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Colorado wide receiver Maurice Bell (13) tries to get away from Arizona safety Gunner Maldonado (9) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
Colorado wide receiver Maurice Bell (13) tries to get away from Arizona safety Gunner Maldonado (9) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

After some major changes in leadership and a bye, the Colorado football team is ready for its first game week under interim head coach Mike Sanford.

On Saturday, the Buffaloes (0-5, 0-2 Pac-12) will host California (3-2, 1-1) on Saturday at Folsom Field (12 p.m., Pac-12 Network).

CU fired head coach Karl Dorrell and defensive coordinator Chris Wilson on Oct. 2, and there are sure to be some changes when the Buffs return to the field.

The most obvious change will be with Sanford, who has been in the coaches’ booth all season calling plays but will now move down to the sideline.

Sanford also spent the previous three seasons (2019 at Utah State, 2020-21 at Minnesota) as a coordinator and coached from the booth on game day.

“The last time I was on the sideline, I believe, was 2018 at Western Kentucky,” said Sanford, who was the WKU head coach from 2017-18.

He then added that he went down to the sideline for one game while at Utah State in 2019 and the Aggies defeated Fresno State, 37-35, on a last-second field goal.

“I just love the energy of the sideline. I love to be a part of it,” he said. “Sometimes it’s challenging to be able to be an under control play caller and also go out on the sideline with crazy juice and energy and the players can feed off of you.”

One of the last times Sanford was on the sidelines, he tore the meniscus in his left knee while celebrating an interception with a player. He still wears a brace on that knee and joked, “I told (CU’s players) my full intention is to tear my right meniscus at some point in the next seven games.

“I’m excited about that opportunity to get back on the field.”

Without Dorrell and Wilson, it’s possible the Buffs will have some differences in personnel and/or scheme, as well, but Sanford said the main changes are about leadership.

Tight ends coach Clay Patterson is now the offensive coordinator. Defensive line coach Gerald Chatman is now the defensive coordinator. And, CU has promoted two staff members to on-field coaching positions: Jeff Smart (defense) and Chris Reinert (special teams coordinator).

“Putting people in the correct seats of leadership, putting the players in the right positions,” Sanford said of the main changes. “Just talking to players about what particular position they feel most comfortable with and those are ongoing decisions that we’re going to be making.

“We want to put the players in the best position, but also want to put the coaches in the best place so that they can further enhance the development of this roster.”

Although some big changes were made last week, Sanford said the development and tweaks will take time.

“The thing that I’ve learned, particularly with the abruptness of this opportunity, is you can’t make every single change in one day,” he said. “If you change everything day one then it’s tough to be able to deal with it. Players are resilient, but to a point, and I don’t think that we need to make any massive wholesale changes at this point, other than just putting people in the right chairs, and then schematically we’ve gone back to the drawing board on both sides of the ball.”

In self-scouting, Sanford and the staff has identified what the Buffs are good at doing and what they’ve struggled with in the first five games.

“The problems are either gonna be eliminated schematically from what we do or we’re just going to make the tweaks that we need to make,” he said. “There’s gonna be new language, in particular instances, particularly on the defense side of the ball, with new leadership, new fits in the run game. … If we could play fast, because it’s sound and simple, then I think we’re gonna be effective on defense.”

To this point, CU has played a lot of freshmen and Sanford said that will continue if the freshmen are the best players at their particular positions.

“There really isn’t a division on this roster whatsoever,” Sanford said. “Everybody wants to win, everybody’s got a desire to win.

“I think that’s what we’re continually looking for is who are going to be those guys that are gonna really provide that energy, provide that jolt, not just in practice, but on game day.”