What did we learn? Sorting out the CU Recruiting Class of 2019

If you love stats, you have to love college recruiting.

If you love arguing over numbers, you have to love college recruiting.

If you love the Buffs, you have to … well, if not love, at least have great respect for and interest in CU’s Recruiting Class of 2019, the first under head coach Mel Tucker.

First, the numbers:

— When the dust settled, there were 26 members from the Class, including 19 high school seniors, six junior college transfers, and one graduate transfer;

— The Class is made up of seven players from California; five from Colorado; three from Texas; two each from Michigan and Alabama; and one each from Georgia, Mississippi, Oregon, Virginia; Washington; American Samoa … and Austria;

— There are 11 players on offense – five linemen; three receivers; two running backs; and a tight end;

— There are 15 players on defense – seven linemen; four linebacker; and four defensive backs;

— According to Rivals, CU’s Class has two four-star prospects (running back Jaren Mangham and wide receiver Vontae Shenault); 19 three-star prospects; and five players who only merited two-stars.

From the outside, there are plenty of ways to dissect the CU Class of 2019, and there are many outsiders who have weighed in.

At both Rivals and 247 Sports, CU’s Class finished 44th in the nation (7th in the Pac-12 according to Rivals; 8th – one spot behind UCLA – according to 247 Sports). At ESPN, meanwhile, the Buffs checked in at No. 47 nationally (7th in the Pac-12).

Some thoughts from national writers:

Gerry Hamilton, ESPN – Grade C+ … New head coach Mel Tucker kept a top-50 class together through tough circumstances. The group is led by ESPN JC 50 OLB Jashua Allen. Four-star WR Braedin Huffman-Dixon and four-star ATH Jaren Mangham will bring needed playmaking to Boulder. A second talented WR in the fold is Tarik Luckett out of California. Filling needs on the offensive line was paramount in the class, and needs have been met with three-star OGs Austin Johnson and Jake Wiley and Under Armour All-America Game OT Valentin Senn out of Austria. Defensive back Mark Perry could push for a spot in the two-deep early on. Three-star OLB Marvin Ham out of Michigan was a nice flip from Boston College. Juco DLs Jeremiah Doss and Janaz Jordan will be forced into early action.

Mike Farrell, Rivals – Grade B … Tucker is known as a good recruiter and did a good job down the stretch taking over a Colorado team that wasn’t able to take full advantage of its Pac-12 title game appearance a few years ago. He has a challenge ahead of him, however, with the geographical disadvantage he has to overcome compared to other Pac-12 schools. 

For those who want to quibble with ESPN’s C+ grade (four other Pac-12 schools – UCLA, Utah, Arizona State and Washington State – received “C” grades, while Oregon State got a “C-“), it’s easy to note that the write-up made no mention of Vontae Shenault, a four-star wide receiver who committed to the Buffs the day before Signing Day, lending credence to the notion that the ESPN writers had already written up their analysis on CU’s Class days earlier, and never bothered to go back and reassess the Class.

Other ways to look at the CU Class of 2019:

Since Mel Tucker is the only new coach in the Pac-12 this season, there are no comparisons to be made with other new Pac-12 coaches. You can, however, compare Tucker’s results with other Power-Five newcomers (with one outlier, Ohio State’s Ryan Day, who needs to be graded on a different standard).

Day’s Ohio State Class notwithstanding, comparing Colorado to other similarly situated Power-Five schools indicate Mel Tucker & Co. more than held their own:

  • North Carolina – under new head coach Mack Brown, finished No. 31 in the Rivals rankings;
  • Miami – Manny Diaz … No. 35;
  • Colorado – Mel Tucker … No. 44; 
  • West Virginia – Neal Brown … No. 46;
  • Texas Tech – Matt Wells … No. 63;
  • Kansas State – Chris Klieman … No. t-67;
  • Kansas – Les Miles – No. t-67 (bet there is some fun being had in the Sunflower State over Kansas and KSU being tied);
  • Maryland – Mike Locksley – No. 72; and
  • Louisville – Scott Satterfield – No. 88.

Another yardstick to potentially measure Mel Tucker’s first Class is by how other CU head coaches have fared with their first Classes:

  • Mike MacIntyre – Class of 2013 – Rivals ranking No. 67 … highest rated recruits: Quarterback Sefo Liufau; wide receiver Devin Ross … no four-star recruits;
  • Jon Embree – Class of 2011 – Rivals ranking No. 74 … highest rated recruits: Offensive lineman Marc Mustoe; defensive end Juda Parker … no four-star recruits;
  • Dan Hawkins – Class of 2006 – Rivals ranking No. 48 … highest rated recruits: Tight end Steven Fendry; “tight end” Nate Solder … no four-star recruits.

Granted, we are comparing apples to oranges here, but it does seem as if Mel Tucker has hit the ground running a bit faster than the last three first-year Colorado head coaches. What’s more, Tucker did so with most of the Class signing in December, rather than the first Wednesday in February (the early Signing Day in December made its debut in December, 2017). The Tucker coaching staff had even less time than did his predecessors to hold together the Class being put together by the former staff, but did so … with even better results.

The CU Class of 2019 makeup

At the end of the day, what matters most to Colorado fans is not what previous coaches assembled, or what other new Power-Five coaches have put together. What matters is whether the CU Recruiting Class of 2019 will help the Buffs posts wins in the 2019 season and beyond.

For his part, Mel Tucker doesn’t give a flying leap about individual rankings or offer sheets:

From a philosophical standpoint, I think it’s important not to worry about what other people are doing in recruiting,” said Tucker at the press conference introducing the February signees. “If we look at a player and we evaluate him, we watch his tape, we do his background check and we feel like he’s a player for us, it doesn’t matter who else is recruiting him and it doesn’t matter how many stars he has.”

What’s more, pointed out Tucker, once a player signs and reports to camp, the former accolades (or question marks, for that matter) fall away:

“I’m not worried about how many stars guys have,” Tucker said. ” Whether they’re a 1-star or a 5-star, when they get here, all those stars go away. It’s not going to be about that. It’s going to be about – what can you do to help our football team – become part of our program, learn our culture, learn how to work, learn how to compete, become a team player. I don’t care anything about the stars at all.”

As to the makeup of the Recruiting Class of 2019, it might be easy for Buff fans to focus on the two four-star performers – running back Jaren Mangham and wide receiver Vontae Shenault. After all, both are in high profile positions, and both will garner a great deal of attention in the next seven months leading up to the Rocky Mountain Showdown.

But the real value from the Class of 2019 could well be found in the trenches.

Of the 26 new Buffs, almost half (five offensive linemen; seven defensive linemen) will be playing along the lines. For even the most casual observer, CU’s biggest problems in the past two seasons has been the play along the offensive and defensive lines.

As a result, for the Buff Nation, what Mel Tucker had to say about recruiting linemen was music to their ears:

“I thought it was a need,” Tucker said, when asked about recruiting linemen. “We’re always going to have big guys in the trenches, on offense and defense. We’re never going to be short in that department. I thought we needed to get bigger, we needed to gain depth, so that was a point of emphasis. All of the guys that we’ve signed are big men, and I think football is a game for big people. Big, strong, physical guys – that’s how we’re going to play football. In order to play like that, you got to have guys that can get it done.”

Bottom Line 

As with any Recruiting Class, the proof will be in how the Class pans out over the next four to five seasons. Will CU’s next star running back – Jaren Mangham, Joe Davis – come from this Class? Will the highly-touted wide receivers – Vontae Shenault, Braedin Huffman-Dixon – become household names? Will the ton-and-a-half of new beef produce a dominant offensive line and a defensive line which causes opposing offensive coordinators to lose sleep?

Will Colorado actually throw the ball to a tight end? (Dare to dream!).

Time will tell whether Mel Tucker, the former defensive coordinator from Georgia, will prove to be a brilliant selection, or just the latest in a line of disappoints for the Buff Nation.

From the “objective” measurements of comparing Mel Tucker’s first Class to the rest of the nation, the rest of the Pac-12, other first-year head Power-Five head coaches, and other first-year CU head coaches … Mel Tucker grades out pretty well.

And – for now – that’s all we can ask.


10 Replies to “What to Take From Mel Tucker’s First Recruiting Class”

  1. About HCMT by some guy named Farell (never heard of him ) from rivals??
    He has a challenge ahead of him, however, with the geographical disadvantage he has to overcome compared to other Pac-12 schools.

    Sheesh never thought of it that way. Meaning what?
    Boulder is in a bad location compared to the other pac 12 schools? Really
    CU is too far from the recruiting hotbeds? Which ones compared to?
    Boulder has a real winter?

    I’m gonna have to spend some time looking at this statement from different angles. It is interesting especially when the sale is “beautiful Boulder, great education etc etc.


    1. VK, I saw that quote somewhere, and I immediately thought what a stupid ignoramus statement. What is sad and pathetic today is that there are so many guys and some gals out there that are attempting to make a living writing about sports and all other types of news, be it political, social, food, business, or entertainment that it is almost impossible to determine what is just plain pap written by unknowledgeable people or what really has some credence. My conclusion is that about 90% is just pure crapola.

      Wouldn’t you love to be able to challenge one of these many unsubstantiated “know it all statements” by the wannabe’s, face to face and ask them where in the heck did you ever come up with such a stupid idea as that, while laughing almost uncontrollably at them while asking that question?

  2. With 27 new recruits and 67 returning scholarship players totaling 94 scholarships…this is 9 over the NCAA limit of 85. There will be some attrition, any thoughts on who will likely be let go?

    1. There is always some natural attrition, and CU has plenty of time to sort out the lineup (teams don’t have to be down to 85 scholarship players until the opening of fall camp). If you are looking for names on the lineup where attrition might occur, start with the fifth-year seniors who may not have seen much playing time. They may try and finish their career at another school (like Travon McMillian did last year in leaving Virginia Tech), or they may “medically retire”, which keeps them on scholarship, but doesn’t count against the 85-man roster.

      One caveat … This week linebacker Jacob Callier tweeted out “It’s time for a change”. That was interpreted to mean that he was leaving Colorado. Fortunately, that turned out to be a false assumption. We’re going to get a lot of that over the next few months, so don’t believe everything you hear.

      1. Yup getting to 85 is always interesting the attrition thing is always interesting. Transfers, graduating, grey shirting etc.

        The squad in the summer by class including scholy and non-scholy

        Freshman including the 3 walkons……………………………………….22
        Redshirt freshman………………………………………………………………22
        Redshirt sophomores………………………………………………………….26
        Juniors including the 6 jc recruits………………………………………..14
        Redshirt juniors……………………………………………………………………15
        redshirt seniors…………………………………………………………………….16

        So in reality there are (again includes scholy and non-scholy)
        44 frosh
        29 sophs
        29 juniors
        23 seniors

        so about 125 players.



        Note: Since there only 3 sophomores, does that mean only 3 of last years class got in more than 4 games?
        Note 2: Past coaching staff……………play the old experienced guys. Sheesh Now that 4 game really helped. Some of the frosh in 2017 played a bit but got bumped to sophomore. ie nixon shenault etc……………….
        Note 2 HCMT says he will play the best………………Gonna be interesting.

  3. Nice Stu, very nice.

    Last years team just never got better. Or were too predictable. Or the coaches lost the team.
    For example
    2018 offense yards per game (pac 12 games only)
    Sept 487
    Oct 389
    Nov 298

    Yards allowed per game
    sept 289
    oct 377

    Hey the oline has been bad for years. Dline had a bit of resurgence last year but still weak. The O has been mediocre to bad for just about 12 years.

    I am sure HCMT is right it is all about recruiting. Then team building yada yada yaya etc.

    I just wanna see em improve through out the game……………..through out the season………….and get to a frigging bowl game.

    Hey it’s a journey not a destination……………. but dang nab it couldn’t the Buffs just kinda get there in the not to distant future.


    Note: Okay so I like the class. There is some good talent from last year and hopefully all these “quality control” guys realize the “journey crap” only goes so far. It ain’t some winding road through the desert or a forest or a city. There has to be stops along the way. Destination points. Nice hotels and pools and “views” Plateaus. Get there (no frigging falling back) then on to the next one. Faith…………Sure…………but…………. Depth…………ya gotta have Depth Depth Depth.

  4. When the Buffs played Nebraska last fall I recall articles saying Nebraska would have the biggest strongest guys CU would see all season. After Nebraska played Iowa later in the season the Lincoln papers said Iowa overpowered us with bigger stronger guys.

    Last years Buff team was two levels away from “Big Boy football”.

    I think Coach Tucker is correct in going for an SEC size team.

  5. Recruiting is, indeed, a 24/7/365 responsibility for the head coach and the entire staff. I recall Coach Mac once being interviewed about recruiting. He mentioned two stories during the interview. First, he said he learned the all consuming nature of recruiting from then University of Michigan basketball coach Bill Frieder. Coach Frieder had given Coach Mac some real guidance about the importance of, and effort needed in, recruiting. Second, he also learned that you can never take a day off from recruiting – based on his personal experience at the close of the 1991 season. C.U. played in the Blockbuster Bowl near the end of December. Coach Mac mentioned that he decided to take a few days off after the bowl game before visiting a key recruit at the recruit’s high school site during a morning break between the recruit’s classes on the recruit’s first day back from vacation. Coach Mac said “I felt pretty good about myself on the plane hitting the road on the recruiting trail bright and early on January 2nd. I met the recruit between his morning classes, and found out from him that Tom Osborne, although Nebraska played in the Orange Bowl the night before, had taken the red eye flight and visited the same recruit that morning at the school before the first period had even started,…”

    The need to be dedicated to recruiting is truly incredible! Coach Mac had the gift, energy, drive, and work ethic. Coach Tucker seems to have the same qualities as well!!

  6. Dare to dream indeed. The new coaches have mentioned having an “explosive” offense. One would think that would mean using every weapon at your disposal. Evidently MM didnt think of the TE as a weapon.
    Some of these guys were MM’s recruits. Then again Mel had to re-recruit many of them. Some have given MM credit for finding “diamonds in the rough” (sometimes I gag on cliches) but they a;ways seemed to be DBs. Maybe MM was good at developing DBs but it boggles the mind the way he remained stale as a coach. The Trustin story makes one wonder about how serious MM was about recruiting the home state….and Trustin is a DB.
    Back to that pending “explosive offense.” I sure hope that the coaches enable Montez to have a great year not just for his sake but to also make next year’s QB recruits get excited about the Buffs.

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