This is not a list of my last 8 bowling scores. This is not a list of my last 8 credit scores. This is a list of the weights of the 8, count ‘em, 8, linemen that Mel Tucker signed with his first class. Half of the signees yesterday were linemen (the 17th signee, Jalen Harris, is a tight end that blocks, so he could swing both ways). About half of the linemen signees were guys that Tucker brought in with his two short weeks on the job, and it should not be a surprise that the top 3 weights listed all came in the last two weeks.
This is a concerted effort. HCMT is not interested in staying nice and slim for the Air Raid. Offensive line coach Chris Kapilovic and defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh do not want svelte young men along the lines. The last staff emphasized athleticism and large frames that could fill out on the lines. They wanted, for the most part, athletic guys that move well, regardless of size.
No more. Get used to seeing guys that look more like Javier Edwards rather than Jimmie Gilbert. Surprisingly, on the defensive line, the roster more or less fits that need. Israel Antwine, Terrance Lang, and Mustafa Johnson are all upwards of 280 pounds, move well, and take up space. That’s the good news. Kwahn Drake and Mike MacIntyre did a good job the past few years of stocking the D line up with big athletes. But now, their size is not the exception, but the rule. Janez Jordan, the surprise junior college signing, is a solid 305 pounds (and importantly, 6’4) with room for more. Jeremiah Doss, also from Hinds Community College, is another legit 6’5, and his 260 pounds looks more like 200 on his frame. He will bulk up (he has put on 40 pounds since high school). Austin Lee Williams, the 18 year old signee from Georgia, is 330 POUNDS. He will be a boulder in the middle of the line. These are huge guys. These are “first off the bus” guys.
It’s a similar picture on the offensive side of the line. Va’atofu Sauvao will play right away at guard, and his 315 pounds makes him the heaviest player on the offensive line when he walks in. Austin Johnson and Jake Wiley are both lighter as in-state guys, but they are butting up to 300 and will redshirt to put on weight. Even the Austrian, Valentin Senn, is 6-7 and 280 pounds. That is a prototypical tackle frame. The Buffs obviously have a lot of work to do on the offensive line, but the young talent there like Will Sherman and Colby Pursell will be able to put on a lot more weight going forward.
Mel Tucker’s strategy is obvious. He is getting big guys, and a lot of them. This should be a welcome change for Buff fans. CU was and is at its best when it has well-conditioned big men that suck the air out of opposing teams as much as the altitude does. It worked for Gary Barnett and it really worked for Bill McCartney.
Think of the Georgia defense under Mel Tucker. Those linemen were immovable, and everyone around them could fly. Roquan Smith was the fastest LB in the country. The emphasis on speed in the back seven was evident this recruiting class. The linebacking trio of Alec Pell, Jashua Allen, and Marvin Ham has elite sideline-to-sideline speed. Ham most fits the Roquan Smith mold. He is undersized, but he arrives quickly to ball and in a bad mood. The DBs, like Mark Perry and KJ Trujillo, are comfortable in man and zone and play the ball well.
The offensive skill positions did not emphasize speed. The two running backs signed, Joshia Davis and Jaren Mangham, are not burners, but bruisers. They both wear down defenses. Grad transfer Jalen Harris is a catcher and blocker at tight end. Braedin Huffman-Dixon has speed to burn, but WRs are a different animal on offense. Tucker is trying to bulk up the offense to wear down the opposing team.
The strategy is very clear after early signing day – get bigger and get meaner.