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CU Buffs’ Karl Dorrell begins preparing for 2021 season

Head coach looking for new defensive coordinator and strength coach

Colorado head coach Karl Dorrell during Alamo Bowl walkthrough on Sunday, Dec. 27,2020.
Courtesy of the Alamo Bowl
Colorado head coach Karl Dorrell during Alamo Bowl walkthrough on Sunday, Dec. 27,2020.

The airplane ride from San Antonio to Denver isn’t too long, but there was a lot running through the mind of Karl Dorrell when he made that trip on Dec. 30.

On the previous night, his first season as Colorado’s head football coach came to a close with a 55-23 loss to Texas in the Valero Alamo Bowl.

Shortly after the game, on that plane ride and in the days since, he has been consumed by one main thought: “How far we have to go.”

On Friday, Dorrell conducted a virtual press conference, his first meeting with media since the bowl game. As he said the night of the game, the loss to Texas, which capped a 4-2 season, was “a good measuring stick of where we are as a program and we’re not close to where we need to be.

“When I was on that plane ride home, it was getting the necessary adjustments for us to be as good as we can be moving forward. We’re still going through that. We’re working as a staff upstairs with trying to comb through every detail: what the season was and where we need to go moving forward, but definitely not where we need to be right now. … We’ve got a long way to go.”

Dorrell opened his media session by saying that 2020 is “long passed” and he’s moving on to preparing for 2021.

Part of that includes not only personal and program reflection, but some major changes on staff, players leaving the program and players coming in.

Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer
Colorado is searching for a replacement for Drew Wilson, center, who was the strength and conditioning coordinator for five years at CU.

Since the bowl game, Dorrell has decided to move on from strength and conditioning coordinator Drew Wilson, who had been with the program for five years but had an expiring contract. He also elected to fire defensive coordinator Tyson Summers, who has been with CU for two years and had a year to go on his deal.

There could be more changes coming.

“I’m trying to get our program to be as good as it can be, at a level that it should be,” he said. “I’m evaluating every area that’s in and around that supports our football team, and trying to bring out the best results or to come out and have the best results for our players when we line up and play.”

Dorrell said there is some urgency to replace Wilson, because players are returning to campus this week.

“That’s first and foremost right now, because our offseason program has got to start up here quickly and we need to have that in place, so that’s close to being done,” Dorrell said. “We went through a pretty good process of trying to hire the right coach for our strength and conditioning.”

Dorrell will take some time on replacing Summers. Dorrell was hired on Feb. 23 and had some urgency to get his staff in place for the expected start of spring practice about three weeks later (those practices were, of course, canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic).

This time around, there is no rush.

“I’m looking inside and evaluating our current guys that are already in the building and there is some interest from people outside,” he said. “Actually quite a bit of interest from people outside. I have a little bit more window of time to work with (this year). I’m going to make sure we do it in a good manner that’s well thought out.”

Dorrell said he felt there were positives with the defense this season, particularly in the first four games, but he said, “We’re gonna make sure that the next person that’s in that position will do a great job of just bringing our defense forward.

CU Athletics
Defensive coordinator Tyson Summers was let go earlier this week after two years at Colorado. Head coach Karl Dorrell is in the process of finding a replacement.

“There’s a number of things that we need to fix and re-examine and really try to tailor to the skill set of our players that are in the program. Those are things we’re going to work on and continue to be kind of a driving force for us to be as good as we can be defensively.”

Although no changes to the offensive staff have been announced, Dorrell is taking the same approach on that side of the ball.

“There’s a number of things that we can clean up offensively, even though there were some real positive things that occurred and we all know what those things were and who those people were, so offensively we have enough on our plate to continue to improve,” he said. “Defensively, really a very similar thing.”

In addition to evaluating staff and players, the Buffs will evaluate schemes and all other areas of the program as they look forward.

“We’re gonna use (the 2020 season) as a reference point, but really 2021 is a whole new year with a whole new objective, and a whole new standard of how we do things,” he said. “For us to get those things accomplished, it’s gonna take a great level of commitment both from our staff and from our players.

“We’re back to starting the process over again. I think we made some positive steps last year, and still got quite a ways to go. We’ve got a good nucleus of players coming back. We’re gonna need to develop and get better in a lot of different ways.”