CU Buffs’ Brady Russell hopes coaching change sparks offense

Buffs head out on the road to face No. 7 Oregon

BOULDER, CO - Oct. 2, 2021: ...
University of Colorado Boulder’s Brendon Lewis gets a pass to Brady Russell against USC during the Pac-12 game in Boulder, Co on October 2, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

Like the rest of his teammates on Saturday, tight end Brady Russell wasn’t in a great mood when he left Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, Calif.

By Tuesday, he was smiling and ready to help the Colorado Buffaloes take on their next challenge. The Buffs (2-5, 1-3 Pac-12) will visit No. 7 Oregon (6-1, 3-1) on Saturday in Eugene, Ore. (1:30 p.m. MT, TV: Fox).

“I feel a lot better than the other day,” Russell said after Tuesday’s practice. “You’re never gonna be happy after a loss, but getting that Sunday to kind of recuperate, watch film, see what you could have done better and readjust and spend some time with God, go to church, get things done. It helped lighten the mood up a little more.”

The mood of the team also changed when head coach Karl Dorrell chose to fire offensive line coach Mitch Rodrigue after Saturday’s 26-3 loss at California. It’s the first time in recent memory, if ever, that CU has fired an assistant coach during the season and it sent a bit of a jolt through the team.

“I think people were not excited coach Rod was gone but just excited for a change,” Russell said, “because obviously, we’ve been awful on offense. I think it’s 130th in yards per game – worst in the nation. So (players) are excited to see a change and hoping that might change how we come out on Saturday. I think it is refreshing for the team.”

The move didn’t only impact the offense.

“I think we all felt it and we’re surprised and not surprised,” cornerback Christian Gonzalez said. “But it was something (Dorrell) felt he needed to do and we’re behind him and we’re gonna ride with what he says.”

Visiting Oregon is not the easiest task for a struggling team, but Dorrell knew he had to shake things up a bit with five games to play.

“It’s a new voice,” Dorrell said. “Just someone that’s different that’s commanding the room and … anytime you get a different way of messaging that’s different than the previous message, sometimes there’s some enlightenment with that. I think our players have really accepted that.”

Russell, who sometimes works with the linemen and line coaches, has accepted it and said the line has responded to new coach William Vlachos and graduate assistant Donovan Williams being in charge.

“The O-line, they’re looking sharp,” Russell said. “We have some new schemes with them and I like the new stuff we’re doing.

“I’ve always liked coach Vlachos a lot, so it’s fun seeing him out there doing his thing because he’s a real smart dude. In the past, I’ve watched film with him and spent time with him, so it’s exciting to see him get an opportunity to show what he can do and instill some of the teaching and things that he learned on a national championship team (at Alabama) here at CU.”

Regardless of who is coaching the linemen, however, Russell said he’s just hoping the offense can figure out a way to produce.

CU ranks 130th in the nation in yards per game (238.1) and 125th in points (15.1). The offense has scored a total of six touchdowns in the last six games and a stunning 37 percent of the Buffs’ possessions this year (29 of 79) have gone three-and-out.

“I think it’s frustrating because I know what we’re capable of, and especially when our running game is struggling the way it is when we have four returning starters,” Russell said. “It shouldn’t be like that. When you go three-and-out dang near every time, it takes a toll on you for sure. That’s why after the game (at Cal) I wasn’t in a very good mood. When it’s week after week like that, it gets old pretty quick.

“It’s a new week, though, so hopefully that’ll change.”