Q & A with CU head coach Mel Tucker – Part One

The first look many Buff fans had of Mel Tucker was from the video last December when you were touring the Champions Center for the first time. The Mel Tucker we have come to know is very organized, thoughtful and deliberate. Yet you took the CU job without first visiting. Was it a bit out of character to take the job sight unseen?

There is a lot of information online. Rick George and Lance Carl left with materials on a jump drive, so I was able to look through quite a few things. Plus, I had done my research. I have been to several college facilities through my collegiate experience and the NFL. As an NFL coach, you visit college campuses, so I was able to get a pretty good gauge of how good the facilities were.

Here is the video of Coach Tucker visiting the Champions Center for the first time … 

You have given numerous interviews, and done many press conferences over the years. Has it been any different as a head coach? Anything surprise you in your first off-season at Colorado?

I wouldn’t say any surprises. Maybe more opportunities to connect with the fans through the media, including social media. Just getting to know people, getting our message out as a program. There’s much more of that than when I was an assistant. I’ve tried to get to as many places as I possibly could. I’m pretty well known in the midwest, and in the SEC, but this is my first coaching job out west, and so I think it’s important that people get to know me and my staff, and be accessible, be approachable.

I’m sure you’ve heard from plenty of fans that it’s not acceptable to wear red, even Georgia red or Alabama red.

I have zero red in my closet right now. I gave all of my red away. I was in California a few weeks ago. I had a pack of Big Red gum, and I pulled it out … one of the alumni grabbed it out of my hands. I get it.

As far as a Pac-12 “red-letter” game, I understand you have chosen USC to be a game to focus on – is that correct?

Well, we haven’t beaten USC. I think we’re 0-12 (actually now up to 0-13). I think that every game is big, but I think to get over that hump will be huge.

(I then told coach Tucker that this year’s game is on October 25th, which is the same date on the calendar, when, in 1986, Colorado defeated Nebraska, 20-10, for the Buffs’ first win over the Cornhuskers in 19 years, and Bill McCartney’s first win over his chosen rival).

I like the sounds of that.

In addition to hearing about Nebraska, have you heard much from fans about the Colorado State game?

I’ve heard that the stadium is packed down there. I’ve heard that the crowds are really loud down in Denver. With fans on both sides, I’ve heard it’s a great atmosphere.

Is it more difficult having to open with a rivalry game, as opposed to an easier opponent (e.g., Georgia opened its 2018 season against Austin Peay).

It takes what it takes to prepare a team to play a game, especially a first game. You mentioned Austin Peay. We were just as prepared for that game as we were for the Florida/Georgia game. You have to be prepared for unscouted looks in those first games. You have to prepare your team for those situations, but every game is a big game. The opening game each season is much anticipated, and the first game of my tenure here, there is certainly going to be a great deal of anticipation.

But I really don’t think about it in those terms. The preparation, and what it takes to be at your best for that game, with the coaches and the players, there is a process that takes place throughout the entire out of season. There are steps that you have to take, to have your team in position where they can perform at a high level at an opening game, regardless of the opponent.

As to “un-scouted looks” …

You’re not sure what you are going to get. You know what they have shown in the past, but you know what they have for you which is new, what they haven’t shown.

Are you excited to run out behind Ralphie for the first time as CU’s head coach?

I try not to get too far ahead of myself, in terms of looking forward to certain events, because for me, there are so many things that I have to do on a day-to-day basis, so many things – meetings and practices and film sessions and staff meetings – all those things which need to occur before that moment. Even on game day, there are so many things which need to be covered, and reviewed, and prepared for and talked about before you can even get to the tunnel. So, obviously running out behind Ralphie for a real game, obviously that will be special. And I hope that it will never get old.

You talked at the end of spring practices about wanting to see leadership develop over the summer. Have you seen leaders develop during the summer conditioning and meetings with players?

There are opportunities during summer strength and conditioning programs during the summer, as we work out as a team. These workouts are rigorous, so there are definitely opportunities for guys to encourage guys, to hold each other accountable. To step up and lead, to push through hard times, to strain. This is typically a time when leadership really emerges. The summertime, when you are getting for fall camp, and it starts to get a little warm, it gets more difficult.

There are some guys who are natural leaders. There are some guys who lead by example. Some are more vocal. But what we can do as coaches is to identify young men who have leadership potential, and then put them in position to lead. You can mentor them, and teach them how to lead. That is just communication, and investing time in these young guys. I think you can grow leaders, and they don’t have to just be seniors.

As a defensive back, as an assistant coach, as an a coordinator, I still had leadership roles, just like I do as a head coach. Everyone can lead in their own way. It’s up to my staff and myself to be on the lookout for guys we can believe who can help us in a leadership role, and then put them in a position to lead.

Coming MondayPart Two … Coach Tucker’s thoughts on creating his coaching staff, and his philosophies on recruiting …


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