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Mel Tucker, CU Buffs taking business approach to spring game

  • Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer

    Colorado receivers Jake Groth, left, and Jaylon Jackson perform a drill during Wednesday''s practice.

  • Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer

    Colorado head coach Mel Tucker would like to play a full game during Saturday''s annual spring game.

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For the fans, Saturday’s spring football game will offer the first and only opportunity of the offseason to watch the Colorado Buffaloes on the field.

For head coach Mel Tucker, his first spring game at CU won’t be much different from the other 14 practices he’s directed over the past few weeks.

“We’re going to go out there and we’re going to work and we’re going to work to get better,” Tucker said Wednesday after the Buffs’ penultimate practice of spring. “It’s going to be all meat and potatoes and no French pastry.”

Although the spring game, slated for noon on Saturday at Folsom Field, will be an opportunity for the players to perform in front of fans, Tucker is demanding them to bring a business approach, as well.

“It’s always great when you get a chance to go in the stadium on our home turf and play,” Tucker said. “I expect to see great focus. I don’t want to see guys looking up in the stands. There’s not going to be any dancing; we’re not going to have towels and streamers and guys thinking about what color socks they’re going to wear and what they’re going to write on their wrist bands and all that type of stuff. We’re not doing that. We’re going out there to work and to practice.”

For the most part, Tucker has been pleased with how the Buffs have worked and improved this spring. Only one time in 14 practices did he express his displeasure with his team.

“I feel like we’ve made steady progress in terms of sense of urgency and how we practice, the physicality, the fundamentals, along with the scheme and execution,” he said. “We’ve gotten better pretty much every day.”

The Buffs certainly didn’t take it easy on Wednesday, as Tucker called it “probably our most physical practice.”

“It was apparent that the guys had to strain, had to fight to the finish; finish plays, finish blocks, finish tackles,” he said. “We got some live work to the ground, which was much needed for us.”

In recent years, under previous head coach Mike MacIntyre, the Buffs got away from the traditional spring game and called it a “spring showcase.” Despite being banged up at a few positions — including several offensive and defensive linemen who have dealt with injuries this spring — Tucker is still planning a return to a game format.

“I would like to play a full game,” he said. “The staff will split the squad up. We’ll be fairly evenly matched and we’ll go play. We’re banged up in some positions, so we’ll have some guys that will have to be swing guys for both teams and we’ll do what we can to get a game-like performance out there.”

Blackmon making impression

Cornerbacks coach Travares Tillman is still working to find consistency with his group, but one player who has stood out this spring is junior Mehki Blackmon.

“He’s been a breath of fresh air,” Tillman said of Blackmon, who has been playing cornerback and Star this spring.

Listed at 6-feet, 160 pounds, Blackmon came to CU as a junior college transfer last year and figured to redshirt. When injuries hit the cornerback position, however, he got onto the field, playing 172 snaps and recording three pass breakups.

Blackmon is still undersized, but making up for it in other ways as he learns the Buffs’ defense.

“He’s a little guy,” Tillman said. “We wish he would get a few more pounds on him, but he’s got this offseason to do that. I don’t think he’ll lose any of his quickness (with extra weight). We’re looking forward to getting him in the summer program and beefing him up a little bit and having him come out and have a good year this year.

“He’s quick. He has a lot of little things that he does that he can get himself in good position. He has a knack to go up and get the ball, as well.”

Notable

Receiver Laviska Shenault has been limited all spring, but Tucker said, “He’s been able to work in rehab and he’s made progress in that regard. We’ll take that into the summer and he should be ready to go in the fall.” … Tucker said the coaching staff will select captains for each game this year. “Then at the end of the season, the players will vote on captains and then we’ll announce that at the banquet,” he said. … Tucker added that he’s seen leaders emerge, but “not enough.” He added, “I expect that leadership to emerge more in the summer. We’re going to have a very rigorous summer program in terms of strength and conditioning and then we’ll see in fall camp who really wants to step up and be a true leader for us.”

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at howellb@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/BrianHowell33