Curtis Chiaverini, under his dad’s guidance, is ready for the call

Colorado Buffaloes walk-on sophomore wide receiver Curtis Chiaverini is the son of current Buffs assistant coach/wide receivers coach Darrin Chiaverini. While Curtis walked on at CU in the beginning of the 2017 season, the elder Chiaverini has been coaching the Buffs since the 2016 season.

Darrin coached Curtis in youth football but wasn’t around a lot during Curtis’ high school years because of his coaching responsibilities elsewhere. When asked about what it is like to have his father around all the time now at Colorado, Curtis described it as “a great thing.”

“It’s cool because when he wasn’t coaching me, I didn’t really see him too much in off time, but now I see him all the time,” Curtis said. “When he is getting on me, he knows what’s in my best interest, so I really listen to him.”

Coach Chiaverini added that being able to coach Curtis at CU is a unique opportunity.

“It’s special…He was born in Boulder, so it’s really cool for it to come full circle — for him being born here and then me playing here — and then me being able to coach here and being able to coach him everyday,” Chiaverini said. “It’s really special for myself and for our family.”

Curtis talked about how in spite of the fact that he is the coach’s son, coach Chiaverini doesn’t put any extra pressure on him. Curtis said that the pressure that he does feel comes from his own internal drive.

“[My dad] tries not to put any pressure on me,” Curtis added. “Any pressure I feel, I put on myself because I’m always striving to get better.”

Despite the fact that coach Chiaverini has an intense demeanor on the field, Curtis said he and his dad are really close off the field and that his dad is just a normal father off the gridiron.

“Me and my dad are really cool,” he said. “We are always hanging out on the weekends, watching movies and stuff. He’s one of my close friends.”

When asked to come up with one word describe his father, Curtis went with “dedicated.” He said his dad applies a dedicated mindset in all aspects of his life, whether it’s family or football related.

“In every aspect of his life, he is just a dedicated man, whether it’s family, football [or] work, just everything,” Curtis said.

When asked about the difference between coach Chiaverini as a father compared to Chiavernini as a coach, Curtis said one’s more laid back than the other.

“One has a much more relaxed demeanor. Darrin the coach really just gets on to you and Darrin the dad just likes to chill out and just talk smack,” Curtis laughed. “So, it’s a big difference.”

Coach Chiaverini said that football wasn’t always a sure thing for his son. However, over time Curtis has grown to love it.

“I’m really proud of him. He’s come a long way from when he was a younger kid because he didn’t really enjoy football that much when he was little and he has really come to love it; and [he] wants to get better and work hard,” he said.

Coach Chiaverini’s wide receiving unit will be led by upperclassmen, such as juniors Laviska Shenault Jr. and K.D. Nixon, as well as the lone senior at the position, Tony Brown. The primary points of emphasis for the Buffs’ wide receivers have been to maintain a high level of confidence in the system and what the receivers do as a unit.

“The points of emphasis for us have been really just staying calm, being confident in what we are doing, and see ball, catch ball; and then we just take it from there,” Curtis said.

Individual improvement in the spring session will be critical in order for the Buffs’ wide receiving unit to find success. Curtis said he feels he has improved significantly since last fall.

“In my aspect of my game, my separation and just route technique has gotten a lot better,” he said. “I still got a lot to improve on, but I feel like I have made strides since the fall.”

Last year, multiple CU wideouts suffered nagging injuries that forced them to miss time late in the year. Shenault Jr., former Colorado wide receivers Juwann Winfree, Jay MacIntyre and Nixon all missed time, which likely contributed to the Buffs’ struggling offense late last season. Because of this, Curtis said everybody has to be ready.

“That’s how [coach Tucker] is with everybody. He just wants everybody to be prepared at any given moment and then when the opportunity arises you got to take advantage of it,” Curtis said.

Being able to learn from Shenault Jr., Brown and Nixon has been critical to the success of the younger players at the position.

“Things that you learn from them are just like how to carry yourself on the football field because they are all really good leaders. They are always trying to set the example,” Curtis added. “They are always trying to bring people up with them. Just watching them, being around them, it really elevates everybody else’s game.”

Coach Chiaverini has seen Shenault grow throughout his time at Colorado. Chiaverini recruited Shenault and has seen him mature as a person and leader.

“I recruited Laviska out of high school and I’ve really seen him grow as a person. He’s a lot more outgoing,”  Chiaverini said. “He’s a lot more engaging with people. He looks people in the eye now, and I think it’s just a matter of him being more comfortable with himself teammates. I like the way he works.”

Coach Chiaverini echoed similar sentiments for Brown. Although, Chiaverini said Brown prefers to lead by example.

“Same thing with Tony Brown,” Chiaverini continued. “He’s more a consistent, quiet leader, but the guy comes out everyday and practices hard and makes plays. He’s done a really good job.”

Coach Chiaverini said his son just continues to embrace every moment and is getting better every day. Welcoming and overcoming obstacles is part of football and Chiaverini is happy that Curtis continues to progress.

“It’s good to see that as a dad, to see his development as a young man, being able to attack challenges and overcome adversity because that’s part of the game,” Chiaverini said. “It teaches you life skills through football. So I’m proud of him as a dad obviously.”

Chiaverini said the key for Curtis is making the most of his chances. He’s seen Curtis progress through practice and is confident he will make the most of his opportunity.

“[Curtis] had a nice catch today in team drills. We had live team drills and he came out and made a really nice catch. Whenever you get an opportunity to play you have to take advantage of it,” Chiaverini said.

Curtis, coach Chiaverini and the new-look, coach Tucker-led Buffs will take the field for the annual Spring Game on Saturday, April 27 at Folsom Field.

K.D. Nixon, Buffs focused on little things in week one of spring practice

The first week of spring practice is in the books for new head coach Mel Tucker and the Colorado Buffaloes football team. The focus of the first week: improvement and taking it one day at a time.

The process is only just beginning for the Buffs, who are just three practices in of their 15-practice NCAA-mandated spring schedule. After so much time off from last season, and only a handful of allowed team practice days, it’s important the team maximizes every day of training to the fullest.

It’s especially different with a brand new coaching staff, which implements a totally different approach from the Mike MacIntyre-led regime. There’s a whole new playbook and approach that the Buffaloes must quickly adapt to. Tucker was impressed with his group’s first few practices.

“I thought we were able to establish our tempo, how we want to work, how we want to practice. I thought the guys did a fantastic job…Our coaches were outstanding,” Tucker said. “Our practice organization and efficiency had a lot more intensity…I was really proud of that. That’s got to be our brand, that’s got to be our standard. We set the foundation for that this week.”

For junior wide receiver K.D. Nixon, he’s taking the adjustments in stride. He understands the importance of being on top of it everyday and learning from his new coaches, especially when there are only a handful of practice days allowed during the spring slate.

“The little things, blocking and transitioning — these coaches are really strict on everything we do,” Nixon said. “So we want to get better every day, day by day. It’s the first week, but the week after spring break we have to step back up.”

Nixon stressed how Tucker’s staff is very detail-oriented and focused on the the fundamentals in order to be successful. The coaches are putting a lot of emphasis on how the players practice and transitions within drills during practice, in addition to preaching the fundamentals.

After a disappointing finish to last season, which included seven straight losses towards the end of the year, Tucker and his staff will do everything in their power to avoid a similar collapse. And in order to do that, he needs to make sure his team goes back to the basics and understands the fundamentals and the ‘little things,’ as he calls them, so history doesn’t repeat. 

“Basically, like I said, focusing on the little things, that’s what got us beat, that’s what got us 5-7 [record],” Nixon added. “You have to speak about it before you repeat history, and that’s one thing we are not trying to repeat, [being] 5-7 again. We are trying to get to a bowl game this year.”

Nixon went on to talk about how it’s important to take each game as it comes, but he didn’t leave out the end goal.

“Take every game one by one…our goal is to win a Pac-12 Championship but we don’t want to look ahead. It’s phase two right now — spring ball — so that’s what we are focused on,” said Nixon. “We gotta take advantage of phase two, phase three in the summer, phase four [in the] fall [and] phase five: the games.”

Despite the fact that the regular season won’t start for over five months, Nixon hopes to build from a successful sophomore campaign in which he recorded 52 receptions for 636 yards and four touchdowns, second only to his fellow Desoto, Texas native, Laviska Shenault Jr., in all three stats.

Nixon proved to be a legitimate threat last season, averaging over 12 yards per reception, and stepped up big when the Buffs’ Heisman-candidate hopeful Shenault went down with an injury. 

 He expects more from himself this coming season. 

“My expectations are high,” he added. “I’m a firm believer that we all are expected for greatness. So, my goals are high.”

As far as what he hopes to improve on during spring practice, Nixon said ‘everything.’ And again, it’s the little things that will lead to that improvement.  

“I can always improve on everything. I dropped two balls today, something I never have done,” said Nixon. “So I gotta get back to work, catch 100 balls a day just like I do. I slacked off yesterday and it showed today.”

In the first few spring practice for coach Tucker and staff, the first-year coach is focused on establishing solid, meaningful relationships with his players. It’s something Nixon appreciates very much.

“[Tucker is good at] relating and being in tune with us, having fun, being on us 24/7,” said Nixon. “… talking to us about being a pro. He’s just invested in us.”

It’s a good sign for the young coach in the early parts of the 2019 season. Tucker and Nixon will have plenty more time to establish more rapport in the months leading up to opening kickoff. 

Another good sign is that the majority of Colorado’s offensive unit remains intact from last season. Aside from losing its former starting running back in Travon McMillian, CU returns a hefty majority of its weapons, including Nixon, Shenault Jr. and senior quarterback Steven Montez.

To backpack off of Nixon’s terminology, the Buffs are only just beginning “phase two” of their process. In order to find success during “phase five” — the actual games during the season — the Buffs will need to continue the effective practices they’ve been having so far.

Coach Tucker, Nixon and the rest of the team will debut the new-look Buffaloes on August 30 against the Colorado State Rams at Mile High Stadium.

From tragedy to triumph: the story of Buffs commit D.J. Oats

Life hasn’t been easy for one Colorado Buffaloes’ 2019 commit. Daniel “D.J.” Oats has moved all around the country over the past few years. From the humble Midwest town of Mounds Illinois — which has a population of less than 800 — to Romeoville, Illinois — a five-hour jaunt up the road — to Arlington, Texas.

It wasn’t by choice that Oats moved around so much, and it also wasn’t for chasing the football dream either. His nomadic life has a much more tragic story than that.

As a young teenager, Oats lost his mother to breast cancer in his hometown of Mounds. It was then that he moved in with his father up the road to Romeoville. A year after losing his mother, Oats’ father, too, passed away following complications due to a heart attack.

It was then that Oats moved in with his grandmother, aunt and uncle in Texas, who all helped to raise the tragedy-stricken teen. It was there where the young athlete found refuge in family and in the game of football.

Competition became Oats’ outlet. He played baseball, basketball, football and ran track throughout high school. After a breakout season on the football field, Georgia Tech, Maryland and South Florida were among a handful of schools — in addition to Colorado — that expressed interest in Oats.

“He’s got a great story, I’m sure a lot have read about him,” head coach Mel Tucker said at the Signing Day press conference. “He’s just a special, special young man.”

Oats will now call Boulder, Colorado, home for the foreseeable future, where he’ll play football for the Buffaloes in hopes of helping the team anywhere he can.

After having only been the Buffs’ coach for a little over a month, Tucker invited Oats, a three-star athlete, to campus. Oats committed to Colorado during his official visit with Tucker in mid-January.

Oats is Tucker’s first prospect from Texas, though he’s added a few more since. The senior from Grace Preparatory Academy in Arlington will join the truckload of Texas talent that’s already in Boulder. The Buffs’ roster currently boasts plenty of strength from the Lone Star State, highlighted by a pair of junior wide receivers, Laviska Shenault Jr. and K.D. Nixon, as well as Buffs’ senior quarterback Steven Montez.

Oats is quick. It’s one of the things that Tucker heard and read about Oats during the recruiting process.

“The fastest man in the country in his class, that’s what I read,” Tucker said. “This guy is extremely explosive. He’ll play defense for us. But as you’ll see, he can play offense. He’s a dynamic playmaker.”

His blazing speed was put on display last spring in Dallas where he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.33 seconds. Oats’ fastest 40-yard time, however, was a 4.25 unofficially. Don’t be surprised if he sees time early in his Colorado career on special teams, where he’ll return kicks and punts for the Buffs.

During his final high school season, Oats posted impressive offensive numbers as a running back. He rushed for over 1,000 yards while scoring 14 touchdowns, adding 130 yards receiving on 11 catches and another score. Despite his imposing offensive numbers, Oats will more than likely take his speed and athleticism to the defensive side of the ball and play cornerback for Colorado.

“He’s elusive; he’s got very good long speed,” Tucker said. “He can catch the ball, he can be a wildcat guy, he can be a bubble-screen guy, he can be a deep-threat guy; and defensively, he can run with any receiver in the country.”

Oats’ has the chance to be a difference maker on both sides of the ball early in his career at Colorado. With 4.3 speed and the ability to play multiple positions, Oats’ dynamic skill set separates him from most currently on the roster.

“He’s another versatile athlete for us that can do a lot, and it’s very rare to find a guy with this type of speed,” Tucker said. “And when you have a guy with this type of speed who can actually play football, I feel like you got to recruit him and you’ve got to try to sign him. We were very fortunate that we did that.”

Oats’ superior speed and experience at running back in high school will likely lead him to success for CU. If past talent, pure speed and ability to overcome some extreme adversity is any indication, the Lone Star State standout should become an integral piece wherever Tucker decides to put him.

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