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Rooney: Competitive spirit on display during CU Buffs spring showcase

With many expected contributors on sideline, Karl Dorrell lauds Buffs’ grit

BOULDER-CO- April 22: Daniel Arias, left, ...
Daniel Arias, left, takes off with a pass on Kaylin Moore during the University of Colorado Boulder Spring football game on April 23, 2022. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

It would be easy to dismiss the big revelation Karl Dorrell says he discovered this spring about his Colorado Buffaloes football team as a Captain Obvious sort of moment.

After all, competitiveness should be part of the base expectations within any big-time college football program. Being wowed by a competitive spirit usually is part of the price of admission.

Yet there was Dorrell on Saturday afternoon, holding court at Folsom Field while raving about his team’s competitiveness. With a 2022 season unlikely to arrive with a wealth of outside expectations for the Buffs, CU fans should at least be encouraged by the grit.

Following an overhaul of the roster as well as the coaching staff, that competitive spirit is a good place to start when hitting the reset button.

“Their love for the game is really being apparent now. The love of the game,” Dorrell said when asked what he learned about his team over the entirety of spring workouts. “I think they really thoroughly enjoy competing. I think that whole process built itself from what they did this offseason in their strength and conditioning program. I love that they like to compete about the game.

“There’s no issues about how long practices are or how much physical work we’re doing. Those are the last things that they’re even thinking about. They just want to compete and get better and win games. Right now, the attitude is about getting better to win games.”

On Saturday, the Buffs capped spring workouts with the annual spring showcase, in many ways the first proper spring game — complete with fans in the stands and a run from Ralphie — since Dorrell was hired weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic derailed everything two years ago. Given the typical spring game vanilla play-calling, along with a who’s who of expected front line contributors watching from the sidelines, this was in no way a relevant preview of the 2022 CU Buffs.

This was mostly a skeleton crew on display at Folsom. No Alex Fontenot. No JT Shrout. No Terrance Lang. No Chase Penry. No Isaiah Lewis. No Ty Robinson. The list goes on. Come September, Dorrell might be able to pencil in a starting lineup compiled mostly of players that watched Saturday’s festivities. It wasn’t a JV game. But it was awfully close.

On one hand, Dorrell being impressed with his team’s competitiveness could raise an eyebrow. The easy question would be to wonder why Dorrell wasn’t confident in such a base trait in the first place. But, much like the pandemic-caused tumult following his hiring two years ago, this spring was closer to a glorified getting-to-know-you session than a program ready to build on an established foundation.

This spring marked the first live on-field action for six assistants that came on board since the 2021 season ended five months ago. That list includes four offensive coaches (coordinator/quarterbacks coach Mike Sanford, tight ends coach Clay Patterson, receivers coach Phil McGeoghan and offensive line coach Kyle DeVan) tasked with reinventing one of the worst offenses in the nation last season. Before the more skeptical of Buffs fans scoff at Dorrell’s praise of his team’s competitiveness, keep in mind there were times last season — certainly not always, yet far too frequently — when the competitive spirit on that side of the ball could easily be questioned.

There was no monumental 2022 forecasting to be gleaned from Saturday’s workout. Quarterback Brendon Lewis was solid, but nothing has changed in his pending battle with Shrout and Drew Carter, as well as Houston transfer Maddox Kopp, for the starting nod. The defense certainly looked sharp, but as Tad Boyle often says when trying to analyze his basketball team’s intra-squad scrimmages, that also means someone on the other side of the ball wasn’t getting the job done.

When it comes to analysis, this was neither the time nor the place. So if it was the Buffs’ competitiveness that stood out to Dorrell over the past month, so be it. CU will need plenty of it if they hope to turn heads this fall.

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