Jim Leavitt endeared himself to the Colorado fan-base with his creative messages on social media over his love for Pepsi. So after head coach Mike MacIntyre informed Joe Tumpkin he would be making the defensive calls in Colorado's upcoming bowl contest against Oklahoma State, a fellow Buffs assistant coach had some fun with him.
“It was quite funny because I was sitting in the staff room last night going through film and [cornerbacks coach] Charles Clark walks in with a Pepsi and I was like, 'Shut the front door,'” Tumpkin said. “I drink Starbucks. I told Charles he can bring me a stack of Starbucks [cards].”
“And then today I am talking in a meeting and the players are trying to imitate Leavitt's voice. They got kind of a kick out of it,” he continued. “They understand the situation. Their focus is on trying to win the bowl game.”
Tumpkin has moved over to coach the Buffaloes' linebackers in Leavitt's absence, a role he is familiar with. Tumpkin previously coached linebackers during stints at Pittsburgh, SMU and Sam Houston State.
“Half my career I have been coaching secondary [players], half my career has been linebackers,” he said. “It is just getting back out from being on the back-end, but it is a natural transition. Plus, our safeties and linebackers are pretty much hand-in-hand in run situations, so you have to have an understanding.”
MacIntyre believes the transition to having Tumpkin lead the defense in the bowl game will be “seamless” since it was a collaborative effort among the Buffs' defensive staff throughout the regular season.
“Some people think the defensive coordinator goes in a room and gurus it all up and goes and tells everybody. And that is not what happens because you have to have everybody on the same page, it has to be one voice,” MacIntyre explained. “Our staff is really close and our kids are very bright and understand what they want to do in our scheme.”
Added junior defensive lineman Leo Jackson: “It always felt like both of them were coaching us anyway. Leavitt and Tumpkin both had a key role in it. Every halftime, everything that was going on was fed through both of them.”
Tumpkin said he would give Leavitt many suggestions throughout the course of a game and many times those calls “would pop up, sometimes they didn't.” He did admit his coaching demeanor is not a carbon copy of Leavitt's.
“His energy is different from my energy. He is different in how he responds and acts to things,” Tumpkin said. “I am going to be me. The same thing that you guys have seen from me the last two years is what you are going to see.
“I am going to be coaching more of the defense as a whole rather than just the secondary and safeties, now it is with the linebackers and everybody else. So I might stand out there more, but I am not going to change who I am. I am going to be who I am, what I have been doing as a coach for 22 years.”
Tumpkin served as a defensive coordinator for four seasons at Central Michigan before he joined the Buffaloes' staff in February of 2015. It would make sense for him to be a candidate for the defensive coordinator position in Boulder going into 2017. Does Tumpkin feel like he he is auditioning for the job the next two weeks?
“The only thing I am worried about is this bowl game and getting our kids ready to play and sending our seniors off right,” Tumpkin responded. “We also want to get ready for next season and get our young guys ready to go. That is my focus.”