Head coach Mel Tucker knows how important it is to have a solid secondary. Despite the apparent lack of experience at the defensive back position, Tucker is confident in the leadership ability of his few upperclassmen cornerbacks. He spoke after practice last week about senior Delrick Abrams Jr. ability to guide the younger players and respond to coaching.
“Delrick, he’s like an old guy around here, even though he’s a youngster in my mind,” Tucker said. “He understands what it’s all about. He helps the younger guys. You’re able to coach him hard—if you can coach your best players hard and they respond, it makes it easier to coach the younger players. He really takes coaching,” Tucker said.
Tucker went on to speak about Abrams as well as junior Mekhi Blackmon. The upperclassmen duo has been a pleasure to coach according to Tucker, and they are both improving because of their ability to take coaching and apply what they learn.
“Mekhi is starting to follow his (Abrams) lead,” Tucker said. “Those are two really fun players to coach. They seem to enjoy getting coached and are starting to apply what we tell them, and that’s why they’re getting better.”
Tucker and the Buffs will need Abrams, Blackmon, as well as sophomore Chris Miller to step up and lead this relatively inexperienced group. Being able to take and utilize coaching is a key component in Tucker’s mind because it allows his staff to have an impact on both the upperclassmen and the younger players.
“A big part of being a leader is being coachable as a leader,” Tucker said. “That makes it easier to coach the rest of the guys.”
When asked about the most important thing you have to do when trying to lead younger guys, Abrams said it’s vital to keep them upbeat and confident.
“[You’re going to] face adversity…,” Abrams said. “We’re just trying to keep everybody positive.”
Abrams and Miller are very close. The senior cornerback talked about what it’s like to have Miller back playing football after he missed spring ball because of shoulder surgery.
“It feels good to have him back out there competing, [he’s] one of my bros,” Abrams said. “I know he gives it his all on the field, so I’m just trying to help him be the best, and he’s trying to help me be the best.”
Miller missed a chunk of the 2018 season due to injury as well as this past spring. Regarded by many as the most athletic defensive back on the roster, Miller is glad to back out there competing with his teammates and playing football.
“It’s just good be back out there actually playing football,” Miller said. “It’s been awhile, I’m just happy for that.”
When asked about how the younger defensive backs are coming along, Miller said everyone is focused on honing their skillset and daily improvement.
“We are all learning every day and trying to really get better and work on our craft every day,” Miller said. “Coach Tuck came in with a new system, we’re just learning off what he’s teaching us, and we’re just trying to get better.”
Despite their tight knit relationship on the field, Miller and Abrams have contrasting leadership styles. Abrams, described by Tucker as “humble and hardworking”, prefers to lead with his play.
“I lead by example,” Abrams said. I don’t like to talk really, but sometimes if I need to talk I’ll talk, but most the time I lead by example.”
Meanwhile, Miller said he’s more of a hands on, vocal guy, but also prides himself on his play on the field and work ethic.
“I feel like I probably [do] both,” Miller said. “If the younger guys need to do something that I see. If they need to take notes, I’ll help them out. I’ll be like ‘here’s some paper. Take some notes.’ Or out there on the field, if they need to fix up their technique just a little bit, I’ll tell them. It’s just little things I’ll tell them to help them, things I wish I knew when I was younger.”
Miller went on to echo Abrams point about staying positive. He said it’s sometimes hard for the freshmen to maintain a positive mental attitude, but Miller said it’s key.
“I’d say just don’t get down on yourself because a lot of our young freshmen they’re kind of new to the position and college sometimes [can get] crazy,” Miller said. “You need to just stay in there and just weather the storm and it’ll all get better at the end.”
Speaking of young freshmen, Tucker mentioned names of a couple freshmen that have stepped up and made progress so far in camp.
“K.J. Trujillo has stepped up and made some plays,” Tucker said. “I’m really happy that we moved Tarik Luckett over (to defensive back) because he shows up every day and makes some plays. He was making plays before he even knew what he was doing, so hopefully we don’t coach him down,” Tucker laughed. “I like his skillset. We’re going to need all those guys because we like to play a lot of DBs. We like to play five to six DBs every snap.”
The trio of Abrams, Blackmon and Miller will lead the Buffs, but there’s no shortage of young talent on the roster. Many of the young guys should see significant playing time early in their college football careers.