The true impact of Leavitt's decision to leave Boulder will not be known for a while, possibly not until 2018. Tumpkin, who served as the Buffaloes' safeties coach for nearly two years, was given the keys to Colorado's defense for Thursday's Alamo Bowl.
“We are both intense in how we go about practice but the way I show my intensity is completely different than the way he does,” Tumpkin said when asked how his coaching style differs. “You could hear Leavitt from the time he walked up the stairs to practice all the way until he walked off the field. Mine is a little bit more stoic but, trust me, everybody is going to know I am out there.
“I don't think the intensity of our practices has changed. I don't think the mindset has changed. You just hear me less than you heard Leavitt. A lot of times, I'll talk to the players one-on-one, too, to make sure they know what I expect from them.”
Tumpkin spent five seasons as Central Michigan's defensive coordinator before arriving in Boulder in February of 2015. While in that role in Mount Pleasant, Tumpkin was best known for his halftime adjustments.
“He is very knowledgeable of the front and the back-end together,” Buffs head coach Mike MacIntyre said of Tumpkin. “Some people can understand the front, some people understand the back. He understands both, which is what you need to do to coordinate and understand it. And then he gets along with the players. He understands our scheme real well and the guys really respond to him.”
Tumpkin has said he does not view this week's bowl game as an audition to take over the defensive coordinator job going forward. He does admit, though, he has greatly enjoyed his time in Colorado.
“The weather is unbelievable, you get over 300 days of sunshine,” Tumpkin said. “One day it will snow and be 29 degrees and two days later you will be in shorts and flip flops getting ready to go golfing. Michigan wasn't like that.
“The five years I spent in Michigan, it was cold all winter. And being from South Florida, it was the other extreme. And the people in Colorado have been unbelievable. The people at CU and just the community, I love it.”
Tumpkin has moved over to coach the inside linebackers the last two weeks, while graduate assistant Chidera Uzo-Diribe, who finished his career with the Buffs tied for sixth in quarterback sacks with 20, has increased his coaching role with the outside linebackers.
“When I got here, Chidera was a senior so I backed him up, gave him a little rest when he needed it,” recalled senior outside linebacker Jimmie Gilbert. “I looked up to him when we were teammates and now our relationship has developed from a coach/player situation to more of a family bond. He is like a big brother.
“We also got to work with Tyrone McKenzie last year, so with him and Chidera, who both have professional experience, that really helps us and tells us what we need to focus on. They have given us the little details that we need to pick up on and build on.”
Gilbert is tied with Uzo-Diribe with 20 career sacks at CU. He recorded 10-and-a-half sacks in the regular season, becoming the first Buff to record double digit sacks in a season since Abraham Wright did so a decade ago. Gilbert and Wright are the only Buffs to record 10 or more sacks since 1993.
“My goal this season was to put as much pressure on and put as much grass on the quarterback's uniform as possible,” Gilbert said. “A lot of sacks I have to attribute to the secondary for their tight coverage, or the defensive line for being able to get a push and force the quarterback to naturally move in my direction.”
Gilbert also led the Buffs with 22 third down stops, 16 quarterback pressures and six quarterback chase-downs, and his six forced fumbles ranked second nationally.
“I take a lot of pride in it,” he said, reflecting on his senior campaign. “One of the reasons I wanted to play college football was to differentiate myself from my parents and my sister who played college basketball. So to be able to come here and more or less create a legacy while playing football, I am very happy.”
*** Oklahoma State defensive tackle Vincent Taylor is also good at putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. He leads the Cowboys in sacks this season, and he has blocked four kicks.
“They move him around and get him in some spots to go block it,” MacIntyre explained. “We have to make sure we protect correctly. We have been very good at that since the Michigan game, but we definitely need to know where he is and be prepared. … He is a disruptive guy.”
*** MacIntyre said the Alamo Dome is louder and echoes more than an outdoor stadium. There is also the neutral site aspect to it, which makes it different than a typical regular season game.
“It is almost going to be like the CSU game in a way. There will be a semi-constant roar I would imagine. But in the dome it is a little bit harder to hear,” he added. “Even when we go in our indoor complex, when you talk in there, it is harder to hear. So we have worked on our silent count, which we have done on the road quite a few times. We are kind of treating it like a road game.”
*** This will be MacIntyre's first time as a head coach in a bowl game, although he did create the plan for the practices leading up to San Jose State's bowl game in 2012. He also talked to some other coaches before creating his plan leading up to the Alamo Bowl.
"I called around to some coaches that had been in the Alamo Bowl and then I talked to [Duke head coach] David Cutcliffe for a long time about what he has done [in preparing for bowl games]," he said. “And then of course I went to bowls when I was younger coaching so it has been kind of a combination of everything. I think our players have handled [our preparation] real well. I think they are fresh, they are ready to go.”
*** The Buffaloes will wear their traditional uniforms during Thursday night's Alamo Bowl.
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