There is a new energy level in practice this spring for the Colorado football team.
Some of that has to do with the players, including 12 newcomers and some veterans in new roles. A lot of that has to do with six new assistant coaches.
“They’ve got great rapport (with the players), there’s a lot of energy,” Dorrell said. “That’s one thing I do like about these coaches. They have a lot of energy in their coaching style.”
Wednesday evening was the first of 15 spring practices and Dorrell spent some time observing the new assistants he hired this winter.
“Today was the longest period of individual (drills), so we had 35 minutes of individual and I got a chance to go up and down the field watching all the different segments do their thing,” Dorrell said. “Very focused training and learning and (the coaches are) doing what I thought they would do.”
Four of the five assistants on offense are new, including Mike Sanford (coordinator/quarterbacks), Kyle DeVan (offensive line), Phil McGeoghan (receivers) and Clay Patterson (tight ends). On defense, the Buffs have a new defensive line coach (Gerald Chatman) and cornerbacks coach (Rod Chance).
“They have invested a lot of time with their with their position groups,” Dorrell said. “The practice to me just flew by where we went through all the plays, and there weren’t any shortage of plays. We went through all the different segments really with time to spare at the end of the period. So, I would say the efficiency of the practice has been the best that it’s been since I’ve been here and a lot of is because of the coaching style and really the expectations and the demands of these guys performing. They’re doing what’s expected, so it’s a really good start.”
Asked about young players that caught his attention in the first practice, Dorrell said, “Shoot, there’s a ton of them out there.”
He then proceeded with his longest answer of the press conference, highlighting several newcomers.
Defensively, Dorrell praised freshman inside linebacker Eoghan Kerry and graduate transfer outside linebacker Chance Main. He also praised sophomore cornerback Nikko Reed.
“He played last year, but he’s still a young player,” Dorrell said. “He’s still kind of building off what he did a year ago, being around the football, making plays and disrupting pass attempts.”
Freshman cornerback Jason Oliver also caught Dorrell’s attention, as did junior defensive lineman Na’im Rodman.
“(Rodman) is kind of one of those unsung heroes last year who had a really – even though we had a year where we didn’t win a lot of games, he was one of our more consistent performers last year and he stepped up and did exactly what he was expected to do,” Dorrell said. “He was making plays in the backfield, too.”
On offense, Dorrell’s praise started with sophomore quarterback Brendon Lewis, but he also highlighted redshirt freshman tight end Erik Olsen.
“(He) had a ton of catches today,” Dorrell said. “That’s something that’s rare because the tight end has not been a focal point in this offense in two years and he might have had like seven or eight catches today.
“It’s a different vibe on the offensive side, where I think there’s a community effort about who gets the ball. I thought that the backs out of the backfield caught the ball very well today; there weren’t any drops.”
The only specific play Dorrell mentioned was a 40-yard catch by sophomore receiver Ty Robinson, who reached over two defenders to haul in the pass. Robinson did get nicked up and didn’t finish practice, however.
Certainly it wasn’t a perfect practice, but Dorrell said he was pleased with the number of players who stepped up. When the practice was over, he issued a challenge to the players.
“Individually there’s always something to work on,” he said. “Instead of creating a list of 10 things to try to fix in the next practice, just concentrate on two of them. Work on the two things that you feel are the most important things to fix, get those addressed, and then keep working on your checklist to check those things off. I think they have a pretty good understanding of what I’m saying.”
The Buffs are off Thursday but return to the practice field on Friday evening.