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Football game day notes: CU Buffs’ Nikko Reed looking for more as returner

BOULDER, CO-August 6:Cornerback, Nikko Reed, during ...
Cornerback, Nikko Reed, during University of Colorado Boulder football practice and media day on August 6, 2022.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

A year ago, Nikko Reed had one kickoff return, and he made the most of it, taking it 100 yards for a touchdown.

This year, the Colorado sophomore has been the Buffaloes’ primary returner. He’s had 14 returns for 351 yards, averaging 25.1 yards. Reed had one return of 45 yards, but there have been others where it appeared he was close to breaking loose for a touchdown.

As the Buffs (1-6, 1-6 Pac-12) prepare for Saturday’s game at No. 15 Washington (8-2, 5-2), He’s not satisfied with a few long returns, though.

“I might have seemed like I was close, but honestly … I’m a big critic of myself,” he said. “I honestly haven’t been doing a good job. I feel like getting close is, like, I’m five yards from the end zone. I feel like that’s close. But honestly, I feel like I could do better so I haven’t really got close.”

Reed is doing his best to break one, though. Several times he’s taken a kickoff out of the end zone.

“Honestly I just read it off how high the ball is in the air and if it’s a good kick,” Reed said of how he decides when to take the ball out of the end zone. “If it’s a good enough kick for me to return it then I’ll take it out. If it’s like hanging in there a little too long so the kickoff team is coming fast, I might not take it out, but honestly it’s just based off of if I have the ability to make sure I catch it and have my blocks setup in the right spot so the other team isn’t coming down on us faster than we can set up.”

Reed’s average per return ranks third in the Pac-12 and 18th nationally. He also, of course, is looking forward to a big game against Washington in the secondary. Reed is arguably CU’s top cornerback and he’s racked up 32 tackles and six pass breakups this season.

“Really just focusing on what I can do and my technique and stuff like that, because I feel like if you’re where you’re supposed to be by doing your job, it’s all going to pay off,” he said of facing the dangerous Washington passing attack. “So no matter how good somebody is, as long as you do your job and use your technique you can do good enough for yourself.

“We like to think we’re the best so when we know we have good receivers to go up against I feel like that’s a good challenge for us to see where we’re at.  You’re not going to win everything so you just learn from going against good receivers that we’ve been against, so it’s a good challenge.”

Harris making his mark

True freshman corner Simeon Harris has grown into the nickelback role that CU carved out for him during the bye week.

Harris played 70 snaps in last week’s 55-17 loss to USC. Overall this year, he’s played 222 snaps, with 11 tackles.

“I think he’s kind of what the whole nickel position has been morphed into,” CU interim head coach Mike Sanford said. “And obviously we knew USC was going to be pretty heavy 10 personnel – no tight ends, or one tight end sets. That puts him on the field a lot more.

“I think after the Arizona State game, just him playing more and more, you almost saw him miss a tackle early in the game and just kind of seemed to settle in as the game went on. He’s a good tackler, he’s fearless. He gives you the ability to use coverage on good slot players. I think he’s gonna be a valuable piece of this program for a lot of years.”

Ready for a challenge

Statistically, Washington hasn’t had a great year defensively, but the Huskies still have exceptional athletes and CU guard Tommy Brown knows it’ll be a battle up front.

“When you take a look at the film, Washington is one of the best teams in the Pac-12, if not the best,” he said. “I think they’re a really good team. Up front they’re just dominant. It’s gonna be a good challenge for the offensive line and we’re really excited for it.”

Tackling better

Gerald Chatman, who took over as defensive coordinator after the fifth game, has been doing his best to teach the Buffs better tackling. “Eyes to the thighs” is the slogan, as the Buffs look to make good, solid tackles that are lower on the body of the ball carrier.

“One thing if you watch our film, I think we were tackling too high,” freshman linebacker Eoghan Kerry said. “You can see that on special teams, you can see that on defense, you can see it all over the field. And so the way that (Chatman) explained that really clicked in my head, is the shoulders are the widest part of the body. If you wrap up around the shoulders, he’s just gonna slip off. And so he really emphasized getting low on tackles between the hip and the knee. Wrapping up, squeezing, rolling. So, that really helps.”