There’s a difference of opinion on the direction of Colorado’s football program.
The Buffaloes finished second in the Pac-12 South division with a 3-1 record against conference foes in Karl Dorrell’s first season as coach. Heading into his second season, Dorrell looked forward to the potential results of finally getting a full offense and defense installed after the Buffaloes had just 25 practices to prepare for a shortened schedule thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We only put what we thought we needed to function and play well for six games,” Dorrell said, looking back at his first season back in Boulder, at the league’s media day Tuesday in Los Angeles. “That was a really good thought in our minds that we wanted our guys to be able to execute. So, our guys did a great job of just going through that process, coaches and players, of getting ourselves a chance to compete and be successful. I'd say it ended up doing pretty well for us.”
Media members covering the conference apparently see things going differently this year. The Buffaloes were picked fifth in the South behind USC (223 points, 27 first-place votes), Utah (183, six), Arizona State (170, six) and UCLA (135, one). The Buffaloes did not receive a first-place vote and sit fifth, well ahead of Arizona, with 88 points. Oregon (238 points) received 38 of 40 first-place votes to win the North, while Washington (189) got the other two.
The media did select two Buffaloes as preseason first-team selections. Running back Jarek Broussard, still just a sophomore, got the nod after rushing for 895 yards and five touchdowns in six games last season. Senior linebacker Nate Landman, Colorado’s other first-teamer, had his season shortened by a torn Achilles in December but should be ready for the season's start, according to Dorrell.
“We do anticipate him being 100% by somewhere in the middle of training camp. He is way ahead of schedule,” Dorrell said. “If you know Nate in terms of how he plays, he presses the envelope on everything he does. He doesn't do anything half speed.”
The Buffaloes start the season against Northern Colorado at Folsom Field on Sept. 3. A game against Texas A&M will take place at Empower Field at Mile High the following week. Colorado closes its nonconference slate with a visit from Minnesota before opening a nine-game Pac-12 slate at Arizona State on Sept. 25.
Dorrell promoted defensive line coach Chris Wilson to defensive coordinator and hired Shannon Turley to head strength and conditioning.
“It's been a real positive to have him on board, leading that area, because our team is gaining confidence knowing that they're physically better than what they were a year ago,” Dorrell said.
The Colorado coach also spoke on the new name, image and likeness legislation, something he called a good thing, and the status of Colorado’s quarterback competition after Sam Noyer transferred in the offseason. Dorrell said he hopes to decide on a starter between freshman Brendon Lewis and J.T. Shrout, a sophomore transfer from Tennessee, by the middle of fall camp.
“We think they're both very qualified, capable players. If you remember what Brendon did in the bowl game … he did some positive things that I would say any first-year quarterback might have done poorly. He was able to do those things in a positive way. So that confidence from the bowl game has given him a great level of confidence going through the whole offseason, going through spring. He's a completely different player now than where he was last fall,” Dorrell said before moving on to Shrout.
“In a short period of time he digested our offense. He spent the overtime hours to do that to get himself a chance to compete. Both of those guys have great leadership qualities as well along with their physical talent.”
The Buffaloes are out to build on last year and maybe surprise some people.
“I really felt like we accomplished a good deal of things in such a short period of time,” Dorrell said.
“That helped catapult us to having a good momentum going into this offseason. We expect to take that another step forward again going into this season in 2021. There will be some new faces, but there are also some really significant faces that are back. We like how things are headed, where things are headed, and we feel that we're going to do some really good things in the future of this program.”