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CU Buffs’ Karl Dorrell eager to work with new OC Mike Sanford

Colorado head coach said Sanford’s ‘body of work’ stood out during hiring process

Minnesota offensive coordinator Mike Sanford Jr. during the Gophers football practice at Huntington Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)
Minnesota offensive coordinator Mike Sanford Jr. during the Gophers football practice at Huntington Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

In the nearly three weeks since Colorado hired Mike Sanford as its new offensive coordinator, head coach Karl Dorrell has heard the criticism.

“I know that there’s been kind of a mixed feeling about him,” Dorrell said Thursday when he met with the media alongside athletic director Rick George.

Despite Sanford not being retained after two seasons at Minnesota, Dorrell is excited to work with him and said the 39-year-old is a good fit for CU and that he aligns more with Dorrell philosophically than former coordinator Darrin Chiaverini, who was fired after this past season.

“Most of my career has been from certain families of offense, and (Sanford) has certain families of offense, too, that he’s had success with,” Dorrell said. “In my career, 37 years of coaching … I’ve learned a lot of football in that span of time and what I liked about what (Sanford) was able to do, he’s been in a West Coast system. He’s been in some other systems with Chris Petersen, some other places that have been very successful. I kind of like more variety in that background, whereas I don’t think Darrin had as much variety in terms of his growth and where he was. It did matter to have a little bit more substance in your background of a number of different things that he’s done.”

CU (4-8, 3-7 Pac-12) is trying to fix an offense that ranked 129th out of 130 schools nationally in yards (257.6 per game) and 121st in points (18.8 per game).

Dorrell said that while Minnesota didn’t want to bring Sanford back, he assessed Sanford’s entire career.

“I looked at his body of work,” Dorrell said. “Doing my research and looking at him and among a number of other candidates what I felt more importantly than anything is that I felt like he’s had a pretty good track record developing the quarterback.

“He’s had good success, really good success as of having productive offenses. Every place he’s been he’s had a quarterback or two that had opportunities to play in the NFL that have done some really positive things in their careers. What I was looking for was a developer and then a guy that can mold a roster into having some success. Those are the things that stood out to me.”

During Sanford’s two years at Minnesota, the Gophers were a run-heavy offense, but that’s been the general philosophy of their head coach, PJ Fleck. Dorrell said the Buffs don’t intend to be as run-heavy as the Gophers.

“I’m a former receiver, (Sanford) is a former quarterback,” Dorrell said. “We want to throw the football; we do want to throw the football. And I feel like with his experience in other places, and plus how we’re building this offensive staff, he’s going to have some really good influence in the passing game.”

When Sanford was hired, CU didn’t announce which position he would coach. Chiaverini coached receivers, but Sanford has been a longtime quarterbacks coach. And, CU has not officially parted ways with quarterbacks coach Danny Langsdorf.

However, Dorrell and George both said Thursday that the Buffs are in the process of hiring a new receivers coach. Coupled with comments praising Sanford’s track record of developing quarterbacks, it seems likely that Langsdorf won’t return to the staff.

Earlier this week, Bruce Feldman of The Athletic reported that Temple is expected to hire Langsdorf as its offensive coordinator.


Sanford is one of four new assistants hired this offseason. The Buffs also hired Rod Chance (cornerbacks), Kyle DeVan (offensive line) and Vic So’oto (defensive line). “In my opinion, our football team got better in December when we hired these coaches,” George said. … CU anticipates and expects a balanced budget for the 2022 fiscal year. … George said CU sold a record 14,000 student ticket passes this year. … CU’s athletes had a 3.12 cumulative GPA last semester. It was the 15th consecutive semester over a 2.9. There was a record of 29 student-athletes with a 4.0 GPA.

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