(Note: This is the second of two articles about Darrin Chiaverini taking over as Colorado’s offensive coordinator. Part one, about Chiaverini working with head coach Karl Dorrell, appeared in Monday’s Daily Camera).
As head coach of the Colorado football team, Karl Dorrell will have his hand in all aspects of the program, but it’s a good bet that his influence will be most evident on offense, as he’s coached on that side of the ball for more than 30 years.
After being introduced as CU’s new coach on Feb. 24, however, one of Dorrell’s first moves was to hand the keys of the offense to Darrin Chiaverini, who was named the coordinator.
CU’s receivers coach for the past four years (and co-offensive coordinator from 2016-18), Chiaverini is eager to regain the play-calling role he had in 2018, but there’s no question he’ll lean on his head coach and fellow assistants.
“At the end of the day, it’s got to have my identity, but I think we’ll have discussions as a staff and, obviously, we’ll have discussions with coach Dorrell,” Chiaverini said. “I feel like as a coordinator, you’ve got to have open discussions about what we feel is best for our personnel. Who are our best players, how can we help them be successful and build a scheme around them. That’s my philosophy as an offensive coach.”
At his introductory press conference, Dorrell said he likes balance on offense, but knows CU has been at its best in the past with a strong running attack. As a long-time receivers and quarterbacks coach, however, Dorrell likes to put the ball in the air.
“We definitely want to have a run threat and be able to run the football, but we’re going to be able to throw the ball as good as anybody,” he said.
It’s no secret that Chiaverini also likes the passing game to be heavily involved, and he’s built a dynamic group of receivers through recruiting.
CU will have a new starting quarterback, as junior Tyler Lytle and freshman Brendon Lewis will battle for the job; a talented group of running backs and receivers; more talent at tight end than CU’s had in a while; and an offensive line that has been maturing over the past two years.
One of the key factors for the offense, however, is Chiaverini’s growth.
His one season of calling plays, in 2018, produced mixed results. The Buffs averaged 27.1 points per game, which is their best over the past three years, but they sputtered too often. CU averaged 19.4 points during a seven-game losing streak to end the season and 15.2 points against bowl teams.
CU was never the same after star receiver Laviska Shenault was injured in the sixth game – he returned for the final three games, but wasn’t fully healthy – and the offense was predictable at times.
Chiaverini said it was a good learning experience for him.
“I think you’ve gotta give the quarterback more answers,” he said when asked what he learned from 2018. “What I mean by that is, is when you’re playing teams that are trying to take the run away and then loading the box … you’ve got to have more answers for him on the perimeter to get the ball out in space and get the ball to our playmakers.
“As a coordinator, you learn where can I grow as a play caller? What are the issues that we were having? How can I help our quarterback be more successful in the stretch run? I learned things, I saw things that we did on film. Sometimes when you’re in the moment, you don’t have a chance to really step back and really look at all the film. Now looking through all the film, we’ll be better prepared and we’ll do better things going forward.”
While Dorrell spent his first couple weeks on the job assembling the coaching staff, Chiaverini has been putting together a schedule for spring practices, which begin March 16.
Spring will be particularly important for the three new coaches on offense – Taylor Embree (tight ends), Danny Langsdorf (quarterbacks) and Mitch Rodrigue (offensive line).
“Spring is going to be a big evaluation,” said Chiaverini, one of two returning offensive coaches, along with running backs coach Darian Hagan. “I would see less scheme and more evaluation of our players (this spring). I have a good feel for our roster, but for our assistant coaches that don’t, I want them to have honest evaluations about who we are, what we are and then we’ll build our scheme going forward in fall camp around that.”
Chiaverini also wants to learn, for example, how Langsdorf wants to teach run-pass options to the quarterbacks or how Rodrigue wants to teach blocking schemes to the linemen.
“I have an idea of what I want to do as far as our installation and then I want to pick our coaches brains on what’s the best way to teach it?” Chiaverini said. “How have you taught it in the past, how can we teach it going forward? I want them to feel comfortable with what they’re teaching, because that’s why they’re here; they’re good coaches.”
While Chiaverini is going into his fifth season on the CU staff, he’s eager to re-prove himself, as well, and get the Buffs rolling on offense.
“I feel like not having the co-role, now I can really put my identity on this thing,” Chiaverini said. “Obviously, we’re going to have conversations with coach Dorrell, but I do believe that he’s going to allow me to have my identity and what’s going to help us be the most productive.
“At the end of the day, it’s about being productive and scoring points. That’s our job.”