CU football notes: Busy offseason gave kicker James Stefanou fresh perspective on final season

Kickoff time, TV set for Dec. 11 Utah home date

Washington State players celebrate as Colorado place kicker James Stefanou (48) looks on in disbelief after missing his second field goal attempt in the first half of a Pac-12 Conference game on Saturday afternoon at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash.
Washington State players celebrate as Colorado place kicker James Stefanou (48) looks on in disbelief after missing his second field goal attempt in the first half of a Pac-12 Conference game on Saturday afternoon at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash.

James Stefanou has had far more than his kicking fundamentals to worry about since he last suited up for the Colorado Buffaloes.

The most important and precious of those concerns is a daughter who was born to Stefanou and his wife, Laura, in February. Having a baby had CU’s senior kicker considering the pros and cons of playing college football amid the COVID-19 pandemic a little more intently.

Ultimately, however, Stefanou realized that he didn’t relocate from his native Australia to CU at his age (he turned 33 in April) only to cut short his collegiate kicking career. Also on the rebound from postseason hip surgery, Stefanou is as excited as any of his teammates for the Buffs’ Nov. 7 opener against UCLA after the array of highs and lows that marked his offseason.

“We had a very serious conversation about it and what we planned to do,” Stefanou said. “It stopped family from coming in to visit us. So we had a serious conversation about it. But I always wanted to play that one more year. I was just really, really hopeful and optimistic that we’d get it, and now we’ve got it. I was always going to play this year.”

Stefanou had surgery Dec. 2 to repair a hip injury that cost him the final three games of the 2019 season. He enters the season ranked ninth on CU’s all-time scoring list (fifth among kickers) and said that while his hip would have been ready if the season had unfolded as planned, the delay nonetheless provided an opportunity to get just a little stronger.

“I was ready to go in August. I would have been ready to go,” Stefanou said. “But the delay, yeah, it’s helped. It definitely has helped and has allowed me to get in better shape physically. Mentally, it’s been a little tougher. But I think we’re in a good mindset now. Practice is coming along great as a team and I think I share that with my teammates — right now, we’re just really, really looking forward to get on the field.”

Utah kickoff

On Tuesday, the Pac-12 announced the kickoff times and TV information for all of the conference’s Friday night contests, including the Buffs home date against Utah on Dec. 11. Kickoff will be at 7:30 p.m. MT, with the game airing on FoxSports1.

The Pac-12’s first Friday night showdown will be on Friday, Nov. 13 with Utah visiting UCLA in a game also airing on FS1. The Buffs’ home date against Utah is the final scheduled game of the regular season, though CU is set to play a seventh game the following week against the same-place finisher from the Pac-12 North.

Balancing act

Karl Dorrell balanced a tricky situation as the Buffs’ preseason practices began.

As a first-year coach, Dorrell has a wealth of new schemes and terminology, particularly on offense, to implement in a short amount of time. Yet after having spring practice canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, Dorrell said he was wary about overwhelming his new team with too much information too quickly.

“We started out camp and the first two or three days of install was a lot of information, a lot of volume,” Dorrell said. “I think they digested it well. It was a great start. Now we’re on day 10 and we’re doing more situational play. I think the installs, for the most part other than a few things here and there situationally, are pretty much done.

“But we did have in mind not putting too much on them. We had to make an educated guess just how much as to how much offense and defense we could digest between these 25 practices to make sure it’s well-executed, that they’ve digested it and that we’re ready to utilize it on November 7th.”

Intensifying

Dorrell offered a rave review of Tuesday’s practice for both its duration and intensity.

“It was our longest practice of the fall,” Dorrell said. “It was a great practice. A lot of situational things. Third down, red zone…it was good to get the volume of work we had today. Our guys did a nice job of performing it. We have a few details to clean up but I was very impressed with how hard this group works. It was a good 10th practice and I think we’re headed strongly in the right direction.”