Colorado snaps 5-game losing streak with homecoming victory over Stanford

The Colorado Buffaloes football team hosted the Stanford Cardinal for its 105th homecoming game at Folsom Field in Boulder. In honor of Veterans Day on Monday Nov. 11, Saturday’s matchup against Stanford served as CU’s annual Military Appreciation Day.

For the Buffs, a dreadful effort defensively in the first quarter last week against UCLA put it in a 17-0 hole, which eventually proved too much to overcome. Inconsistent play from redshirt senior quarterback Steven Montez and an inexperienced secondary has plagued Colorado during its 5-game losing streak.

Meanwhile, the return of senior quarterback K.J. Costello last week sparked the Cardinal offense. Costello threw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns in a 41-31 victory over Arizona on Nov. 2. The Buffs would be tested by a balanced Stanford attack that has the ability to stretch the field with Costello at quarterback.

Colorado showed balance of their first drive. Sophomore running back Alex Fontenot carried the ball four times for 34 yards. Fontenot’s success on the ground led to a Montez touchdown rush on a read option keeper around the left side. The redshirt senior recorded 22 yards rushing during the Buffs’ first offensive possession. Following the score, Montez eclipsed 10,000 career all-purpose yards. Colorado led 7-0 early.

Stanford responded with a balanced drive of their own. Costello completed passes to four different receivers, but a tackle for loss from senior outside linebacker Davion Taylor forced the Cardinal to settle for a field goal just outside the red zone. Stanford cut the Colorado lead to four.

Head coach Mel Tucker said after the game in his mind scoring defense vital. No matter the yards gained, as long as you bend but don’t break, that’s a win.

“In order to play good defense, you have to hold people to low numbers,” Tucker said. “The most important stat is scoring defense. To hold a team to 13 points or less is really our goal. We played probably our best defense of the season in that regard. Guys continue to chop wood, play hard, be physical and have relentless effort.”

A holding penalty against the Buffs on fourth down wiped out a muffed punt fumble recovery, which would’ve set up Colorado inside the red zone. Instead, the Cardinal retained possession after the re-punt. The Buffs defense held though after deflecting a Costello pass on third down. Colorado led 7-3 after one quarter.

After a 29-yard reception from junior wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. early in the second quarter, Montez threw an interception on a slant pattern ending a promising Colorado drive. The ensuing Cardinal drive stalled in the red zone and ended in a field goal after freshman safety Mark Perry force a hurried throw from Costello. Stanford trailed 7-6.

The Buffs were unable to find success on offense after Stanford’s second field goal. But, Colorado’s defense stood tall, putting pressure on Costello and forcing a turnover. Junior safety Derrion Rakestraw came up with the interception.

Tucker mentioned and eluded to the idea of “complimentary football” multiple times after the game, something the Buffs executed defensively, maintaining slim leads, forcing turnovers and limiting the big play in order to give the offense a chance.

Montez distributed the ball well on the Buffs’ possession late in the second quarter. The senior completed passes to Shenault Jr., sophomore wide receiver Maurice Bell and junior wide receiver K.D. Nixon. However, the drive ended in a field goal after back-to-back quarterback hurries from the Cardinal defense. The Buffs led 10-6 at the half.

A pass interference penalty on Taylor deep in Stanford territory extended the opening drive of the second half for the Cardinal. Nine plays later, redshirt freshman defensive tackle Jalen Sami came up with a stop on third down in the red zone for Colorado. Stanford missed the ensuing field goal.

The Buffs struggled on offense in the third quarter, but the defense held strong. Junior defensive end Mustafa Johnson and sophomore defensive end Terrance Lang came up with back-to-back sacks and forced a Stanford punt late in the third quarter. Colorado maintained a four-point edge.

Tucker said the plan of attack on defense was to force Stanford into third down and obvious passing situations. Once they did that, Colorado could get after the passer.

“We knew that if we got them to third down, we would be able to attack their protections and get to the quarterback,” Tucker said. “We just really needed our rush and our coverage to work together. The past three or four games on third down we had been able to get to the quarterback. We have been able to hit him. We just needed to have some sound coverage behind it.”

The Cardinal offense finally found the end zone on the first play of the fourth quarter. Costello hit sophomore wide receiver Simi Fehoko in stride for a 79-yard scoring strike. Stanford led 13-10. Colorado responded with a balanced drive, which included a conversion of fourth and one deep in Cardinal territory. The Buffs had to settle for a short field goal, tying the game at 13 with just over seven minutes to play.

On the ensuing Stanford possession Taylor came up huge for the Buffs, recording a pass break up and tackle on second and third down consecutively. The Cardinal were forced to punt after three plays in their own territory. Taylor talked about the two consecutive plays.

“The last two plays I had a feeling they were going to get him [Stanford TE Colby Parkinson] to the sticks,” Taylor said. “I tried to make sure there was great eye discipline and focus on the things we predicted this week. The next play was the same thing. Having eye discipline and not looking back at the quarterback and try to make a play.”

The Buffs took over with six minutes left in the contest. Montez and freshman Jaren Mangham used their legs to start the drive. A pass interference call on Stanford helped continue the possession. Later, Colorado handed the ball off to Shenault Jr. on fourth down and one…. I’ll just let the video speak for itself.

Tucker said the play on fourth and one is just another example of Shenault Jr.’s competitive fire and desire to win.

“I’ve said it every week,” Tucker said. “He is a tough kid and cares about this team. He is going to give us what he’s got, and he is going to show up for us. That was a prime example. Big time players make big time plays in the crunch time and that’s what that was.”

The Buffs drove to the 17-yard line and redshirt freshman kicker Evan Price hit a 37-yard walk off field goal to give Colorado the 16-13 win.  Colorado will have the week off following today’s homecoming game against Stanford. The Buffs will host Washington in two weeks on Saturday, Nov. 23. The time has yet to be announced.

 

Freshman Jaylyn Sherrod leads Buffs to victory in exhibition

The Colorado Buffaloes women’s basketball team hosted Regis in an exhibition game Monday night in Boulder at the CU Events Center. Colorado defeated the Rangers 92-45.

Sophomore forward Peanut Tuitele opened the scoring for the Buffs following a three-minute drought to begin the game. Colorado took advantage of the size difference inside, finding junior forward Mya Hollingshed for an easy layup for the Buffs’ second basket.

Despite shooting a low percentage early, the Rangers were persistent of the glass, grabbing multiple offensive rebounds and capitalizing on the inside with second chance points. Freshman guard Jaylyn Sherrod provided a spark for the Buffs, knocking down a three, converting an and-one, and assisting on a fast break layup on three consecutive possessions. Colorado jumped out to a 14-6 lead.

Head coach JR Payne talked about Sherrod’s performance postgame. Payne said even though it’s just an exhibition, it counts in her mind.

“I mean I count that,” Payne said. “I even said in the locker room your (Jaylyn Sherrod’s) first collegiate game: 18 points, eight rebounds, six assists, one turnover, a couple blocks. It’s a great stat line and Jaylyn’s a great player. She’s going to be a great Buff for years to come.”

Regis continued to struggle on the offensive end, finishing the first quarter shooting 17 percent from the field. Sherrod led the Buffs with eight points and four rebounds after the first ten minutes. The Buffs led 20-6.

Sherrod’s playmaking continued in the second quarter, finding freshman guard Zuzanna Kulinska for an and-one to extend the Colorado lead to 16. After struggling early on, sophomore guard Emma Clarke knocked down a three to add to the already commanding lead for the Buffs.

Sherrod found senior guard Quinessa Cayloa-Do for an and-one late in the second quarter to push the Colorado lead to 30. Sherrod pulled up for a jumper with a few seconds left in the half to give the Buffs a 47-12 lead at halftime.

Sherrod admitted that she was nervous to begin the game, but after the first few plays she settled in.

“When I first started I was kind of nervous,” Sherrod said. “I told Aubrey (Knight) that I was so jittery. But, it was just good to get out there and play, being that I haven’t played in a minute, even going back to high school. So, it was just a good opportunity and a good chance to get back out there.”

Redshirt sophomore guard Aubrey Knight knocked down a jumper at the top of the key for open the third quarter scoring for the Buffaloes. A transition layup from Clarke capped a 7-0 run for Colorado. Unselfish play on the offensive end kept the Buffs efficient from the field, shooting 59 percent through three quarters.

Despite holding a 39-point lead early in the fourth quarter Colorado’s activity level remained high on both ends, grabbing multiple offensive rebounds and attacking the rim. Freshman guard Raanee Smith set up Knight for an and-one opportunity after coming up with a steal.

Payne liked the Buffs’ persistence and high energy, which translated into rebounds on both ends.

“I’m just thrilled with our effort tonight,” Payne said. “I thought we played extremely hard. We want to be the toughest, hardest-working, most disciplined team and I thought in a lot of ways we were that team tonight. (I) love our rebounding effort, to out rebound somebody by 25, especially Regis, who’s a very good rebounding team, was great.

Sherrod pushed the ball in transition and found junior forward Annika Jank for a corner three. Colorado led 87-38 late in the fourth quarter. Sherrod attacked the Regis press late and put back her own miss to give the Buffs a 50-point lead. Colorado defeated Regis 92-45.

Sherrod said after the game that she prides herself on her ability to bring a relentless energy and effort to the court and it showed Monday night.

“I pride myself on what I do best is what I bring to the team and if I don’t do my job I let my team down,” Sherrod said. “And my job is energy so bringing that to the team every night is what I pride myself on.”

The Buffs open the regular season Sunday, November 10 against New Jersey Institute of Technology in Boulder. Tip-off is set for 12 p.m. MST.

Crafted by JUCO, Colorado guard Maddox Daniels ready for significant role with Buffs

Colorado men’s basketball junior guard Maddox Daniels grew up with a burning desire to play division one college basketball. Daniels went to high school in Beverley Hills, California alongside his twin brother, Mason. After attending prep school at Montverde Academy in Florida in hopes of garnering attention, Daniels graduated high school without a single division one offer.

Daniels and his brother went to junior college in Fort Myers, Florida at SouthWestern State College. Their, the two led the Buccaneers to a record of 60-6 in two seasons, reaching the NJCAA National Tournament quarterfinal twice. Daniels averaged over just 11 points per game and shot 42% from beyond the arc during his junior college career.

“Going in as a freshman, I was just working on my body, starting to learn the game more,” Maddox said. “I had great coaches there. Coach Marty Richter and then coach Eric Murphy. I just worked on all aspects of my game. Definitely the biggest thing was just my physicality, working on my body.”

Mason said his brother’s decision to attend college in Florida helped him further develop his game and was happy they could share the experience together.

“I definitely think that (Florida) for Maddox was one of the best decisions he’s ever made,” Mason said. “I know he’ll probably say that too, just because of the people he met and how much better he got being there. I’m just glad I could come there with him.”

His sophomore year as FSW, Daniels’ developed leadership ability. The experience Daniels gained leading a team to back to back postseason tournament appearances allowed his maturity to evolve in just two years in JUCO with the Buccaneers.

“My sophomore year, I just really felt comfortable on the court and I was leading,” Daniels said. “It was really great to see hard work pay off because coming out of high school no offers, went to prep school, nothing and I just kept working, trust the process and that’s what I’m going to continue to do here.”

CU basketball head coach Tad Boyle and assistant coach Mike Rohn made an initial impact on Daniels after spending time in Fort Myers for the second half of Maddox’s sophomore season. Daniels said once he took a visit to Boulder, he knew it was the place for him.

“Coach Rohn and coach Boyle started talking to me toward the second half of the (junior college) season in the spring and they both came down … to see me in Fort Myers,” Daniels said. “I really liked the school. (Rohn and Boyle) were just there consistently all through the second half of the season, through the playoffs, through the wins, through the losses, through everything. Once I came and took my visit (to Colorado) and met all the players, all the coaches and everybody else beyond coach Boyle and coach Rohn, I knew this was the place to be. It was an easy decision.”

Health, wellness and fitness are integral parts of the lives of Daniels and his brother. The twins feed off and motivate each other in these areas and life in general. Mason said because of Boulder’s notoriety as a hub for health and wellness, Daniels felt right at home.

“I was happy for him,” Mason said. “I remember he called me on the phone and he was like, ‘man, it’s amazing here.’ We have a lot of other interests apart from basketball and we enjoy taking care our bodies and stuff like that. So, this was something that, being in Boulder, a health and fitness capital, was a big-time thing for him. He loved the coaches. They really wanted him, so I just told him ‘yeah bro, it seems like a no-brainer.’”

Since arriving on campus early this summer, Daniels has made the improving his defensive skillset a priority. He said there a few small details to learn that will come with practice, but defense and decision-making were the focus over the summer leading up to the Buffs’ exhibition with Pomona-Pitzer on October 26.

“I would definitely say defensively as far as just guarding the ball,” Daniels said. “I need to get better as far as positioning, the little things that are different from what I’m used to as far as playing help side defense. But, I would say defensively and making quicker decisions.”

Daniels added that from an offensive standpoint, it’ll start with perimeter shooting, providing a spark for the Buffs by moving without the ball and catching and shooting.

“Definitely it’s going to start with being able to bring in shooting on the perimeter, playing with confidence,” Daniels said. “That’s the biggest thing we talked about, being a perimeter presence that spaces the floor. When I get a look, just knocking it down be confident about it. And improve on my own game as we go, whatever the team needs. We’re focused on winning games, so whatever that entails that’s what I want to do.”

Daniels said it’ll be important for him to “fit in smoothly”. The 6-foot 6-inch forward from Suwanee, Georgia will likely spell junior forward D’Shawn Schwartz and sophomore guard Daylen Kountz, who Boyle mentioned as a guy that’ll play a larger role for the Buffs this season.

Because of his size, Daniels should be able to guard the one through the four defensively, something that will allow him to see more playing time for a deep and experienced Colorado team.

Driven by her older brother, Haileigh Adams eyes professional soccer

Growing up the younger sister of a Canadian Football League quarterback, Haileigh Adams admitted she always felt in her brother’s shadow. Her brother, Vernon, passed for over 5,000 yards and threw nearly 50 touchdowns in his final two seasons in high school. At that time Haileigh Adams said that almost no one knew her by her first name, just as Vernon’s sibling.

“All the time people would come up to me, (and say) ‘oh you’re Vernon Adams’ little sister,’” Adams said. To that she would always respond, “no, I’m Haileigh Adams.”

But Adams said she is proud of her brother, who is now in his fourth year in the CFL and looking to make a name for himself at the professional level. It’s a drive that has sparked motivation for Adams to pursue a similar path with her passion: soccer. Now a sophomore defender for the University of Colorado women’s soccer team, Adams is eyeing the big leagues post-college.

“(Vernon) motivates me so much,” Adams said. “Me and him are very competitive, so every time we’re both back home we’re both trying to beat each other in races, in anything. We’ll go out and we’ll play football sometimes, we’ll play soccer sometimes, we just try to beat each other.”

It’s a sibling rivalry that is alive and well today.

“(Haileigh) thinks she’s a better athlete than me,” Vernon laughed. “Low key she is.”

Haileigh Adams’ soccer journey began in high school, where she steadily improved, scoring two goals and being named the most inspirational player during her freshman year. A year later, she scored five goals and earned the Defensive Player of the Year award. Toward the end of her sophomore season, she tore her ACL and consequently had to sit out games while she went through rehab during her junior year. The injury occurred at a critical time and led to only a couple of schools keeping tabs on her as a potential recruiting target.

Adams said there was a time when she thought she’d never get back to where she was after tearing her ACL.

“It was a big step back,” Adams said. “It took me forever to get back. I wasn’t very confident. And then my coach, he just threw me up top. He (said) you have the speed. Although I didn’t have it at the time. I don’t know why he threw me up  there, but he did and it actually turned out pretty well for our team.”

Adams switched to forward her senior year and scored 14 goals with 10 assists, earning first team All-Conference and conference MVP.

Portland State was a school eyeing Adams, despite her ACL tear. Vernon, while at Eastern Washington, reached out to then Portland State recruiting coordinator Justin Wagar, to convince him to bring Haileigh to the university. However, with Wagar 14 years into his career, he was looking for a change. After Portland State’s head coach suddenly retired, Wagar landed a spot at Grambling State, bringing Adams with him.

Adams earned second team all-conference honors her freshman year at Grambling State and first team her sophomore year. She was the first player in the Southwestern Athletic Conference to earn an invite to the U19 United States Women’s National Team Training Camp in 2018. Following in her older brother’s footsteps, Adams will also finish her collegiate career at a Pac-12 school with professional aspirations.

“I want to play better soccer,” Adams said. “I want to get better and I want to play after college. I felt like CU was the perfect place to help me get there and prove my skills because when I came here I definitely learned a lot that I need to know.”

Colorado head coach Danny Sanchez was thrilled to add a player of Adams caliber prior to the 2019 season. Sanchez said Adams will likely be a large part of CU’s back end in the future.

“I think she’ll play a big role going forward for us,” Sanchez said. “(She’s) super positive, technical and very coachable. We feel she’s a player that’s definitely going to help us.”

Buffs sweep Campbell, finish Colorado Classic undefeated

The Colorado women’s volleyball team faced Campbell in the final match of the Colorado Classic. CU dominated UMBC on Saturday in their earlier match, sweeping the Retrievers 3-0. The Buffs defeated Campbell on Saturday night in four sets to finish the tournament undefeated.

Senior outside hitter Justine Spann was key for the Buffaloes throughout the tournament recording 21 and 18 kills against Oakland and UMBC respectively. Multiple players starred for the Buffs in the first two games of the tournament in addition to Spann. As a team, Colorado broke four school records in the 3-1 win over Oakland on Friday night, including freshman middle blocker Sterling Parker, who became just the third player in CU history to record seven kills on seven swings.

The Buffs’ final match against Campbell started fast. It was a tightly contested match throughout the early part of the first set. Two straight kills from Spann gave Colorado a 9-7 lead. A couple service errors and errant hits from the Fighting Camels allowed CU to jump out to a double-digit lead in the first set. Colorado took the first set easily 25-10.

Two straight kills from Parker gave the Buffs a 7-3 lead in the second set. The duo of Parker and Spann led the way for the Buffs in the second set. A kill from span gave CU a 23-13 lead late in the second set. Colorado took the second set 25-14 and took a commanding 2-0 lead.

Campbell responded in the third set, keeping the match tightly contested through the first ten points. Two straight kills from Spann in the first set gave the Buffaloes a 9-6 lead. Parker, Spann and freshman outside hitter Jill Schneggenberger kept the Buffs on top through a majority of the third set. The Fighting Camels came back and took a 19-18 lead late in the third set. Colorado responded courtesy of two straight kills from Spann. CU led 20-19. A kill from Parker gave the Buffs the third set and they completed the sweep.

Redshirt sophomore middle blocker Meegan Hart was named the MVP of the tournament. The sophomore recorded hitting percentage above .600 throughout the three games. Hart, a transfer from Iowa State, talked about what it meant to her to deliver a wonderful performance not only against Campbell, but UMBC and Oakland as well, only ten games into her Colorado career.

“I means a lot,” Hart said. “It’s really special to me. My teammates have been amazing, obviously couldn’t have done it without them. They’re passing was great.”

Sophomore setter Jenna Ewert talked about how the Buffs have struggled offensively so far this season. Saturday’s two matches was a significant improvement compared to the first several games.

“We haven’t passed that well all season.” Ewert said. “I don’t think I’ve ever played in a game where we’ve passed that well, so that was a new feeling for me. It was definitely a lot of fun to have that much freedom. “(There) was a different type of connection with the hitters. You all have the confidence and… you kind of get into a groove. That’s a special thing that you don’t always get to experience.”

Head coach Jesse Mahoney talked about how the Buffs maintained a high level of intensity despite playing earlier in the day on Saturday and Saturday night.

“I thought it was a good match, especially after playing three (matches) on the weekends,” Mahoney said. “I thought our team did a really nice job to come back mentally and physically and start that match out on a really high level. We sustained that throughout the match.”

Mahoney talked about how the Buffs can use their success in the Colorado Classic as a building block headed into conference play. The Buffs face Utah to begin conference play, who began the year with wins over seventh ranked Kentucky and No. 23 Cal Poly.

“They (Utah) have one of the best players in our conference in my opinion in Danny Barton,” Mahoney said. “They redshirted one of the best middle’s in our conference last year due to injury. She’s back. I think that makes them better. They have a top ten win under their belt this season, so they’re really good.”

The Buffs will Travel to Salt Lake City next week for a Wednesday night matchup against the Utes. The game starts at 7 p.m. MST.

Kornieck talks individual and team play, previews Buffs’ matchup with No. 24 Texas

Senior midfielder Taylor Kornieck will undoubtedly go down as one of the best players in Colorado women’s soccer history. As Kornieck continues to climb the Colorado soccer all-time points list, she has one goal in mind: to finish at the top.

“All four of my years here I just wanted to play at my best, and literally I just look at the points (list) all the time,” Kornieck said. “I’m in third place right now (in all-time points at CU), and I just really want to be number one. I think it’s just really important to me, I’m really competitive like that.”

Kornieck is currently tied for third on CU’s career points list with former Colorado forward Katie Griffin, who played from 2003 until 2006. In addition, Kornieck  sits in fourth in career goals with 29, trailing  former Buffs’ midfielder Fran Munnelly (2002-2005) by one goal.

In her final season with the Buffaloes, Kornieck hopes to lead Colorado back to the NCAA Tournament after narrowly missing the cut in 2018. CU boasts an impressive combination of upperclassmen leadership and overall depth with nine freshman and two transfers available for the 2019 season. This depth should help the Buffs avoid losing multiple games in a row, despite facing a tough schedule both in and out of conference play.

“I think it’s important that we all include the freshman and the transfers,” Kornieck said.  We’ve done a really good job of integrating them with our team.”

After talking briefly about her individual success at Colorado, Kornieck was quick to mention that the most important thing in her senior season is to win games.

“I think team success is the number the number one. (It’s) important to me,” Kornieck said. “Whatever happens with me, I just hope the team gets far and we end up being the best Colorado’s ever seen.”

While talking about her development as a player, Kornieck said head coach Danny Sanchez had a tremendous impact on her individual growth.

“I’ve definitely grown a lot as a player,” Kornieck said. “I think Danny really challenged me and now I’m a leader, it’s my final year, I’m a senior now so being captain really (has) helped me grow.”

According to Kornieck, Sanchez has emphasized giving the maximum amount of effort possible throughout the game and getting off to fast starts. CU struggled with this aspect last Thursday against Kent State.

“I think we just all came out really slow in that game,” Kornieck said. “We flipped a switch in the second half for sure.”

Kent State came out aggressive on Thursday and were able to maintain possession in the attacking half for a good chunk of the first half. The Golden Flashes found the back of the net later in the half when redshirt sophomore Karly Hellstrom blasted a ball into the upper left corner of the net, past senior goalkeeper Jalen Tompkins. The Buffs responded in the 36th minute when sophomore defender Hannah Sharts served up a corner kick which Kornieck met with a centering header. The ball then ricocheted off freshman forward Tessa Barton and was headed in right at the goal line by sophomore midfielder Kayleigh Webb to even the game. The Buffs had 13 shots in the second half compared to only six in the first. The aggressive play earned Kornieck a penalty kick in the 68th minute, which she put past the Kent ‘State keeper to give Colorado the lead and ultimately the 2-1 victory.

Kornieck was happy with how the team responded in the second half to earn the comeback win.

“I’m really proud of them, we battled to the end,” Kornieck said. “We don’t usually end up coming back and winning when we’re losing in the beginning, but I’m really proud of them, we battled really hard.”

The Buffs will face number 24 Texas on Sunday, the highest ranked team Colorado has faced this season. Kornieck talked about last year’s loss to the Longhorns and how the depth on this team should give Colorado a great chance to avenge the defeat.

“Last season we lost 3-0 to them, but I think we’re coming out with a different mentality,” Kornieck said. “We have a lot of players that can really help us, especially with the freshman, I know Roo (Yarnell-Williams) has been doing really well up top. We’re just a different team this year.”

The Buffs’ focus is 100% on the Longhorns, despite facing multiple former NCAA Tournament teams following Sunday afternoon’s matchup. Kornieck said it’s important to focus on one task at a time.

“We have the same mindset going into every game, it’s basically just play as hard as you can, and we take one game at time pretty much and now all we’re focusing on is Texas.”

Colorado will host Texas at Prentup Field on Sunday. The game is set to start at 1 P.M. MST.

Colorado women’s soccer has the leadership and depth to make some noise in 2019

The Colorado women’s soccer team kicks off their season Thursday night against Drake in Boulder at Prentup Field. Unlike most sports, the time period between the first official practice (August 6th) and the first game (August 22nd) is only 16 days, meaning the team has just over two weeks to prepare.

Head coach Danny Sanchez said he’s eager to get started because he feels the team can be special.

“We’re excited to get going,” Sanchez said at CU’s media day in early August. “We’re excited about the group. We feel we have great senior leadership.”

Last season, Colorado began the year with a 16-game unbeaten streak- a program record. Unfortunately for the Buffs, their non-conference schedule in 2018 was relatively weak, hurting the team’s hopes of making the NCAA tournament.

Because of the weak strength of the schedule in 2018, the team wanted to make sure that wasn’t going to be an issue this year. Coach Sanchez talked about the disappointing conclusion of last season and how the Buffs will have their work cut out for them this year.

“We had a very good season last year, unfortunately, it didn’t end the way we wanted,” Sanchez said. “So, we took the doubt out of it with the strength of our schedule this year. We play the defending national champions Florida State in Tallahassee on Sept. 12th.”

In addition to the Seminoles, the Buffs will face four other NCAA tournament teams from a year ago. Colorado will host Baylor, The University of Texas, and Boston at Prentup Field, providing for a difficult schedule to say the least. Baylor went to the Elite 8 in 2018 while the Texas Longhorns reached the Sweet 16. Coach Sanchez also mentioned Boston, who secured an NCAA Tournament berth last season by winning the Patriot League. The Buffs face will face these Terriers early on Aug. 25th in Boulder. In addition, CU will make the trip to Denver and take on their rival Pioneers on Sept. 21st.

Colorado will have no shortage of senior leaders this season with four senior captains. Leading the charge will be midfielder Taylor Kornieck, goalkeeper Jalen “J.J.” Tompkins, defender Kelsey Aaknes, and forward Stephanie Zuniga. This should give Coach Sanchez some confidence despite the difficult challenges the team is likely to face throughout the season. Sanchez spoke highly of his two senior captains, Tompkins and Kornieck, and how having them gives the Buffs an opportunity in every game.

“We have, we feel, two of the top players in the country in J.J. (Tompkins) and Taylor (Kornieck),” Sanchez said. “So, that gives us a chance in every game to have an impact, so we’re excited.”

Colorado will enter the 2019 season a very balanced team because of the combination of upperclassmen and new players on the roster. This depth will be critical when the Buffs play the NCAA tournament teams from a year ago, as well as their Pac-12 foes. And no easy foes, as Sanchez believes the Pac-12 was the best conference in the country top to bottom.

Sanchez told us on media day that the freshman will play a significant role for the team and will have to be ready to play come Thursday evening.

“We’re excited, we have a lot of new players, we have nine freshman, a couple transfers, so 11 of our 25 players are new,” Sanchez said. “We don’t have time to mess around, they have to be ready to go and show what they can do. We don’t come into seasons looking to redshirt anybody, if they can play they’re going to play.”

Sanchez said the team tried not to dwell on being left out of the NCAA Tournament, but the loss, “stung” for both the players and coaches. Tompkins talked about how being left out of the tournament last year serves as tremendous motivation for the team headed into the 2019 season.

“It was definitely, probably one of the lowest points in my college career, but I just try to use it as motivation,” Tompkins said. “I think we all have.”

Tompkins went on to talk about to team’s motto for the season, which fits well with the difficult path the team will have to navigate due to the strength of schedule.

“Last year, our motto was ‘do more’ and we just didn’t do it,” Tompkins said. “(This year) my entire attitude is just to earn the right to be in the tournament, earn the right to win the game, earn it at every point. And so, I think we’ve all taken that as an entire team and used that as motivation going forward into the season.”

The Buffs have the potential to be very dangerous with a berth in the tournament because it’s a team led by multiple seniors, who have played in tough games, and 11 new players (nine freshman and two transfers), who will all see significant playing time.

The Buffs are deep enough and talented enough to be in the thick of the Pac-12 race, the question will be whether or not they are able to get through their daunting non-conference schedule. One thing is for sure, if their leaders can pave the way through a tough non-conference slate and remain contenders throughout Pac-12 play, Colorado will almost be guaranteed a spot in the tournament.

A duo of upperclassmen will lead the Buffs at defensive back, but many freshmen will see significant playing time

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.

Delrick Abrams Jr. stepping into leadership role for the Buffs

The Colorado Buffaloes have a long history of defensive backs becoming leaders for their respective squads. Senior cornerback Delrick Abrams Jr. is ready to step into that role. The senior talked about his growth during his last season with the Buffs. Abrams said he’d do whatever it takes to help his team win.

“[I want to] be the best player and the best leader I can be for my team. That’s the best thing I can do for my team to help us win games,” Abrams said. “I feel like I have to be a leader. I’m trying to ease my way into being a leader. I try to pick up guys, tell them to keep their heads up, even though my head is up. I hold myself [to that] because I’m the older person in the room, so I got to show [the younger players].”

Colorado’s first-year defensive backs coach, Travares Tillman, who followed Buffs head coach Mel Tucker from the the University of Georgia this season, talked about Abrams’ maturity as well as embracing the ups and downs of player development.

“Delrick, he’s really mature. He’s a mature kid, so he comes in extra and puts  good work in, he’s progressing,” Tillman said. “I think sometimes he gets down on himself because he has good days and he has bad days. We’re just trying to look for some consistency out of him.”

Tillman played safety and corner for Georgia Tech from 1996-99. He said an important aspect of player development at the cornerback position is being able to establish a short-term memory.

“You got to have a very, very short memory because sometimes you may be in perfect coverage and just a good ball is thrown that way,” Tillman said. “You got to shake it off — next play. You got to have that mentality every time.”

Abrams went on to talk about how he’s ready to accept the challenge of the opponent’s top receiver every down. Abrams said he had some experience being the top defensive back last season, but this year he knows there’s still some growth to do, especially if he hopes to step in as a defensive leader for CU.

“Yeah, I feel like [I am], I felt like that last year, too,” Abrams said of being the No. 1 cover guy for Colorado. “Even in high school I felt like I was. [I feel like] I’m the best player on the field. I feel like no one can stop me. The only person that can stop me is me. I’m just a very competitive guy.”

Competitiveness is something that Tucker has emphasized throughout spring practice, but especially during scrimmages. When asked about the three things coach Tucker is having the defense focus on, Abrams said being physical and competitive at all times.

“The first one is being physical every play, [second:] compete every play [and third:] communication. If we do all three of those things we are going to be a top-ranked defense,” Abrams added.

As Abrams begins his final season with the Buffaloes, he’s had to maintain a physical style of play, because as he said, if you are not physical, you won’t play.

“[The coaching staff emphasizes physicality and intensity] every day. If you are not physical, you are not going to get on the field. It is the key,” Abrams said. “If you are not going to tackle, you are not going to be on the field, so that’s the key — be physical every practice.”

In his senior season, Abrams is using a physical style of play and his competitiveness as a way to further his game. Two important elements of CU’s new football slogan — “Relentless” — as coined by coach Tucker. In other words, being physical and competitive every down of every practice, in addition maintaining a high level of intensity.

“Over the practices [I have gotten] better being physical and competing and everything on every down, and just communicating basically,” Abrams said.

Being physical is something that coach Tucker and the new staff has emphasized to their players every day in practice.

“The biggest difference is [the coaching staff] wants us to be very physical and they want to win. it doesn’t matter [whether] offense beats the defense, if defense beats the offense; but at the end of the day, we are all here for a reason,” Abrams added. “We all want to win. The [coaches] compete and we compete. I like how that competition is.”

Coach Tillman talked about how Abrams leads by his actions, not so much vocally.

“He’s showing [leadership ability] more on the field. He’s not a real vocal guy,” Tillman said. [He shows it] just by the way he carries himself on the field.”

For Abrams, being physical at the line of scrimmage will help him when facing off against college football’s best wide receivers, his job as Colorado’s No. 1 cover guy. As he steps into a leadership role during his senior season, leading by example is Abrams main focus. His goal is to show the younger guys how it is done.

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