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Karl Dorrell pleased with CU Buffs’ offseason progress

Colorado head coach focused on Buffs' development, not outside expectations

Head coach Karl Dorrell  during the University of Colorado Boulder Spring football game on April 23, 2022. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
Head coach Karl Dorrell during the University of Colorado Boulder Spring football game on April 23, 2022. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
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The outside perception of the Colorado football program is that the Buffaloes are in for another rough season.

Coming off a 4-8 campaign in 2021, VegasInsider.com has an over/under of 3.5 for the Buffs’ win total for this year. The ESPN Football Power Index (FPI) projects 3.2 wins with a 6.3% chance of reaching bowl eligibility. Both of those FPI numbers are last in the Pac-12 – behind even an Arizona team that is 1-23 in its 24 games.

As the Buffs wrapped up their spring workouts last month, however, head coach Karl Dorrell told BuffZone that he’s confident in where the Buffs are headed and not concerned with outside expectations.

“A lot of the expectations that we feel inside the program are probably more important than what the perception is outside the program,” Dorrell said. “Our expectations are to compete every year to get ourselves in the thick of contending for the (Pac-12) South Division and in playing great football. I don’t think that’s really going to ever change.

“I don’t ever talk to them about what people think about us. It’s really what’s in the building, what’s important to us, and then proving our worth every time we go out there and play.”

Low expectations from outside the building are no surprise.

In 2021, CU had an offense that was among the worst in the country and a defense that was OK.

From that offense, the Buffs lost their most explosive playmaker (receiver Brenden Rice) and top running back (Jarek Broussard) to the transfer portal. Rice now plays at Southern California and Broussard at Michigan State. Another starting receiver, Dimitri Stanley, left CU for Iowa State.

The defense was decent at times, but inconsistent, ultimately finishing seventh in the Pac-12 in points allowed (26.7 per game). The Buffs lost six of their best defenders, including three – linebackers Nate Landman and Carson Wells and defensive lineman Mustafa Johnson – to graduation. Three starters in the secondary – cornerbacks Mekhi Blackmon (USC) and Christian Gonzalez (Oregon) and safety Mark Perry (TCU) – all transferred.

CU didn’t fill the holes with proven veterans from the transfer portal. Instead, the Buffs are relying on young players to step up, while counting on a handful of transfer additions to succeed in bigger roles than they had at their previous schools.

Given all of that, it’s no surprise that the outsiders don’t think much of the Buffs, but Dorrell has been pleased with the offseason.

“There’s no question there’s a stronger commitment within the team,” he said. “They’re working hard. They’re doing what we’ve asked of them. I think the team is creating a strong bond. I think a lot of those things were missing in other years. There’s a lot of room for progress – and fast progress – when we have a team that’s on the same page. We’re going to just keep riding the stages of growth that we’ve made all the way through summer and we’ll see where it takes us, but I liked the path where we’re headed.”

Dorrell added that the Buffs got better at a faster rate this offseason than in his previous two years in Boulder.

“I already feel we’re ahead of where we were a year ago,” he said. “But how much further can we go?”

While CU will rely on a lot of youth in several areas of the roster, there is a more veteran coaching staff in place, especially on offense. Dorrell replaced six of his 10 assistants in the offseason, including four of the five on offense.

“There’s a pretty defined system that’s in place and I think that’s the biggest thing (fans) will see,” Dorrell said of the offense, led by first-year coordinator Mike Sanford. “They’ll see that we’ll have answers off of most things that we do.”

Defensively, Dorrell likes the depth on the line and said the linebackers are “more comfortable in our system” this year. Despite losing several key players in the back and relying on a lot of youth, Dorrell said, “I believe our secondary play is the best it’s been right now. We haven’t even played a game yet, but I feel like they’re better than where we’ve been the last two years.”

The real test, of course, will come in the fall. The Buffs still have their entire summer program and preseason camp ahead of them before the Sept. 2 opener against TCU. But, while outsiders overlook the Buffs, Dorrell carries confidence into the summer.

“It’s more the excitement about what we can do when they get back after May?” he said. “Having a great summer, having a great training camp and seeing what it looks like then. But I feel good about where we are at this point.”

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