Now that the Colorado football team is back on the practice field for the first time since the end of the 2019 season, the value of having some continuity in the coaching staff is evident.
While head coach Karl Dorrell is new this season, his decision to retain four assistant coaches, including offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini and defensive coordinator Tyson Summers, eases the transition from a scheme and terminology standpoint.
Dorrell’s most important decision, however, may be the retention of strength and conditioning coordinator Drew Wilson and his staff.
Strength and conditioning coaches spend more time with players anyway, but as the Buffs and everyone else has dealt with the coronavirus pandemic over the past seven months, Wilson’s familiarity with the players and his knowledge of the program has been invaluable.
“It’s extremely valuable,” Dorrell said. “I’m glad you brought him up because I’ve been giving him kudos in front of the team and our staff for his dedication from his area and his staff of doing everything within the protocols that have been put on us.”
It hasn’t been easy for the players or for Wilson.
After players were sent home in March, Wilson and his staff developed tailored workouts for the players to do at home. Some didn’t have weights, but Wilson and the staff got creative in helping the players find other ways to stay in shape – pull-ups on trees, bench pressing siblings, pushing cars, etc.
In June, players returned for voluntary workouts, but only in cohort groups. That was another adjustment for Wilson and his staff.
Then, after Boulder County issued an order on Sept. 24 to limit gatherings of 18-to-22-year-olds, they had to adjust again. Individual workouts were allowed, so Wilson and the strength staff designed a schedule that allowed the players to get some work done.
“When we had that time period where we only can work out one player at a time, he handled that and they had to work early mornings and late to the evenings,” Dorrell said. “They did that for 10 days.
“He’s kind of an unsung hero right now because he did the job and he didn’t bat an eye about it. He knew we had to get ourselves ready – as ready as we can be for camp and there’s no question that those guys have done a great job with getting us to this point.”
Making the adjustments easier has been the fact that Wilson is so familiar with most of the players. Although he’s still learning the newcomers, Wilson, who was hired Jan. 4, 2016, by former head coach Mike MacIntyre, is entering his fifth season with the program, so he’s learned the physical and nutritional needs of all of CU’s veteran players.
“He had some familiarity with the guys and he’s been training him all offseason, all year,” Dorrell said. “He understands the shortcomings with guys that have been in quarantine.”
On Sunday, the Buffs conducted their third practice of the preseason and they continue to do their best to prevent quarantine of player and COVID-19 from infecting the team and spreading.
CU players are staying at a local hotel for at least two weeks, an idea that Dorrell said was part of the agreement with Boulder County Public Health to let the team practice.
During practice, the Buffs aren’t limited in how many people can be on the field, but all the players wear neck gators and Dorrell said it’s required for players to pull the gator over their mouth and nose when they take a break between reps.
Despite their best efforts, it’s likely that more adjustments will need to be made by Wilson and the strength and conditioning staff.
CU doesn’t open its season until Nov. 7. College football and NFL teams that are already playing have dealt with game postponements and cancellations because of COVID-19. CU hopes to avoid issues within its program, but the last seven months have given Dorrell complete confidence in Wilson and the strength and conditioning staff to handle whatever is thrown their way.
“That strength staff has done a really good job of moving with the signs of the time,” Dorrell said. “Whatever has been the protocol for that given week, they’ve been able to adapt and be productive. Whatever it was told that we can do we were able to do. The things that we’re limited on, we’ve got to make the most of what the ordinance was given us at the time.
“Those guys have done a really good job.”