There is always talk of distraction and interruptions when it comes to preparing and getting ready for success in bowl games. This past week those distractions descended on the Colorado Buffs as they were dealing with finals week and then lost their defensive coordinator in Jim Leavitt, who accepted the same job for double the salary at Oregon with the Ducks new coach Willie Taggert.
From the Colorado players to head coach Mike MacIntyre, who continues to collect hardware as the Coach of the Year in college football, there were some upset emotions, but you have to adjust.
"I think they are probably far enough along with what they are doing that they will be fine," Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy said of the scenario, one that he has dealt with twice in bowl games on offense where he has taken over calling the plays. "They probably won't miss a beat."
Colorado finally announced a plan for calling defenses against Oklahoma State on Friday after practice.
MacIntyre said safeties coach Joe Tumpkin will call the defense in the bowl game and will also take over coaching linebackers for the next two weeks. Cornerbacks coach Charles Clark will oversee the entire secondary and MacIntyre — who cut his coaching teeth in the secondary — will add an extra set of eyes wherever needed.
The end result, MacIntyre said, will be CU's defensive staff preparing a game plan much as it has done all season.
"It's seamless because the staff works so closely together," MacIntyre said. "They met together, they watched together, they talked and game planned. Some people think the defensive coordinator goes in a room and gurus it all up and then comes and tells everybody. That's not what happens. … It has to be one voice. Our staff is really close and they've got one voice. It definitely should go seamless. Our kids are very bright and they understand what we want to do in our scheme."
Tumpkin, who served as defensive coordinator at Central Michigan for five seasons before coming to Colorado two years ago, said the game planning process and game-day play calling won't be any different.
"We're all in the same room together, we're all doing the same thing, it's just going to be a different guy calling it," Tumpkin said. "We know what we're going to play, we know what we're going to call, we know how we're going to run it. Nothing's going to change. We're going to run 3-4, we're going to get after people, we're going to try to be aggressive and play good Colorado football."
Gundy said the major concern over the Colorado defense isn't the person calling the schemes but the players running those schemes, especially that secondary, where one scout told me that three of the four players will likely play on Sundays.
"I had mentioned this a week ago – they're very good," Gundy said. "They've got old school corners, zero coverage, pressure adjusted to a three down recently. They have tied that into that system that had been around for a long time before. They're very stingy, allowing 20.8 points per game. Their nose guard is hard to move. (Linebacker Jimmie Gilbert) is a terrific pass rusher. Their safeties tackle. They're going to force you to try to throw passes by squeezing the run and making it difficult for you to try to get yardage on the group."
That secondary group includes big guys that are very athletic with starters Chidobe Awuzie (6-0, 205) and Ahkello Witherspoon (6-3, 195) at corners and Afolabi Laguda (6-1, 205) and Tedric Thompson (6-0, 205) at safeties.
"The main thing is we've got really good defensive football players," MacIntyre added. "We've got big linemen, we've got great safeties, we've got really good corners, we've got good linebackers ... they understand the scheme that we want to do now and understand it completely. At this time of the year, they know what we want to call and what we want to do. They'll play really hard and play really well."
Those players in the secondary have got the attention of Cowboys senior receiver Austin Hays.
"They have a really good secondary for starters," Hays said. "Obviously, they've won 10 games this year. They've played some really good teams. Every team they've lost to has at least nine or 10 wins. Michigan, USC and Washington are three legit schools, so we know we're going to get their best shot. They haven't played in bowl game in a while, so they're going to be really pumped up. It's a top-15 matchup, and we're playing indoors, so you couldn't ask for a better game."
The rest of the schedule for both teams is as follows: Oklahoma State met today and lifted. The players have Sunday off and will practice and meet on Monday and Tuesday and then will be cut loose for a couple of days to go home and celebrate Christmas. The team meets back in San Antonio on Friday, Dec. 23, to begin game site preparations for the game.
The Buffs practiced Saturday, will practice Sunday, then take Monday off. They will practice again Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, take Friday off and then depart for San Antonio in the afternoon on Christmas Eve.