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CU Buffs have sense of urgency after disappointing season

Head coach Karl Dorrell overhauling coaching staff, building roster after 4-8 campaign in 2021

BOULDER, CO - Oct. 15, 2021: ...
University of Colorado, Boulder’s head coach, Karl Dorrell, before Arizona NCAA football game on October 16, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

In the past month, there have been 38 bowl games played around college football.

Colorado head coach Karl Dorrell didn’t see much of them.

“I was busy doing other things,” he said.

Typically in his head coaching career, Dorrell has spent bowl season preparing his teams for their own game. This season, however, CU (4-8, 3-6 Pac-12) fell short, leaving Dorrell with a sense of urgency to get that corrected for the future.

“It was a frustrating year,” Dorrell said. “There was great expectation early in our season and it was my first season of not going to a bowl. … We didn’t perform at a level that we all expect this program be.”

Dorrell led UCLA to five bowls in five years as head coach of the Bruins from 2003-07. Then, he took the Buffs to the Alamo Bowl in 2020, his first season in Boulder.

Falling short this year is fueling his offseason.

BOULDER, CO - Nov. 20, 2021: ...
University of Colorado Boulder’s Brendon Lewis throws to Daniel Arias against Washington during the November 20, 2021 game in Boulder. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

“When you come off of a disappointing year, I don’t believe in just being status quo going into the next season,” Dorrell said. “I think that sends the wrong message about the expectations that we all have.”

The expectations are for CU to be more competitive on the field and on the recruiting trail. CU’s 2022 recruiting class currently ranks No. 46 on, but athletic director Rick George said the goal is to shoot for the top 25-30.

“None of us are happy with the season,” George said. “We had high expectations and we’ll continue to have those. My expectation is that every year we go to a bowl game and when we don’t we didn’t do what would be my expectations for that team.”

Since the end of the season, the Buffs have revamped their coaching staff. Offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini was fired and outside linebackers coach Brian Michalowski was not retained. Offensive line coach Mitch Rodrigue was fired during the season, and quarterbacks coach Danny Langsdorf won’t be back (he’s reportedly on his way to be the coordinator at Temple). CU also lost cornerbacks coach Demetrice Martin to Oregon.

In the past few weeks, Dorrell has hired Mike Sanford (offensive coordinator/quarterbacks), Kyle DeVan (offensive line), Vic So’oto (defensive line) and Rod Chance (cornerbacks). He will hire a new receivers coach, as well.

“I wanted to make, and with Rick’s endorsement of it, the necessary changes for us to be better as a staff in coaching our players so that we can get a better product on the field,” Dorrell said. “I’m not happy about (missing a bowl game). I want to make the necessary changes to keep us out of this unhappy feeling so that we’re successful in the future.

“It’s important that we continue to move the needle from a coaching perspective and obviously with continuing to improve the depth of our roster and creating better talent and things like that.”

DENVER, CO – September 11, 2021: University of Colorado Boulder’s Quinn Perry tries to get past the block of Texas A&M’s Caleb Chapman during the September 11, 2021 game at Empower Field in Denver. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

Dorrell has made changes with, arguably, the four most important staff positions — offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator, offensive line coach and strength and conditioning coordinator — in the past 12 months. Seven of the 10 full-time assistants from his original staff are no longer with the program.

“I said (to the players) our staff is gonna be a better staff than we had a year ago,” Dorrell said. “We’re going to get a chance to continue to help them develop and meet their expectations.”

Dorrell said the willingness to make changes keeps coaches on their toes a bit, too.

“I want them to coach in a way that they’re trying to get that position to be the best position on the football team,” he said. “If we have that mindset throughout our coaching staff, that elevates everything. We create higher standards, we create better execution particularly in practice and confidence and things like that. That all goes hand in hand.”

CU’s roster is also in the middle of an overhaul, including 14 scholarship players with their names in the NCAA transfer portal. That group includes one of the best players on offense (receiver Brenden Rice) and two of the best on defense (cornerback Christian Gonzalez and safety Mark Perry).

Through the portal, the Buffs have added quarterback Maddox Kopp, from Houston, and will likely add more players.

Although key players are transferring or graduating, Dorrell believes the Buffs have put together back-to-back good recruiting classes to build for the future.

“You kind of have to build your roster so that you have great balance, great depth,” he said. “The program is getting to a point where the depth is really not much far off from top level. … The guys that played extensively last year that were young, they should be better this year. And then those young players coming in we think are talented to really give us some quality depth where there isn’t such a drop-off.”

With the offseason workout program set to begin this month, Dorrell and George know there is still a lot of work to be done, but both are confident the program is moving in the right direction.

“I do know that our fan base wants to win and they want to win now,” George said. “We have a process, we have a plan, and I know Karl’s going to continue to follow that plan and our expectation, as I said before, is we want to win every year, we want to go to a bowl game every year and that’s how we have to be perceived nationally.

“I feel really confident about where this program is going, and we’ve got the right guy leading it.”

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