still getting acclimated to a new coaching regime “it wasn’t perfect on either side of the ball,” Tucker said.
Perfection wasn’t the objective, however. Progress was the primary goal.
“It’s usually like that in the first scrimmage, but in terms of the competition and guys straining to finish and extending drives and things like that and making plays, I thought they ran around pretty good today,” Tucker said. “I’m really looking forward to seeing this tape.
“It was a really good day’s work. I thought we got better this week.”
Jackson, who missed essentially three consecutive years from high school to college with injuries before returning last year, had three catches for 115 yards. All three catches went for either a first down or touchdown.
Daniel Arias, KD Nixon, Tony Brown and Dimitri Stanley also each had three catches. Nixon caught a 4-yard touchdown pass from Montez, who went 11-for-19 for 148 yards.
In the run game, Deion Smith rushed for 25 yards and two touchdowns — including one from 18 yards out — on five carries, while Jarek Broussard had a team-high 32 yards and a touchdown on seven carries. Alex Fontenot added 30 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries and Jaren Mangham added 22 yards on four carries.
“Especially in the red zone, we had some situations where we really tired to pound it in and we were physical on both sides of the ball,” Tucker said. “The offense, they popped some runs and the defense made some stops in the run game. The physical nature in the trenches, we were able to see that in a scrimmage format.”
The defense had its moments, too. Jonathan Van Diest had a team-high eight tackles, while Jacob Callier and Terrance Lang each posted two sacks. Nu’umotu Falo and Trey Udoffia each added a sack.
Most important for Tucker was how the players approached the scrimmage.
“For the most part, I thought for the first scrimmage, guys knew what to do,” he said. “We’re still not playing as fast and as physical as we need to, but I thought that we made a step today and the guys, the players were serious about it. They understood this was a big day for us. We’ve been waiting for this day for quite some time to see guys playing live football.
“I thought the attention to detail was there, guys were focused throughout and from start to finish I thought the execution was solid. We’ve still got a long way to go, though, but I was encouraged.”
With six practices left over the next two weeks, Tucker is hoping to see the Buffs take another step forward next week.
“We’re going to make the biggest jump between this practice and Monday’s practice,” he said. “Once you get that first scrimmage under your belt and guys get a chance to see it live, the coaches get a chance to see it live, guys can really see, ‘OK, this is where we are.’ You know exactly where everyone is and then we know where we have to go, what the next steps are.”