Sophomore safety Mark Perry said the Colorado Buffaloes are feeling confident going into the season opener against UCLA.
CU Athletics
Sophomore safety Mark Perry said the Colorado Buffaloes are feeling confident going into the season opener against UCLA.

Despite an unusual year that’s led to shutdowns, cancellations and postponements because of the coronavirus pandemic, Colorado head football coach Karl Dorrell is confident his team is ready to roll.

CU is scheduled to open its season Saturday at Folsom Field against UCLA (5 p.m., TV: ESPN2).

The Pac-12 is the last Football Bowl Subdivision conference to get started this year and it will be CU’s latest season opener since 1918, when it began that season Nov. 16 because of the flu pandemic.

“This team has been pretty resilient,” Dorrell said Thursday after the Buffaloes’ practice. “If I’m a betting man, I’m going to say we’re going to play really well. I’m very confident that these guys are excited to play. I know that they’re really working hard on mastering the information for us to execute well on Saturday night, so I’m very anxious to watch them play.

“I think that they’re deserving for some success. They’re deserving for achieving the goals and aspirations that they set for themselves. I think they’re going to be excited about playing and I don’t have any question that they’re gonna play hard.”

Throughout preseason camp, CU players have expressed their belief that the team has stayed focused and gained confidence as the season approaches.

“We feel really confident,” sophomore safety Mark Perry said. “Everybody knows their assignment, knows their job. We’re confident that everybody on the defense knows what they have to do. I feel like this year, we took it a big step just knowing our assignments. I feel like we’re ready to play this first game. I can’t wait to show everybody what we’ve been working on.”

For the players, it’ll be their first game in nearly a year, since Nov. 30, 2019, at Utah.

Dorrell, meanwhile, has been in coaching for more than three decades, but he is returning to a head coaching role for the first time since his tenure at UCLA from 2003-07. He expects to have his emotions in check Saturday night.

“Pretty locked in for a game; that’s usually how I am as a coach,” he said. “It’s different when you’re a player than a coach, but pretty focused on what I need to get done in terms of what I think are the keys of the game, really seeing if we’re executing on assignments both on the offense and defense side from a schematic standpoint; paying attention to the clock; all those different things. I’ll probably be pretty locked in.”

Preseason All-Conference

Two Buffaloes were represented on the preseason All-Pac-12 first team, as voted on by media who cover the conference.

Defensive lineman Mustafa Johnson and linebacker Nate Landman were both first-team selections. Johnson was one of four defensive linemen selected and Landman one of three linebackers.

CU didn’t have any second-team selections, but three who received honorable mention (named to at least four of 22 ballots): running back Alex Fontenot, receiver KD Nixon and offensive lineman Will Sherman.

Nixon’s role

Nixon is the lone senior among the offensive skill players and he’s had some big plays in his career. His name hasn’t come up much during preseason camp, but offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini said that’s not because Nixon isn’t playing well.

“I think you haven’t heard his name as much as because there’s been a spotlight on some of the other guys, as far as articles being written or something has been put online,” Chiaverini said, “but KD is one of our leaders in our room.”

Nixon is the top returning receiver, producing 35 catches for 465 yards and three touchdowns a year ago. In his career, he’s caught 89 passes for 1,128 yards and seven touchdowns.

The versatile Nixon could see playing time in a variety of spots on the offense.

“You’re gonna see him inside and outside and also see him in different spots,” Chiaverini said. “I’m excited for his future. He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. He’s been great with those young receivers and he’s really matured over the last couple years. KD’s obviously a veteran guy that’s very, very versatile.”

Notable

CU has named Johnson, Landman, Sherman and tight end Brady Russell as captains for this week. Dorrell will be naming captains each week. … Dorrell said Thursday was a good practice for the Buffs. “There’s always something to clean up here and there,” he said. “We’ve got another day to do that, so we’ll be ready to roll on Saturday.”