Sophomore cornerback Isaiah Oliver admitted the players were “shocked” when they found out they were losing their defensive coordinator. Many of his teammates shared their surprise on social media when the news broke on Wednesday.
“You are just basically scrolling through your Twitter like any other day and then you see that pop up,” Oliver said. “We respect the decision for his family and his personal reasons for why he made that decision. We thank him for everything he has done for the past two years in helping our defense get to where we are now.”
Buffaloes head coach Mike MacIntyre confirmed Joe Tumpkin, who coached Colorado's safeties in 2015 and through the 2016 Pac-12 title game, will make the defensive calls during the Alamo Bowl on December 29. Tumpkin has moved to coach the linebackers, filling the void left by Leavitt's departure, and MacIntyre is now helping Charles Clark coach the Buffs' defensive backs.
Graduate assistants Chidera Uzo-Diribe and Corey Edsall will be “a lot more involved” with helping the Buffaloes get ready for Oklahoma State now, according to MacIntyre.
“We are still the same defense,” junior defensive lineman Leo Jackson said. “Even though he (Leavitt) taught us a lot, it was us, the players that made our defense by going out there and executing. Everything that happened this year was mainly us. That is what we have to realize. It is still the same team, even without him.”
Added MacIntyre: “The main thing is we have really good defensive players. … And they understand the scheme we want to run now. At this time of year, they are watching and dissecting, they kind of know what we want to call, what we want to do. So they will play really hard and play really well.”
Tumpkin had been down at field-level the last 26 games, and will remain on the sideline for the Alamo Bowl with Clark continuing to monitor the game from up top in the booth.
Additional notes -
*** Colorado is currently ranked No. 10 by the College Football Playoff Committee, and No. 11 in both the AP and Coaches polls. A win over No. 12/13 Oklahoma State in the Alamo Bowl would almost assuredly give the Buffs their eighth top 10 finish in program history.
“Anytime you finish in the top 25, it is really excellent, but finishing in the top 10 puts another notch in it. I think that would be really great for our program,” MacIntyre said.
*** The Buffaloes received their 25th commitment on Thursday. Their class currently ranks No. 18 nationally and No. 3 in the Pac-12 on Scout.com.
“It really started last summer. Our recruiting went to another level, the way I see it,” MacIntyre commented. “Our coaching staff has done an excellent job but we had a lot of roots laid down with our recruiting system that we have had in place for 26 months. It is a process.
“And also our new facility, when they come to see that, it blows them away. And then on top of that, being successful this year kind of solidified a lot of those guys; put another nail in the coffin, so to speak. So it is exciting what is going on.”
*** MacIntyre was able to comment on the three mid-year Junior College additions the Buffs signed earlier this week: "We are really excited about getting [nose tackle] Javier Edwards. He had a lot of choices in the SEC and throughout the country. He loved our system, what we had. He is just a great young man. We are also excited about Dante Wigley. He is an excellent corner. He'll be a three for three, kind of like Ahkello [Witherspoon] and 'Fo' (Afolabi Laguda).
"Chris Mulumba is an excellent defensive end. He'll be able to rush the passer. He'll be able to help us as we're losing J.C. Carrell and Samson [Kafovalu]. All three of those guys fit immediate needs that we needed to fill. We have some young guys that will be playing next year, too, but that just gives us more and more depth and the ability to fill shoes and reload, which is what we want to do."