Videos posted by the Colorado football program over the past couple of weeks have shown a group of players energized by the start of the offseason strength and conditioning program.
“The offseason is going really well,” head coach Karl Dorrell said last week. “They’re working hard. There’s some great camaraderie that’s going on.”
Generating energy in the weight room this time of year is common, but what gets Shannon Turley excited is the quality of work being done as he goes into his second season as the Buffaloes’ director of football sports performance.
“It’s really an exciting time for us with the new offseason starting because we don’t have to teach as much,” said Turley, who was hired by the Buffs about a year ago. “The players know where the standard is. They understand the expectations, and more importantly, our priorities and the work that we’re trying to get done. There’s less installation, and there’s more competition for us the second time around.”
Turley came to CU as a highly regarded strength coach. He was twice named national strength coach of the year during his tenure at Stanford, from 2007-19.
The Cardinal were coming off five consecutive losing seasons, including 1-11 the year before Turley was hired. Working for coaches Jim Harbaugh and David Shaw, Turley helped Stanford to six 10-win seasons and three Pac-12 titles.
Stanford went 4-8 in Turley’s first season with the Cardinal — the same record the Buffs had last year in his first season in Boulder. He had a similar first season at Missouri (4-7) in 2001 when he was a graduate assistant. In his last three years with the Tigers, he was promoted to assistant director of the strength program and they went to two bowls in those three years.
Now, he’s striving to help CU rebuild as Missouri and Stanford did.
“I feel well prepared for (the challenge),” he said. “(Five years at Missouri) helped prepare me obviously, for the challenge at Stanford and it’s the same one here. So I understand what it looks like and hopefully third time around, I’m more equipped and can be more productive and efficient and get us to results and achievement earlier and at a higher level.”
Turley’s program is renowned for limiting injuries, but during his first season with the Buffs, several players dealt with ACL tears, Achilles’ tendon tears, etc.
“Frustrating, disheartening, disappointment, personal responsibility — it’s all of those things,” Turley said. “I take a lot of pride in it and consider myself a tremendous asset to our players and program in that aspect of injury prevention. It’s our No. 1 priority, so if I’m gonna say that to our players, if I’m going to preach it to recruits, then we need to live by the results. So it’s certainly frustrating and I’m looking forward to helping these guys in their rehab. That’s a group I work very closely with personally right now.”
Turley added that it does take time to build players’ bodies and limit the injuries, so he’s hoping year No. 2 produces better results.
“Everything in that realm is going to take time,” he said. “We tried (in 2021) to emphasize that and prioritize that and it wasn’t good enough. We’ve got to do a better job, we’ve got to get better results. That’s how we’re measured. That’s why I’m so excited about this offseason, because it won’t be the same as it was last year, because we get so much more quality of work. And then you can heap on the quantity of that. And that will really start to show its impact over time. I would expect we’ll see a marked improvement this season as compared to last.
“We’ve got to keep our best players available in practice and games and that improves our chance to win.”
The process for the 2022 season began last month. Turley, his staff and the players are in the midst of a nine-week program leading up to the start of spring practices, scheduled to begin March 29.
“It’s really exciting to get a chance to start anew,” he said. “It’s a clean slate. We get a chance to push ourselves, to hold ourselves accountable to a higher standard, and recognize that anything we did last year, no matter how successful we may have been or not, it’s not good enough this year. You have to start over and you’ve got to build the foundation. It’s a challenge I really enjoy.”
Turley and Dorrell developed a plan this year to fit the 15 spring practices into a four-week window instead of five “to try to feel that cadence where it was more like the season.”
In doing so, the Buffs created more time in the offseason to prepare for spring ball, which Turley said changes the dynamic of his program, with the hope of seeing a positive result in spring.
The Buffs are currently in a four-week phase that is “speed and power focused” and that will be followed by a three-week period leading up to spring ball.
“(In those three weeks), we really transition with our eyes towards spring ball and creating tremendous competition for those roles and opportunities to make it happen on the field,” he said.
Heading into his second year with the Buffs, Turley believes a transformation with the Buffs is taking place. He and the players are more comfortable with the program, but it also helps that Turley and Dorrell are aligned in their values and vision.
“It’s a collaboration,” Turley said. “I’ve enjoyed tremendous support from coach Dorrell in that and am excited to continue to build on it and be able to enhance what we’re doing as we try to continue to climb.”