Colorado Football's RISE to national relevance took the work of nearly 4 years by Mike MacIntyre and the product he was selling, but that final piece to his puzzle lies in Darrin Chiaverini. Chiaverini had visions beyond 2016 when he came back to roam the confines of Folsom Field more than15 years after his playing days in Boulder ended. "Recruiting is the lifeblood of college football" is something Chiaverini shared in our interview in August of 2016. Chiaverini proved that point instantly helping salvage a below average recruiting class for 2016 and turning it into a respectable one. That 2016 recruiting finish was just a sign of greater things to come for the Colorado Buffaloes in 2016 and 2017 recruiting.
Chiaverini came to CU with MacIntyre being afforded more time, money and staff for recruiting than CU had ever had as the new recruiting coordinator. Instead of coaches having to spend countless hours spilling over tape, recruiting staff did the leg work and brought talent to the staffs attention. But ultimately it takes a coaches vision, his words and their passion/love for a program that can land a recruit. Chiaverini can sell CU unlike any other member of this staff besides Darian Hagan because he invested his own blood, sweat and tears into Folsom at the turning point of manhood. Chiaverini has sold that vision in tune to a Top 20 rated recruiting class helping land an unheard of 7 commitments (was 8 until this past weekend), 4 top in-state Colorado guys and 8 commits from his home state of California. CU has focused on these 3 states that have been the pipeline to past CU recruiting success. CUs 2017 class has the potential to become a legacy class, the difference between challenging for a division every few years and challenging for a potential New Years 6 Bowl or even College Football Playoffs. And he hasn't stopped there, picking up 3 commits for the 2018 class as he holds off the dogs from the surrounding Power 5 schools for the 2017 commits. Talking Power 5, the total scholarship offers from the other Power 5 schools for the current commit list is roughly equal to the offer list from Power 5 schools for the past decade of Colorado recruiting class commitments COMBINED. Chiaverini truly is helping lead CU to a New Era off the field and on the field.
On the field, the Buffs offense saw heights it had missed last season with Chiaverini also wearing the tag of co-Offensive Coordinator to his Recruiting Coordinator and wide receiver position group. CU averaged more than 6.5 points more per contest and roughly 50 yards more per contest. Those numbers are actually slightly deflated, because they include both of CUs postseason contests where CU took a big hit in both categories with an offense running on fumes due to injuries and ineffective play across the board. But CUs offense was truly improved. CU had 5 guys with 30 or more catches and 400 or more yards receiving compared to just two in 2015. CU had their first 1,000 yard running back since Rodney Stewart with Phillip Lindsay. Lindsay was one of the previous group or receivers adding 53 catches and 493 yards receiving to 1,252 rushing yards with 17 total touchdowns. The Buffs added a speed to their offense that caused defenses issues early on in the season. Chiaverini along with co-Offensive Coordinator Brian Lindgren will need to adjust to a new quarterback and finding a way to get back and sustain the success they had the first half of the 2016 campaign.
CU must focus on getting more defensive front seven players and secondary players to fill the holes left from a large senior heavy defensive group instead of having to rely on the JUCO well they hit quite well to get 4 top end JUCO players as early enrollments. They may have the "Shake and Bake" Cal Naughton Jr. and Ricky Bobby duo with "Cal" Klayton Adams and "If you ain't first, your last" Chiaverini.
CUs Rise is Real getting to 10 Wins with the architect Mike MacIntyre but to take the New Era to a new level, the Buffs will lean on Chiaverini's direction as a talent evaluator and seller of the program. Colorado Buffaloes football is headed into the right direction but it does not come without changes.
While CU saw unprecedented success on defense that they had not seen since their national prominence of the late 80s to mid 90s ranking in the Top Dozen in all major team defense stats, the defense fell apart to end the season. And with it, so goes the defensive staff and players. CU will lose 8 starters from this year's squad to graduation and lost corners coach, Charles Clark, and mad man defensive coordinator, Jim Leavitt, to Nike University, aka Oregon. Oregon ranked among the bottom of the pile in all of college football so the challenge will be great for those two coaches. Still there is a challenge to find a defensive coordinator and assistant to help make up for these losses.
Additionally, the Buffs are facing a serious issue in Safeties coach, Joe Tumpkin's, domestic violence allegations stemming from the temporary restraining order mad public by news that broke January 6, 2016. The details and descriptions noted by Mitchell Byars of the Boulder Daily Camera (Tumpkin DV Complaint) are so vivid that it is hard to believe that there isn't some fire to the smoke noted. Every person deserves their day in court, but from everything gathered, it appears it will likely be best for CU to put Tumpkin on administrative leave and potentially move on from the issues stemming from the repeated incidents noted. It is a difficult decision, but right now, thinking as a parent of two girls and having a wife, that would be my first issue/flag if Coach Tumpkin called or visited. Either way, it is a sad story having spent an hour talking with Tumpkin and seeing his love for the sport of football. Whatever happens, I hope he gets help for whatever issues that caused this ongoing ordeal to occur and to land on his feet a better man. And I hope the woman involved is shown the respect by people that weren't there and can't attest to exactly what happened. Unfortunately, unless there is a video involved, we tend to cover for our athletes/coaches instead of taking the human element of compassion into account first.
But back to the GOOD NEWS: The overhaul in staff sounds like CU fans may know at least the defensive coordinator hire within days. There is one thing CU needs in a hire and that is a coach that can recruit. CU had a very solid defense but lacked ideal size, speed and talent across the board, especially at the Linebacker position. While they have landed some very solid commits for 2017, they need some IMPACT defensive players at Inside Linebacker, Safety and a young interior defensive lineman to close out the class. For all the great Leavitt and Clark brought, selling top level prep recruits to join CU was just not a specialty for either. CU needs a coach that can do that and from the many people I have talked to, I believe they will get a guy that has shown the ability to do that. Hopefully, the other assistant(s) brought on board will continue to strengthen the Colorado Football program as they head into a New Era.
MacIntyre Gets Extended
This is not an early morning Enzyte commercial despite the early writing of this blog. No, this is in reference to Head Coach Mike MacIntyre getting a nice pay raise and extension to his contract to keep him with CU contractually through 2021. His deal will average $3.25 million over the five years. My guess are incentives and buyouts will be an interesting aspect to read when the contract is made public.
Talking MacIntyre, he joined a group of other college football head coaches in the ESPN Coaches Film Room for the National Championship game and his knowledge and insight was quite a joy to watch throughout the game. It showed that despite so many others believing they know more better on the direction CU football should take, MacIntyre has it covered.
Additionally, the off-season overhaul by MacIntyre for National Coach of the Year honors was well deserved. MacIntyre has now taken two programs at the bottom of their conferences and turned them into a top program. Now he gets the chance to show he can sustain it. CU is bound to take some bumps and bruises losing the players and coaches noted, but MacIntyre had previously pointed to 2017 being a season to turn around the program. He got his wish early. Eight wins would be another good season. Anything above that will show CU truly can keep the momentum they have shown since January 2016 into 2017.