In a recent staff meeting, Colorado receivers coach Phil McGeoghan quickly brought up a video of St. Louis Rams running back Marshall Faulk running a route during the early 2000s.
“It was probably off a VHS somewhere,” tight ends Clay Patterson joked. “Tell him you want to see something and he literally has a cut-up about anything you’ve ever seen in your life.”
McGeoghan and Patterson are both in their first seasons with the Buffaloes and they are part of a revamped staff that is bringing much-needed change to the offense.
One of the worst offensive teams in the country last season, CU (4-8, 3-6 Pac-12) scored just 18.8 points per game while averaging only 257.6 yards.
Head coach Karl Dorrell dismissed four of the five offensive assistants. He then hired Mike Sanford as coordinator and quarterbacks coach and Kyle DeVan to coach the offensive line, as well as McGeoghan and Patterson. Running backs coach Darian Hagan was the lone holdover.
“I’m relieved to know and feel good about the level of experience in that room right now,” Dorrell said. “They’ve done a great job of really melding all the ideas into our system. They’re good listeners. I think that’s another thing that’s really important, but they all have input in what we’re doing and that’s what makes it such a great investment on their side. They actually feel like they have some skin in the game. They have some thoughts that are being instituted and they’re really doing a great job of putting those things together.”
Sanford and Patterson worked together at Minnesota for the past two years, but the rest of the group is working together for the first time. By all accounts, it’s been a process that has energized the group and the Buffs.
“We get in the room and we have a base and we have a start,” Patterson said. “Mike has a vision of what he wants and then we collaborate together to make that. We’ve all been in a ton of systems with different signals, different huddles, different calls, different ways to do it. We built (CU’s offense) together and it was a lot of fun, to be honest with you.”
In addition to the wealth of experience Dorrell has gained in his career, the Buffs’ offensive staff is loaded with a variety of experience and ideas.
Sanford and Patterson both have several years of experience as coordinators at different stops and both have been head coaches. McGeoghan has a dozen years of experience as a receivers coach, including eight years in the NFL. Hagan has institutional knowledge as a former CU player and is now in his 12th season as the Buffs’ running backs coach (2006-10, 2016-current). DeVan, 37, is the youngest of the group, but has gained experience in a variety of roles in six previous stops since 2013.
“It’s been fun to have this many minds and to learn,” Patterson said. “As a football coach, you’re always growing and we’ve been able to grow as a staff and the staff is awesome. It’s great people and great guys to be around.”
Those minds have come together to build an offense CU hopes can be more productive than it was a year ago. So far, the players are enjoying it.
“It’s been really fun how coach Sanford and the staff have implemented it,” sophomore quarterback Brendon Lewis said.
Junior quarterback JT Shrout missed last season with a knee injury but said the changes on offense have been positive.
“I’m loving it so far,” he said. “It’s very quarterback-centered. There’s a lot of control and a lot of elements that we have to take ownership of and really understand in order for us to function and execute well on the field.
“I think we’re going to be pretty multiple and it’s got a lot of elements from different offenses (Sanford) has been in. It’s kind of got some stuff that I’ve been a part of and some new stuff that I haven’t so just learning it and really mastering it over the next few months up towards fall camp is gonna be huge for us and for all the quarterbacks.”
In addition to the quarterbacks, CU’s running backs, receivers and tight ends have expressed their excitement about the changes.
“I love what (Sanford) is doing,” senior running back Alex Fontenot said. “We have so many options. He’s just spreading the ball out, giving it to all the playmakers. That’s what we’ve been wanting to do and we’re finally getting to do it.”
The true impact of the changes, of course, won’t be known until the Buffs play games in the fall, but for now, they are off to a good start and enjoying a much-needed jolt of energy and ideas.
“I think it’s gonna be something that people are going to enjoy seeing because it’s fun to see coach Sanford in this element and put all the systems he’s been in into one and build it with him,” Patterson said. “It’s gonna be very multiple and it’s been really fun to collaborate that. … You’ll see all those dimensions of our offense as we build this thing. And the best thing is, we’re not set in stone into, ‘We have to be this, we have to be that.’ Whatever our personnel allows us to be we’re gonna be able to do that in this system, which gives our kids the best chance to be successful.”