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BOULDER, CO - April 12, 2021:  Colorado head coach Karl Dorrell watches his team during University of Colorado football practice. (University of Colorado Athletics)
BOULDER, CO – April 12, 2021: Colorado head coach Karl Dorrell watches his team during University of Colorado football practice. (University of Colorado Athletics)
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In trying to build the Colorado football program into a winner, head coach Karl Dorrell often looks for little signs of progress.

Monday, he saw one of those signs, as the Buffaloes responded from a weekend off to put together a strong practice.

“That was a great passing of a test,” Dorrell said after the Buffs completed their seventh practice of spring. “I felt good coming off of two days off and really felt like they were locked in and played with great effort, played very competitively. They executed some of the things that we installed today to perfection.”

BOULDER, CO – April 12, 2021: Colorado outside linebacker Joshka Gustav during University of Colorado football practice. (University of Colorado Athletics)

A week ago, Dorrell was not pleased with the effort of the Buffs after a weekend off, but they’ve put together three solid practices since.

“I felt like their attention span was very focused and they felt that too,” Dorrell said. “At the end of practice, we talked a little bit about, ‘Men, if you keep practicing like that, there’s not much that’s going to be able to stop us. If we have a standard you can hold yourself to — a high standard — there won’t be a lot of teams that can get us this year.’ … I think that light bulb is starting to shine just a little bit brighter now.”

Nearly halfway through their 15 spring practices, the Buffs are progressing like Dorrell had hoped, even if they are a bit short-handed in some positions.

“I feel like this team is really starting to grasp the concepts and the things we’re really trying to preach, to get these things as part of our core in our system, both on offense and defense, and special teams,” Dorrell said. “I think we’re growing up a little bit.

“Hopefully we can stack up two more practices like that (this week).”

Getting to that point of growing up means Dorrell and other coaches have to lean on the team leaders to help the squad get ready for practice.

Junior cornerback Mekhi Blackmon, one of the leaders in the secondary, said that message is getting through to the veterans and, in turn, to the younger players.

“You can tell like before we even get on the field, the whole staff is like trying to preach that we have to bring our own energy,” Blackmon said. “The leaders have to step up, so, me and a couple other guys have to get the team going. It’s starting to be like second nature, for as soon as we get on the field, it’s no drop-off. We can’t wait till period 10 to get started. As soon as stretching is over, you’ve got to get ready.”

The Buffs may have received a boost of energy Monday from junior tight end Brady Russell. One of the top players on offense, Russell injured his leg during the second game of the 2020 season and has been slowly working his way back.

Through the first two weeks of spring, Russell participated in individual workouts, but on Monday he went through some team drills, such as seven-on-seven, for the first time.

“He looked good,” Dorrell said. “You can tell his presence was felt offensively, him being one of our more experienced players.”