CU Buffs football notes: Mel Tucker praises team effort

First-year head coach impressed with how Buffs are performing in camp

Colorado receiver Daniel Arias, left, works against cornerback KJ Trujillo during practice on Saturday at Folsom Field. Arias has continued to impress coach Mel Tucker throughout the first week of camp.

It’s not uncommon for coaches to walk off the practice field, stand in front of the media and give a glowing report of that day’s workout – regardless of how it actually played out.

Colorado’s first-year head football coach Mel Tucker is making it a daily routine to rave about his team. On Wednesday, he assured those gathered around the microphones that he’s not just offering up coach-speak.

“If I didn’t feel that way, I would tell you,” he said.

Tucker did, in fact, express his disappointment after a practice during the spring, but six workouts into fall camp, he’s been encouraged.

“I’m not telling you guys (in the media) anything I’m not telling (the players),” he said. “If they do a good job, I have no reservations about telling them that. I believe that when they do it right, you have to tell them they’re doing it right and they can gain confidence from that and be energized. When they’re not doing it right, you confront, you demand, you teach and they respect that.”

Tucker was actually a bit worried going into Wednesday’s practice because this is the point in camp when players sometimes hit a wall. Knowing that possibility, he addressed it with the players in advance.

“We talked about it last night and we talked about it this morning,” Tucker said. “We confronted it and guys really pushed through today. It was an enthusiastic practice. Guys were into it, it was physical; guys ran around, we were on time. Those guys really stepped up today and got a good day’s work in and pushed through.”

The defense, in particular, stepped up. On Tuesday, the defensive line got pushed around and Tucker challenged them to respond.

“It went back and forth today,” he said. “That was good to see. Our guys are competitors and they have pride, but it really comes down to technique and fundamentals and execution, along with the want-to. Our want-to factor on both sides of the ball is high, but I thought the defense did respond and it’s important to them. I expect it to be back and forth every day. That’s what we want.”

Backup QBs competing

According to coaches, there is no clear-cut No. 2 quarterback behind starter Steven Montez. Junior Sam Noyer, sophomore Tyler Lytle and freshman Blake Stenstrom continue battling.

“Right now, I think it switches back and forth about every day,” offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Jay Johnson said. “They all have some very good characteristics. I think they’re all skilled, but what I’m looking for is consistency. I’m looking for the guy that can consistently handle it at a high level.”

Tucker is in no rush to name a backup and said, “We have four guys on scholarship that are more than capable of going out there and getting the job done, so we’ll just see how it shakes out.”

Blackmon progressing

Despite carrying just 165 pounds on his 6-foot frame, cornerback Mekhi Blackmon continues to earn praise from coaches.

“I really like his toughness,” Tucker said. “He’s not the biggest guy but he’s a willing tackler, he’s contact tough. He may be one of our most improved players from the spring.

“He’s really fun to coach. He asks a lot of questions and he’s got a lot of confidence. We challenge him every play, every day and he’s responded so far and keeps getting back in the fight, so I have a lot of respect for him.”

Blackmon has been playing cornerback and Star this fall.

Notable

Whether catching the ball or blocking, receiver Daniel Arias makes plays “every single day,” Tucker said. “He’s been very impressive.” … Tucker said Montez had a good day. “He threw some beautiful deep balls today,” Tucker said. “I love to see him spin that rock the way he does.” … Stenstrom was limited in spring as he recovered from an injury, but Johnson praised the work of the young quarterback so far in camp. “I like his balance in the throw game,” Johnson said. “He throws the ball, spins it very well. He’s athletic enough to extend plays if he needs to and so far has shown some good things from a mental capacity.”