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CU Buffs’ player development a positive in Mel Tucker’s first season

Coach saw team get more physical as year went on

Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer
Colorado running back Alex Fontenot looks for yards against Stanford on Nov. 9 at Folsom Field. He rushed for 95 yards in the game. Head coach Mel Tucker was pleased with CU’s development in the run game during the 2019 season.

Nobody involved with the Colorado football program was satisfied with a 5-7 record for the third year in a row in 2019.

In reviewing his first season at CU, however, head coach Mel Tucker was pleased with the improvement of the players.

“I thought that I saw our team develop as the season went,” Tucker said. “We have some young players that we thought would be able to contribute at some point and I saw those guys get on the field and produce; guys that were not necessarily on the field early. That’s developing players.”

Tucker pointed out the Buffs ability to run the ball with more consistency late in the season, especially against physical teams such as Stanford and Washington. Starting running back Alex Fontenot had 95 yards against Stanford and 105 against Washington. As a team, the Buffs averaged 189.5 rushing yards in those games.

“That’s developing players – culturally, mentality-wise, physically,” he said. “We had guys get stronger through the season. We compare weight room numbers before the season and at the end of the season and guys got stronger. I saw guys get bigger.

“I think it was obvious some of the strides we made defensively. We became much harder to score on as the season went and got more consistent stopping the run and then getting after the quarterback, especially on third down and being able to get off the field. I did see our team develop.”

Player development is already underway for next season, as the Buffs are in the middle of their “fourth quarter” offseason program.

Naming captains

Last season, Tucker and the coaches named captains for each game. At the end of the season the team voted on captains for the season – players that would go into the record book as captains for 2019.

Tucker said the process may not be the same for this next season, however.

“I’ll see how we go through spring ball,” he said. “At some point, I’ll sit down with the staff before the season stars and make a determination what we think is best for this team. Every team is different.

“When you talk about captains and leaders and leadership, that’s not something to be taken lightly. The one thing I don’t want it to be is a popularity contest.”

Asked about the importance of a quarterback stepping up as a leader, Tucker said, “Leaders are going to emerge in spring ball and the quarterback position is a leadership position inherently. The quarterbacks that we have, they have leadership traits and potential and ability – all of them. They’ve shown that in practice or in high school, or wherever; they’ve shown that they have a good ability to lead. There’s going to be plenty of opportunities to do that because every day they get out of bed, whether it’s on campus or in this building, they’re going to have an opportunity to lead.”

Junior Tyler Lytle, sophomore Blake Stenstrom and freshman Brendon Lewis will be competing for the starting quarterback job this spring.

Former Buffs in coaching

Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Former Colorado receiver Jay MacIntyre announced Friday that he has been hired to coach receivers at Tennessee-Martin.

Two former CU players announced new coaching opportunities on Friday.

Chidera Uzo-Diribe, who played defensive end at CU from 2010-13, was promoted to assistant coach at Kansas. After working in quality control for the Jayhawks last season, Uzo-Diribe will coach the outside linebackers.

Uzo-Diribe, who racked up 20 sacks in four seasons at CU, worked as graduate assistant for the Buffs from 2016-18. He was a recruiting intern at CU in 2015.

Jay MacIntyre announced on Twitter that he has been hired as the receivers coach at Tennessee-Martin. It’s a return to where he was born, in 1995, when his father, Mike, was the defensive coordinator at UT-Martin.

Earlier this month, Jay, a CU receiver from 2014-18, was hired to work in quality control at Memphis, where Mike works as defensive coordinator.

Notable

William Anglen, a 2020 safety prospect from Glenville High School in Cleveland, is in Boulder this weekend on an official visits. According to 247Sports.com, the Buffs are also hosting six unofficial visitors, including Cherry Creek receiver Chase Penry and tight end Gunnar Helm. … Southern California announced Todd Orlando as its defensive coordinator on Friday. Orlando spent the last three seasons as defensive coordinator at Texas. He has also been a DC at Houston, Utah State, Florida International and Connecticut. Orlando was a teammate of Tucker’s for four years at Wisconsin.