For a group of young men that don’t really know one another, playing video games can be the ultimate ice breaker.
Before arriving at Colorado a year ago, Kaylin Moore, Nikko Reed and Tyrin Taylor didn’t know each other, but they quickly bonded through Madden NFL games.
“We play Madden a lot,” Reed said. “We’re close friends now.”
Although all three came to Boulder from different parts of the country, they have built a connection not just through video games, but through playing similar positions and having a common role on the football team.
The talented trio came to CU as true freshmen cornerback recruits in 2021 and will now, as sophomores, be counted on as integral parts of a very young secondary as the Buffaloes prepare for the season opener against TCU on Friday (8 p.m., TV: ESPN) at Folsom Field.
“Off the field, I feel like these two are the closest people that I have on the team,” said Moore, from Westlake Village, Calif. “I feel like that’ll help us in the game, our chemistry on the field. I feel like that’ll carry over, so that could be good.”
Last year, Taylor, who is from Huntersville, N.C., shifted to a safety/nickel role. Moore and Reed, who is from Oakland, Calif., are the Buffs’ top cornerbacks.
While they aren’t technically all in the same position, they are all going to be relied on heavily to lead a secondary lacking experience. All three have true freshmen behind them on the depth chart.
“They’re doing really well,” CU head coach Karl Dorrell said. “They’re our veterans in our group right now. They’ve done a great job with their leadership. You don’t have to be a certain age to say, ‘OK, you can qualify to be a leader.’ I believe you can have those guys come into your program that really exude those qualities from the very start. Those guys are very comfortable helping the other guys that just joined us about getting them going and understanding that process about when they’ll be able to play.”
Injuries to veterans last year put all three on the field quickly as true freshmen, mainly in backup roles. Taylor played 257 snaps, while Reed played 199 and Moore 134.
If healthy, they could all top 700 snaps this year.
With veteran cornerbacks Mekhi Blackmon and Christian Gonzalez and safety Mark Perry all transferring in December, the young trio suddenly became thrust into more important roles.
“With how everything went at the end of last season, we kind of knew that we were going to have to step up and start,” Reed said. “I would say it’s exciting how fast we came up because I don’t think we pictured us starting this fast. When we were freshmen, we barely played.”
Coming into the season, Moore and Reed are the projected starters at corner, while Taylor is the starter at nickel. Despite the lack of experience, none of them are nervous about taking on larger roles.
“I feel like it’s more excitement than nerves,” Moore said. “I feel like throughout the spring and summer (cornerbacks coach Rod) Chance has got us right, got us confident to go out there and do our best. … I’m definitely excited to see our first game all together (as starters). I think we’re gonna do good things.”
Another class of 2021 recruit, Trevor Woods, is slated to start at strong safety, but has battled some injuries in preseason camp. If Woods is ready to go, 80% of the defensive back starters will be true sophomores — along with sixth-year senior safety Isaiah Lewis.
Taylor said this is what the group envisioned when they arrived last year.
“We knew it would be like this all along,” he said. “After the guys left after the season, it was big shoes to fill, but I feel like we can beat out the last competition. There’s a bright future ahead for all of us.
“Just playing alongside them, it’s like a dream come true. I never knew the brotherhood we have on and off the field.”
Taylor said the group all knows “we’ve got that dog in us,” which leads to confidence.
“I just feel like it’s our time,” Reed added. “We’ve been waiting on this since last year. Now we’ve got to put it to work. There’s no pressure, because I’ve started plenty of times in my football career. I feel like it’s just another year of football.”