Tucker will bring a wealth of college and pro experience to Boulder.
Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker is likely leaving UGA to become the head coach at Colorado, the Buffs made official Wednesday. He’ll get a five-year, $14.75 million deal.
Word of Tucker’s hire had leaked last weekend, before he coached Georgia in the SEC Championship against Alabama. He won’t coach the Dawgs in the Sugar Bowl against Texas, Colorado said in announcing his hiring.
He’ll replace Mike MacIntyre, whom the Buffs fired after six losses in a row, with one game left in the season. MacIntyre had beefed up his record with a 5-0 start to 2018 against almost exclusively awful teams, but his team then went into a tailspin. He had a 10-win team in 2018, but that team was senior-laden and didn’t turn out to be a sign of sustainable things to come. Athletic director Rick George thought CU could do better, and this is that attempt.
CU’s the second team from its state to hire a Georgia coordinator as head coach in the last four years. After 2014, Colorado State plucked Georgia OC Mike Bobo to follow Jim McElwain, who’d left for Florida. Bobo’s tenure went solidly for a while but has since gone south, and if Tucker doesn’t clear that bar, he’ll be in trouble. Bobo went 7-6 his first three seasons, putting out a solid product as CSU moved into a new stadium. But the Rams declined to 3-9 and were one of the Mountain West’s worst teams this year.
Tucker has no experience coaching anywhere near Colorado, but he brings a long and impressive resume to the gig.
He was a defensive back at Colorado. He’s since had college staff positions at Michigan State, Miami (Ohio), LSU, Ohio State, Alabama, and Georgia. In the middle of those, from 2007 to 2014, he jumped around the NFL, coaching DBs and working as a coordinator for the Browns, Jaguars, and Bears. He’s 46 and has done pretty much everything other than be a head coach — and coach in the geographic region where he’s now heading.
Tucker’s been in charge of the Georgia defense since 2016, Kirby Smart’s first year in Athens. He followed smart from Alabama to the UGA staff. He’s coordinated the country’s No. 35, 11, and now 16 defenses, according to advanced stat S&P+.
Colorado isn’t great now and has rarely been great over its history, but there’s reason to think Tucker could win there.
Nobody’s contended consistently in Boulder since Bill McCartney. Colorado itself is not a good recruiting state, with only a couple of blue-chip prospects most years.
But let’s talk about the good stuff:
Colorado’s also not surrounded by elite recruiting teams. And it’s not that far from either California or Texas, which has helped previous CU staffs make inroads in both states.A lot of people love Denver, and Boulder has a great rep as a college town.
Nobody’s going to walk in and start signing top-10 classes. CU’s 43rd in two-year recruiting rank and 57th in five-year rank, near the bottom of the Power 5. But some confident coach could talk himself into being able to recruit in the upper half of the Pac-12 and field talented rosters. Wells, for one, already knows the area very well, and Holgorsen has deeper roots in the middle of the country than the East Coast.
The Pac-12 South is one of the most winnable divisions. USC is a blue-blood and should eventually stop being a train wreck, and UCLA will always have more talent than CU. But Arizona, Arizona State, and Utah are no better than recruiting peers to the Buffs.
Pretty much every team has a new or renovated football facility that’s 18 billion square feet and has urinals sculpted out of 18-karat gold. CU’s among those teams, having opened a new performance center and indoor practice field in the last three years.
Those attributes make Colorado a more interesting gig than a lot of non-blue-blood programs. The school’s lack of any consistent success in recent years makes clear it’s not an easy job, but it has enough things going for it that you don’t need to strain your eyes to envision the Buffs becoming a somewhat frequent South contender.
Its national championship in 1990 is from an entirely different era, but the program has the potential to be more in this era than it’s been so far. That work starts shortly.
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