From his days as an assistant football coach at Arizona Western College in the early 1980s to his many roles in football administration and admissions offices, Bob Lopez has worked to find football players and students that fit within a team or academic institution.
“Recruiting has always been a part of my life,” he said. “I’ve always loved it.”
Four months into his new role as Colorado’s director of player personnel and recruiting coordinator, Lopez has had to adjust to a new way of going about the job, however, because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“What you knew about recruiting, a lot of that has gone out the window because of how this thing has changed in terms of the calendar and just the whole aspect of it,” said Lopez, hired by first-year Buffaloes head coach Karl Dorrell in February.
On March 13, two weeks after Lopez was hired, the NCAA implemented a recruiting dead period – meaning communication between coaches and players is allowed, but in-person visits are not. Originally scheduled through April 15, the dead period has been extended five times and currently is in place through Sept. 30.
Normal aspects of recruiting, such as coaches’ trips, official visits by players and summer camps have been replaced by virtual visits and phone calls this year.
“The calendar has really thrown us for a loop,” Lopez said. “It’s thrown everybody for a loop, not being able to have coaches travel and for prospects to come visit us. … Part of the strength of Colorado and Boulder is getting them here, so they can see it themselves. As much as we feel like we’ve done a great job with the virtual visits and we’re trying to show them through video what this place is like, it doesn’t do it justice.”
Despite the challenges, CU currently has 14 players committed for the 2021 class, with 13 giving their pledge since late April. Many of those players haven’t been to the CU campus.
“It’s different, so we’ve just got to think differently,” Lopez said. “We can’t just be wallowed in how things used to be or how we’ve done it in the past. We’ve got to challenge ourselves, think differently about how can we do the types of things to affect recruits?”
Lopez leads the recruiting efforts with his decades of experience, but a key to CU’s success this year has been the talents, energy and passion of those around him.
“I think the credit goes to our recruiting group, as well as the coaches,” he said. “Being able to make that adjustment to do things so differently, but at a high level, it takes time and effort. Kudos to them because they’ve bought in, they’ve been great about ideas. I think that’s why we’re sitting with the commitments we have and the quality of the class.”
Offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini and cornerbacks coach Demetrice Martin both have strong reputations nationally as recruiters. Lopez also said defensive coordinator Tyson Summers’ energy and running backs coach Darian Hagan’s experience and knowledge of CU have helped tremendously. The various experience of the other assistants is also a valuable resource for the Buffs.
“Everybody’s really into it, which is a blessing for us,” he said.
Youthful support staff has been key, too. While Lopez brings nearly four decades of experience to the table, his assistant director of player personnel is Chandler Dorrell, the 25-year-old son of the head coach. The Buffs also have several recruiting assistants at least 30 years younger than Lopez.
“We all know the recruiting aspect of it is kind of the life blood of the program,” Lopez said. “I sit in a room and most of them are really young people. … They are extremely bright people and they work hard.”
That youthful energy combined with Lopez’s experience has created, so far, a good team to navigate a unique year of recruiting.
“I think over the years I’ve learned how to build teams, units, departments,” he said. “That’s my biggest task right now is to make sure that I can harness that enthusiasm and youth that I Zoom with every day and really make it to where they have success and we have success.”
So far, the Buffs have had success and will likely wind up with close to 20 players in the class. Lopez and his staff are already recruiting class of 2022 players, but said they’ll look mainly on defense to fill out the 2021 class.
“We’re working to finish it with the best athletes that we have on the board and most of that would be on defense at this point,” he said.
Putting the class together has been, and will continue to be, a unique challenge, but Lopez and his staff are embracing it.
“Having the people that work with me, that’s a blessing,” he said. “If I didn’t have them , it would be much harder. It’s been challenging, but like Karl says, ‘No excuses, no explanations.’ I want to help Colorado win, I want to help our coaches be successful and in order to do that, it’s no excuses, no explanations.”