Colorado isn’t quite ready to play a football game that matters, but after the Buffaloes’ first live scrimmage of preseason camp, head coach Mel Tucker said his team is on track.
“They’re pretty much where I thought they would be at this point,” Tucker said Saturday morning after the Buffs’ scrimmage. “We’re not where we need to be yet, but at this stage, coming out of our first scrimmage, I feel like we’re right where we need to be.”
Tucker said the Buffs ran 96 plays during the scrimmage, which was closed to the public and media. A full officiating crew was on hand, calling eight penalties overall.
“Each official was able to give some feedback to our squad and it was a pretty clean scrimmage,” Tucker said.
Senior quarterback Steven Montez was “sharp, other than one play,” Tucker said, and he pointed out that 21 different players caught passes.
“We want to have balance and get the ball to all the guys that can make plays for us,” he said.
In the run game, Deion Smith had a good day, and Tucker, for the second time this week, highlighted redshirt freshman running back Jarek Broussard.
“Early in the scrimmage, he showed up and he’s been coming on,” Tucker said. “In terms of having depth at that position, I think we’re sound and solid.”
Defensively, Tucker was pleased to see true freshman KJ Trujillo step up cornerback. Another true freshman, Tarik Luckett, moved from receiver to corner this week and impressed Tucker with his willingness to get involved in tackles.
In general, Tucker said the offense had a quick start, but “then we got to the third down period and the defense was dominant. Then it kind of went back and forth from there.
“Overall, I thought we were fairly sharp in our first scrimmage. I really like what I’m seeing; guys stepping up, developing and getting better. They were into it and we were very efficient today. We had a good, clean scrimmage.”
Pursell leading on offense
Tucker said sophomore center Colby Pursell stepped up as a leader during the scrimmage.
“When the offense started to sputter a little bit, I really saw him try to exert his will on that offensive line and the offense in general,” Tucker said. “That’s the first time I really heard him step up like that. He’s one of our toughest players – mentally tough, physically tough. It was really good to see his leadership emerge. We’re going to need that.”
Corners building depth
Trujillo and Luckett coming through is a positive for the Buffs. Coming into camp, the Buffs had just five scholarship corners and only three with game experience.
Now with Luckett on defense, the Buffs have six corners on scholarship, plus a couple walks-ons, and Tucker said the group is getting better.
“We’re really working to develop that entire group,” he said. “I feel like we have a good group there that we’ll be able to field a really strong secondary. They’re sound and solid. They’re really doing a much better job with their technique and their eye discipline. We’re giving up less big plays, we’re in position a lot more to be able to make the plays we’re supposed to make and that makes our defense a lot more sound and solid.”
The Buffs concluded Friday’s practice by having kicker James Stefanou attempt a 49-yard field goal. The entire team gathered around to put pressure on Stefanou, and Tucker asked them if they thought Stefanou would make the kick; all but two players said he would.
“He nailed it, and the whole team watched these two guys run these gassers back and forth,” Tucker said. “That was good to see because we were able to put pressure on the kicker, but (Stefanou) also had an opportunity to see how much his team was behind him.
“I’m not going to call out (the two dissenters), but I thought it was a great moment for our football team. It was fun and the guys were into it.”
Tucker said the Buffs’ inside run defense was stout Saturday, but the Buffs need to do better stopping the perimeter runs. “Some of our young defensive linemen are showing up and helping us there and we needed some of those guys to come in and provide depth,” he said. … Tucker said the special teams work, led by assistant coach Ross Els, has been very efficient. “It’s extremely organized,” Tucker said. “Coach Els does a great job with the special teams and he’s passionate about it.” … Outside linebacker Alex Tchangam is becoming more physical against the run. … Per CUBuffs.com, offensive lineman Va’atofu Sauvao, who joined the team in January as a junior college transfer, has moved to the defensive line. Walk-on lineman Spencer Short has also moved from offense to defense.