The first week in office was a predictably busy one for new Colorado football coach Karl Dorrell.
When the 27th full-time coach in CU Buffs history met the media and CU brass alike at his introductory press conference on Monday, Dorrell said he would move swiftly to fill his staff, including making the tough decisions on which Buffs coaches might be retained from Mel Tucker’s staff.
Dorrell wasn’t kidding. By the end of week No. 1 of the Dorrell era, many of those decisions had been settled. That includes retaining the most important figure from last year’s staff in terms of maintaining some of the momentum the Buffs had gathered by the end of the 2019 season.
That man isn’t Darrin Chiaverini. It’s defensive coordinator Tyson Summers.
While it certainly is a boon for CU’s recruiting efforts that Chiaverini is back in the fold at a program he loves to sell and promote, as well as being the guy best suited to making sure the Buffs’ impressive recruiting class remains intact during the staff transition, it is the retention of Summers that is likely to make the biggest on-field impact for the Buffs.
The Buffs’ defense was a train wreck for much of last season. Roster defections from the previous spring after Tucker took over, combined with some injury issues, presented Summers with a monumental challenge to start his first season in Boulder. Yet much of the enthusiasm garnered by the end of Tucker’s lone season at the helm was due in large part to the work of Summers, who had his defense playing much better down the stretch.
As the safeties coach, Summers also played a direct role in developing the young defensive backs that permeated the Buffs’ secondary. He made impressive adjustments as the season wore on, often deploying wrinkles in blitz schemes to create pressure on opposing quarterbacks largely absent during the first three-quarters of the season. He found ways to work young talents like Mark Perry into the mix, utilizing the unique talents of his youngsters while protecting them from complete exposure to opposing game plans.
The numbers backed up the eye test on the defense. Through the first eight games, the Buffs allowed an average of 34.9 points and 486.9 yards per game. Over the final four games, those averages dropped to 25.8 points and 352.0 yards per game. With the bulk of that defense set to return, and with the possible addition of highly-touted defensive end Antonio Alfano, retaining Summers, along with outside linebackers coach Brian Michalowski, keeps intact the key figures in a unit that has a chance to be vastly improved in 2020. (Dorrell has yet to commit to which positions any of the retained coaches will oversee next season, although the roles aren’t expected to change much.)
Personally, I didn’t understand the online clamor for Chiaverini to take over as head coach. Don’t get me wrong. I’m like everyone else in that I like the guy. It’s difficult not to. But consider if Rick George had tabbed a candidate who not only had never been a head coach previously, but also had never served as a solo coordinator. And whose lone season as a team’s play-caller was roundly looked upon as a disappointment. Buffs fans would have been incredulous.
Beyond his recruiting pedigree, that was the on-field resume Chiaverini brought to the interview process. Though Dorrell, again, has yet to make it official, Chiaverini will take over as offensive coordinator, according to BuffZone sources. Maybe without the temptation of constantly feeding Laviska Shenault looming over every game plan, perhaps Chiaverini will bring a new perspective to his second chance as the Buffs’ play-caller.
Dorrell still has six spots to fill on his staff, so the 2020 Buffs undoubtedly will have a different look than the one season of Tucker ball. But in Summers, Michalowski, Chiaverini, and Darian Hagan, Dorrell has retained the coaches most critical to ensuring a smooth transition.