When Mel Tucker decided to hire Travares Tillman as defensive backs coach he was taking a chance. Of course that could be said for any coaching hire, but Tillman comes to Colorado with no position coaching experience, and only three years working at the college level.
Due to his lack of experience, what the team is getting remains a large unknown. As a second round pick in 2000 who spent seven years in the NFL, he clearly had some success on the field. He’s also a former recipient of the Bill Walsh Coaching Fellowship, which has been awarded to NFL head coaches Mike Tomlin, Hue Jackson, Anthony Lynn, and Marvin Lewis. But how well his skills as a player and in the diversity camp translate to coaching defensive backs remains to be seen.
Colorado’s defensive backs coaching duo from last season of Ashley Ambrose and ShaDon Brown both had at least 10 years of experience prior to being hired. Additionally, all of Tucker’s other assistants have at least some experience coaching in the role they’ll serve in. In today’s day in age, it’s particularly uncommon for someone to get a position coach job at the power five level with no prior experience serving as one.
On the flip side, in the world of coaching there isn’t a yellow brick road to take someone from destination-to-destination. Coaches with varying levels of experience have been successful showing that there’s no distinct magic formula for hiring one. Last season, Antonio Pierce elevated the Arizona State linebacking core into one of the best in the conference after serving as a high school coach the four previous years.
Being in Athens with him for three years, Tucker surely knew the extent of Tillman’s involvement in day-to-day defensive operations, what he brings to the table, and about his philosophy.
Tillman, 41, could turn out to have the energy and intensity that was gravely lacking in the secondary late last season. Several years younger, he could do a better job of relating with the players and earning their trust similar to the way former defensive line coach Kwahn Drake did last season.
He could have greater attention to detail and technique that ultimately raises the backend’s play. As someone who’s been through the pros, and an elite UGA program, Tillman surely will bring mental and physical toughness to the table. He’s also been under the mentorship of the best in the industry, and seen what it takes to be successful. In today’s day and age, it isn’t uncommon for coaches to try and stay ahead of the curve by taking a chance on a young up-and-comer a few years early.
There’s certainly a lot to like about what Tillman could bring to the table. But seeing as he’s never served as a DB’s coach, all of those are nice attributes that may not necessarily translate to success. Especially given that he’s inheriting a younger and significantly less talented group than there was at Georgia.
All things considered, it’s safe to say Colorado took a massive risk in hiring Tillman given his coaching background, and that could backfire. However, given his upside, and the direction the program is looking to go in, it’s a risk that could pay off in a big way.