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Transfers bring winning mentality to CU Buffs

Six players from Power 5 schools competed for starting roles during camp

Colorado linebacker Robert Barnes, right, runs during practice on Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021.
Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer
Colorado linebacker Robert Barnes, right, runs during practice on Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021.

During the offseason, Colorado’s coaching staff found transfers that have competed for starting roles at quarterback, offensive line, linebacker and defensive end.

It is a group that figures to make an impact on the field, but it’s no coincidence that head coach Karl Dorrell and his staff also found winners.

Six transfers from other Power 5 schools joined the Buffs this year, including linebackers Robert Barnes (from Oklahoma) and Jack Lamb (Notre Dame); offensive linemen Max Wray (Ohio State) and Noah Fenske (Iowa); defensive end Blayne Toll (Arkansas); and quarterback J.T. Shrout (Tennessee).

Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer
Colorado linebacker Jack Lamb during practice on Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021.

“They’ve met the expectations that we were hoping to have, which was building our depth and having some guys with some experience that have played Division I football,” Dorrell said. “All of those guys are really instrumental pieces for us to be successful this year.”

Winning experience could be one of the most important ingredients they add to the Buffs.

In four seasons at Oklahoma, Barnes helped the Sooners go 45-8 with four Big 12 titles and three appearances in the College Football Playoff semifinals. Lamb helped Notre Dame go 33-5 with two CFP appearances in three seasons with the Fighting Irish. And Wray was a part of an Ohio State team that went 33-3 with three Big Ten titles and two CFP appearances in three years.

“We’ve seen it,” Barnes said. “It comes down to guys that have seen it, have seen those first-round guys every single year. We’ve seen what it takes to make it to the College Football Playoff, to win bowl games, to win the conference and it’s hard work. It’s a lot of hard work.”

The transfers have earned some respect because of the work ethic they’ve brought to Boulder.

“Watching practice, you can see that they’re contributing well to the team and adding to that competition, making me better making the other guys better,” CU senior Nate Landman said of Barnes and Lamb, specifically.

Although CU went 4-2 and played in the Alamo Bowl last season, it has just two winning seasons since 2005. For the transfers, that’s quite a change from what they were used to, but Lamb said the Buffs have plenty of talent.

“I came in here and I didn’t really know what to expect,” he said. “Obviously, I expected to have a drop off somewhat from being from a College Football Playoff team and coming to a team that hadn’t been there. … But I was pleasantly surprised to see how good the talent was here, so I think we’re in a good spot.”

Wray also said he wasn’t sure what to expect, but added, “There’s some dudes on the defense and we’ve got some really, really good guys on offense.”

More so than talent, Wray said culture is a key difference between Ohio State and CU.

“The biggest thing is the installation of culture,” he said. “You see Ohio State and you see Notre Dame, they’ve all had the same head coaches forever. Here, having three head coaches in three years is so hard to do and keep up that culture.”

Wray sees Dorrell establishing the right culture, though.

“He’s saying the same things (Ohio State coach Ryan) Day is saying,” Wray said. “He’s saying the same process, he’s telling us the same thing. Once everybody buys in and once everything gets in the way that he wants it to be, we’re going to be a really good team.”

While CU has a long way to go to reach the level of Oklahoma, Notre Dame or Ohio State, the transfers are encouraged by what they see.

“I think we have the potential to win the Pac-12 and do all that and then that’ll put us in a position to get to the Playoff,” Lamb said.