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CU Buffs corners stepping up in camp

Karl Dorrell looking for secondary to be more aggressive

CU Athletics
Junior cornerback Mekhi Blackmon has played well during the first week of Colorado’s preseason camp.
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During the first seven months he was on the job as Colorado’s head football coach, Karl Dorrell had plenty of time to watch games from the 2019 season.

As he watched the Buffaloes’ cornerbacks, he noticed they weren’t as aggressive as he’d like them to be. This offseason, and through the first week of preseason practices, that has been a point of emphasis.

On Thursday, following the Buffs’ sixth practice of the fall, Dorrell said he’s pleased with the progress.

“I am really excited about our corners,” he said. “They have accepted the challenge of what things were last year versus what things will be this year. They’re being very active. They’re doing a great job of doing their roles, particularly in the run game. They understand how to fit with the tackling system in terms of pursuit and things like that.

“I think the nature of what they’re doing, from a defensive standpoint, it’s a much more collective positive look at the whole defense in pursuing, taking right angles  to the ball carriers, but yes they’re all doing great.”

BOULDER, CO – October 9, 2020: Cornerback Tarik Luckett during Colorado football practice. (Courtesy photo/University of Colorado)

CU has a young group of cornerbacks that is mostly inexperienced, but junior Mekhi Blackmon and true sophomores Tarik Luckett and KJ Trujillo all played last year.

Blackmon, who came to CU as a junior college transfer in 2018, has played in 12 games over the past two seasons, but missed eight games – including the last seven – in 2019 because of a shoulder injury. Now healthy, he’s off to a great start.

“He’s playing like a veteran player,” Dorrell said. “He’s playing like a guy that’s confident and knows what he’s doing.”

Blackmon has played both cornerback and nickel at CU, with five career starts. Last year, he had nine tackles in 199 snaps played.

Trujillo and Luckett were both slated to redshirt last year but injuries forced them onto the field. Trujillo, who didn’t play the first three games of 2019, started seven of the last eight, recording 21 tackles and six pass breakups. Luckett, who didn’t play in the first six games, played in the final six, including two as a starter and had eight tackles and two pass breakups.

Converted from receiver during fall camp in 2019, Luckett is showing more comfort at corner this year.

“He was one of those guys that I would say was a little bit more hesitant in how he played last year,” Dorrell said. “I don’t sense that now in watching him play. Now he’s a lot more aggressive.”

Dorrell said Trujillo and safety Mark Perry, who played as a true freshman last year, “have seasoned up; they’ve learned from that experience last year and they look like totally different players now.”

Sophomores Nigel Bethel Jr. (transfer from Miami) and Jaylen Striker (junior college transfer) and true freshman Christian Gonzalez are also “doing some nice things,” Dorrell said. Redshirt freshman D.J. Oats is also vying for playing time.

“I’ve been very encouraged with our corners,” Dorrell said. “We’re creating some depth, and, yes, they are understanding their roles and responsibilities much better.”