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Colorado head coach Karl Dorrell watches his team go through practice on Saturday. Dorrell and the Buffs have had six practices so far in preseason camp.
CU Athletics
Colorado head coach Karl Dorrell watches his team go through practice on Saturday. Dorrell and the Buffs have had six practices so far in preseason camp.

A week into preseason camp, the Colorado football team is making an impression on first-year head coach Karl Dorrell.

On Thursday, the Buffaloes conducted their sixth practice of the preseason and Dorrell once again praised his team. Perhaps some of it is coach-speak, but Dorrell has remained positive about his teams’ progress, particularly after Wednesday’s day off, which was the first of camp.

“I challenged them today,” Dorrell said. “Today was important for us, coming off of a (day off). Are we ready to continue to climb, or are we going to slide? Our team responded after a day off and had a good, positive day.”

The practice included work on red zone and goal-line situations, as well as other situations.

“I’m putting them through a lot of situations,” he said. “I’m really trying put a lot of stress on them, and they’re responding. It hasn’t been great execution. I would say today 75% of it was really as good as it has been, but there’s much more on their plate now. There’s a lot more information that they’re digesting. And I’m going to continue to stress that more and more, at least for these first couple of weeks. We’ve got to get a great feel of what they can handle.”

As the Buffs get closer to the Nov. 7 opener against UCLA, the coaches will scale back on what they’re throwing at the players, but for now they are still installing the offensive and defensive schemes.

“We’re going to continue to do that at least for another three or four practices,” Dorrell said.

Negative results a positive

Dorrell said the Buffs, who have had six rounds of COVID-19 tests since last Friday, have not had any positive results from those tests.

“We’re in really great shape from a health perspective,” Dorrell said. “I think we’ve got a few nicks and bumps and bruises from practice, but nothing of real significance as of yet. I’m knocking on wood on that. Our team’s in really good health, both from a COVID sense, and from a just bumps and bruises.

“They’ve done a great job of buying into the post and pre-practice stuff that we’re doing in the mornings, and hydrating. I think all of those things are really helping with the injuries. We’ve had a few guys with some soft tissue injuries like mild hamstring pulls and groins, but that’s going to be a given when you’re in camp.”

Staying calm

Throughout a challenging year because of the coronavirus pandemic, Dorrell has maintained a level of calm and positivity. Several players and their parents have praised how the new head coach has handled the situation.

Dorrell said his approach stems from his upbringing.

“I’ve learned it from my mom and dad,” Dorrell said. “My dad was a Naval chief and I spent quite a few days with him when he was in the Navy about how he handled his people that worked underneath him. He was kind of a calm operator that I felt that, even when things got stressful or even when things were great, he was always the same level, in terms of his emotions as he approached his job.

“I just learned that early on in this profession, particularly with this pandemic, you really have to have a mindset of controlling the things that you can control. You can’t worry about things that are out of your control. The next thing is, do the best you can with what you have. And I’ve instilled that with our team. … I think that experience of being around me has helped them deal with those circumstances better, too, so I appreciate that.”

Bowl requirements

Because of the unique nature of this season, in which teams around the country are playing an uneven amount of games, the NCAA has waived the win requirement for bowl eligibility. With few exceptions, there has been a six-win requirement in past years.

Dorrell and tight end Brady Russell both said it doesn’t change the Buffs’ mindset going into the season.

“We’re trying to stack as many wins as we can in this six/seven-game season and put ourselves out there every week to see how we measure up,” Dorrell said. “If you have a winning record, you feel like you’ve merited yourself to be in a bowl game.”

Russell said it’s typically too easy to get into a bowl at 6-6, while acknowledging CU has struggled to even get to that point, finishing 5-7 the last three years.

“I think you should have to be a lot better team than .500,” Russell said. “Now that everybody can do it, I mean, it’ll be fun, don’t get me wrong, but hopefully we’re undefeated and we’re earning it.”


CU is slated to practice on Friday and then will have a scrimmage on Saturday. … Dorrell said he’s pleased with the staff chemistry on the field and the positive relationships being built among coaches. “I couldn’t say anything better about how the staff is working,” he said.