When Karl Dorrell was first hired as Colorado’s head football coach in February, there was a mad scramble to assemble a coaching staff and prepare for spring football.
That quickly turned into months of waiting, as the coronavirus pandemic put spring football and almost everything else on hold.
Nearly seven months later, Dorrell still hasn’t held an official practice with his team and it’s unknown when the Buffaloes will have that first practice or play their next game.
What was initially a major disadvantage for CU might actually turn into a benefit, especially now that the Buffs are allowed to spend five hours per week on the field with non-contact work.
For now, the Pac-12 has postponed all competition until at least Jan. 1. The extended time off could give Dorrell more of an opportunity to evaluate players and prepare for his first season.
“First year coaches are going to benefit by not playing,” former CU head coach Rick Neuheisel said. “You’re going to get on field, you’re going to get to know the kids, you’re going to have much more in the way of the glue that culture requires to take hold. You’re going to have an opportunity to get where you want to go.”
When the football season was originally slated to start on Sept. 5, time wasn’t on Dorrell’s side – especially after spring drills were canceled.
Less than three weeks after Dorrell was hired, players and coaches were sent home because of concerns about the spread of the coronavirus. Even when they came back in the summer for voluntary workouts, in-person time with coaches was limited.
In the past few weeks, however, the Buffs have been on the field, at least with walkthroughs.
While CU and the rest of the Pac-12 would love to be playing games, a silver lining is that Dorrell is getting an opportunity to see his players on the field.
“He’s had very little time, until the past month, to engage with his student-athletes, so I think the more time that we have I think it’s going be better for us,” athletic director Rick George told Buffzone.
George then added, “I liked our team anyway, whether we had a little time together or not. I like what we’re going to put on the field this year and that’s why I’m so eager to give them the opportunity to compete, because I think this football team is going to be a really good football team.”
Neuheisel hopes so, because of his strong ties to CU. He’s had a long relationship with Dorrell, recruited and coached current CU offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini and has known Buffs’ tight ends coach Taylor Embree since Embree, 31, was about five years old.
Neuheisel’s relationship with Dorrell began when the two played together at UCLA in 1983 – Neuheisel as quarterback, Dorrell as receiver.
“I’m excited as I can be for Karl and his family,” Neuheisel said. “Karl and I had a great relationship.”
So much, in fact, that when Neuheisel was hired as CU’s head coach after the 1994 season, he hired Dorrell as offensive coordinator.
“I wanted somebody that I could trust to do the offense as I wanted to do the offense; that saw the world the same way I did because I knew I was going to have to be busy doing other stuff that are associated with being the head coach,” Neuheisel said. “It was a great relationship. As a matter of fact, he came with me to Washington when I left (in 1999) and left only because he got a great opportunity to go with Mike Shanahan and the Denver Broncos (in 2000).
“So I think the world of Karl, I’m pulling for Karl and I’ve got nothing but high hopes that things will go well.”
Dorrell’s first head coaching job came at UCLA from 2003-07. After he was fired, the Bruins hired Neuheisel. Although it took nearly 13 years for Dorrell to get another head coaching job, Neuheisel believes Dorrell can be better in this opportunity.
“He’s a seasoned pro now,” Neuheisel said. “He had the chance to be the head coach at UCLA and like all of us I’m sure learning things he wants to do if he gets another chance, or things he’s going to do differently should he get another chance and now he’s got another chance.”