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UCLA Football Preview: Mel Tucker’s Staff Comes Mostly From Georgia

Tucker’s braintrust came over with him from Kirby Smart’s Georgia Bulldogs coaching staff with one big exception.

NCAA Football: Southern California at Colorado
First-year head coach Mel Tucker is looking to turn around the Colorado Buffaloes.
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Having already looked at the Colorado offense and defense, let’s look at the coaching staff and special teams of the Buffaloes.

The Buffs have a new head coach this season after former head coach Mike MacIntyre was fired after last season. To replace MacIntyre, Colorado hired Georgia’s defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. Tucker had followed Kirby Smart to Georgia after spending a year on Nick Saban’s staff in Alabama.

Tucker spent the previous ten seasons in the NFL as the defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars and Chicago Bears. While Tucker comes to Colorado with no collegiate head coaching experience, he did serve as the interim head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2011 for five games following the firing of Jack Del Rio.

Tucker’s stint with Nick Saban at Alabama was actually Tucker’s third stint with Saban. Saban first hired Tucker as a grad assistant when he was the head coach at Michigan State. Tucker also worked under Saban at LSU as the defensive backs coach.

When Tucker left LSU, he spent three seasons working for Jim Tressel at Ohio State.

So, all told, Tucker has a ton of experience over the past 22 seasons.

Tucker’s offensive and defensive coordinators were both on Kirby Smart’s staff at Georgia last season. Tyson Summers is the Buffs’ defensive coordinator and safeties coach. While he was a defensive quality control coach for the Bulldogs last season, Summers spent two seasons as the head coach of Georgia Southern along with one season at Colorado State as the defensive coordinator and safeties coach and one season at UCF as the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach.

Jay Johnson joins Colorado after spending the past two seasons as an offensive quality control coach at Georgia. In 2016, he was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Minnesota. He spent the previous five seasons in the same position at Louisiana. From 2005 to 2007, he was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Southern Mississippi. In between, he had stops at Louisville and Central Michigan.

Darren Chiaverini serves as the Buffs’ assistant head coach. He also coaches wide receivers. Chiaverini was CU’s offensive coordinator last season. While he’s not in that role this year, the fact that Tucker named him assistant head coach shows that he continues to be a part of the CU braintrust.

Special Teams

Junior James Stefanou handles most of the kicking duties for the Buffs. He has made 80% of his field goal attempts so far this season. He is perfect from inside 40 yards and has a season long of 44 yards. Only nine of his thirty-six kickoffs have been returned this year.

The Buffs’ punter Alex Kinney, who has an average of 44.6 yards per punt. Kinney is averaging 4.75 punts per game. So, it’s likely that Bruin fans will see quite a bit of Kinney tomorrow.

Although Laviska Shenault Jr. has the longest return of the year for CU at 54 yards, K.D. Nixon is Colorado’s primary kick returner. Nixon is averaging 24.4 yards per return with a long of 38. Look for Nixon and Dimitri Stanley to handle the punt return duties. Stanley’s longest return so far is 15 yards while Nixon’s is just six yards. So, there isn’t much to worry about from the Buffalo special teams.

And, that wraps up our look at the coaching staff and special teams of the Buffaloes.

Go Bruins!