After going through a full spring and offseason with Mel Tucker as head coach, Colorado quarterback Steven Montez came up with one word to describe the Buffaloes’ new boss.
“Intense,” Montez told Buffzone.com this summer. “He embodies energy and it’s very positive energy. It’s what this team needed. When you think about an intense head coach, that’s exactly how he is.”
If Tucker was that intense during the offseason, Montez can only imagine what he’ll be like on game days, or when fall camp opens on Thursday.
“I’m excited to see what he’s like in fall camp,” Montez said. “I’ve seen it in spring ball, and spring ball and fall camp are two different things. Fall camp, you’re gearing up to play football games and that’s when intensity gets cranked up all the way to 11. I’m excited to see what he’s like on that first day of fall camp. It’s definitely going to be something to see.”
Montez isn’t the only one excited for the start of the Tucker era. Players, coaches and staff members who have been around Tucker have praised the impact he’s made so far. Off the field, it’s clear that he is the new leader of this program. On the field, there’s no doubt.
“He knows what he wants out of practice, and he makes sure he gets that out of us,” linebacker Nate Landman said.
Running backs coach Darian Hagan has worked under previous CU head coaches Dan Hawkins, Jon Embree and Mike MacIntyre. There’s a difference with Tucker, he said.
“He’s awesome to work for and he’s a guy that all the players gravitate towards,” Hagan said. “They want to be around him. That hasn’t happened here in a long time, where the guys want to be around the head coach.”
With Tucker in charge, Hagan said staff chemistry has been top-notch.
“Probably one of the best I’ve been around,” Hagan said. “All (the staffs) have been good; this one here is a little bit different. These guys here, they’ve done it, they’ve seen it and they’re confident in their abilities and they don’t hold back from their confidence just to make somebody feel good.”
Of course, everything Tucker has done this offseason has been with an eye toward the 12 games on the schedule and reaching the postseason. Tucker still has to get through fall camp, but his first game as the Buffs’ head coach, Aug. 30 against Colorado State, isn’t far away. He promised he’ll be nervous.
“I’m nervous going into every game,” Tucker told Buffzone this summer. “I think if you’re not a little nervous, something is wrong, because it matters. But, there’s not an element of anxiety. I think nervousness comes a little bit with the pressure, which I think is good. What is bad is anxiety. If you have anxiety going into a situation, that’s probably because there’s a lack of preparation.”
Tucker takes preparation seriously, whether his team is facing a seemingly lesser opponent or a bitter rival on the road with high stakes.
“I’ve never been in a game – even street ball growing up – that wasn’t a big game, that didn’t feel big,” he said. “Pressure – and there’s going to be pressure – is a privilege to me. If you’re playing a game and there’s no pressure, that means it’s insignificant. It’s a privilege to be able to play this game and it means something to you and it means something to the fans and to everyone involved. That’s a position that I want to be in. As the leader of the football team, I’m going to embrace it and I think the players are going to follow my lead.”
While he is intense and emotional, Tucker believes his role as the program leader demands that he’s in control of his emotions on the sidelines.
“It’s important for me as the leader to be consistent and be steady and continue to move forward (after each play),” he said. “The players are going to take the lead from me. I’m very, very intense and I get after it, but if you get to the point where you’re in a rage, I think it impairs your thinking.”
As the Buffs prepare for their first fall camp under Tucker’s leadership, players are ready for an increase in intensity, while carrying the confidence that he is ready to lead them through good times and bad.
“He seems very poised in handling his emotions and his thoughts,” Landman said. “There’s going to be a lot of downs and a lot of ups and I think he has a great grasp of how to handle those. When things are down, I have no doubt in my mind he’s there to be able to lift up the team and be that kind of guy for us.”