Cornerback Delrick Abrams figured he would have to shoulder his fair share of leadership responsibilities this fall for the Colorado defense.
Abrams is a senior, after all, and even though 2018 was his first season at CU after joining the Buffaloes as a junior college transfer, his eight starts and 10 games played overall last year made him just about as experienced as anyone in an extremely green secondary coming into the 2019 season.
Abrams already was the de facto old man of the bunch. Yet as the season has progressed, the faces lining up around him have only gotten younger and younger.
While Abrams has started every game for the Buffs going into the always-tough trip Saturday to Washington State (5 p.m., ESPNU), injuries have put the remainder of the secondary into a continuous shuffle mode. For Abrams, that has meant taking on a bigger hands-on role in mentoring the youngsters.
“We meet every day at five o’clock, trying to get more film,” Abrams said. “Try to stay positive. I’m trying to lead in the right way. If something goes bad, try to pick them up. They pick me up and we communicate with each other. I did expect to be a leader. But I didn’t expect everybody to get injured — Mehki (Blackmon), Chris (Miller). We got younger, so we’ve got more, not real pressure, but more leadership from me.”
Blackmon, a junior, started the first two games opposite of Abrams, but a shoulder injury limited him to a nickel role for two more games before having season-ending surgery. Miller, a sophomore, started the next two games before suffering a season-ending torn ACL. The past two games, Abrams’ starting mate at the opposite corner has been true freshman KJ Trujillo.
So thin are the Buffs at corner that one player — true freshman Tarik Luckett, who was moved to corner from receiver during the preseason and has yet to play — is listed as the backup at both spots on this week’s depth chart.
“I think the first thing that you see is KJ gaining a lot of confidence,” CU defensive coordinator Tyson Summers said. “Obviously, we’ve got a lot of guys like KJ that are out there playing as freshmen and are having to get snaps probably a little bit before they’re ready to but I thought KJ played well the other day (at Oregon).
“KJ is a very, very smart kid, he’s smart football player, he takes whatever coaching he has and the very next play he’s going to be able to make sure he does it and he does it like that from then on out. Having guys that are willing to be coached guys that are smart and guys that are not going to make the same mistake twice is very good for us and that’s why KJ is out there playing because he does all those little things correctly.”
Not many positives can be gleaned from the sort of 45-3 thumping the Buffs endured last week at Oregon, but the play of Abrams and Trujillo might count as at least a slight silver lining. Abrams was credited with three passes broken up, and his work was key in a couple first half stops the defense posted before the Ducks started rolling. Although Oregon made a point of attacking the middle of the Buffs’ defense, Trujillo also acquitted himself on the outside — particularly against arguably the Pac-12’s top offense in a hostile road environment.
“They both played well,” Summers said. “Obviously Oregon, what they were trying to attack was not those guys. They were trying to go after the slots, but I thought they both played well. For KJ to be in that kind of environment as early on in his career as he did, I thought he played really well but he handles that. He’s a mature kid.”