Despite the disjointed nature of the 2020 football season, Mekhi Blackmon was able to find his groove.
A junior cornerback at Colorado, Blackmon had his best season in 2020 and he’s looking to build off of that this year.
“I’ve been pleased where Mekhi is,” CU head coach Karl Dorrell said during the first week of preseason camp. “He worked hard this summer. … He looks good, very competitive.”
A part-time starter during his first two years at CU in 2018-19, Blackmon competed for a starting spot in 2020, got it and then took off. Starting all six games for the Buffs (4-2, 3-1 Pac-12), he was their best and most consistent cornerback. Playing all but 13 snaps during the five-game regular season, he had 16 tackles, four pass breakups and an interception.
“It was just getting settled in,” said Blackmon, now a fifth-year junior.
Like many players on the CU roster, Blackmon hasn’t had much continuity from a coaching standpoint, and he’s had quite a journey.
In 2017, he played at the College of San Mateo. Since transferring to CU in 2018, he’s had three different head coaches and three different position coaches.
Blackmon, however, connected with current cornerbacks coach Demetrice Martin quickly, despite much of the 2020 offseason being conducted via Zoom because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“(Martin was) understanding where we are coming from, where our technique was,” Blackmon said. “Him being able to look and see where our game needed more work, that’s what he came in and dealt with. I give credit to him because he really trusted us and allowed us to tell him what worked for us and what didn’t.”
Blackmon enjoys Martin’s player-first approach and is thrilled to learn from Dorrell and Martin again this year.
“It’s the first time in college I’ve had the same coach back-to-back,” he said. “I’m finally being able to get developed because the staff knows my strengths and my weaknesses.
“Each time I had a different staff, it’s like you have to come in and reprove yourself again.”
There is some benefit to that, Blackmon said, as he believes the constant change has prepared him for the future.
“I’ve dealt with a lot of different people, a lot of different staff,” he said. “I have to be versatile.”
There is comfort in continuity, however, and Blackmon has spent the offseason trying to improve his body and his game.
When he arrived at CU in 2018, he had only 160 pounds on his 6-foot frame. Last year, he played at around 170 pounds, but he’s now approaching 180.
“This is the most I’ve ever weighed,” he said. “You can tell the way I’m playing now. This camp I’m way stronger, defeating blocks. My game is only gonna get better because I’m getting stronger.”
Blackmon credits Dorrell’s approach and the effort of CU’s nutrition staff and strength and conditioning staff.
“I’m really excited because usually I’m one of the smallest on the field, but now that I’m getting my weight up, you can tell the way I’m approaching things are different,” he said.
During his CU career, Blackmon has played at cornerback and nickel but is currently focusing on cornerback.
Blackmon is eager to be a leader for a corner group that includes blossoming star Christian Gonzalez, a second-year freshman; and three true freshmen: Kaylin Moore, Nikko Reed and Tyrin Taylor.
“Surprisingly, all three of our freshmen are handling their business,” Blackmon said. “You couldn’t even tell there are freshmen (at corner) right now. There’s no drop-off.”
For now, it’s a group led by Blackmon, who is healthy after dealing with some knee soreness in the spring and ready to pick up where he left off in 2020.
“Everything is good,” he said. “I’m just working on getting back in the motion of things and everything else is pretty good.”