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Galvanized CU Buffs ready for first test

After numerous changes in offseason, Colorado faces TCU in opener

PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:
BOULDER, CO-April 9, 2022: Head football ...
Head football coach, Karl Dorrell, during the University of Colorado Boulder football scrimmage on April 9, 2022. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff photographer)

Game at a Glance

Matchup: TCU Horned Frogs at Colorado Buffaloes

Kickoff: 8 p.m. MST

Where: Folsom Field in Boulder. Playing surface: Grass

TV: ESPN

Radio: KOA (850 AM & 94.1 FM)

Odds: TCU by 13.5

Series: First meeting

Those within the Colorado football program have heard the noise for nine months.

After a disappointing 4-8 season in 2021, CU lost 22 players to the transfer portal, including six starters. The Buffs changed 60 percent of the assistant coaching staff.

The consensus from prognosticators is that this will be a rough season for the Buffaloes, who are widely projected to finish in the Pac-12 basement.

Through it all, head coach Karl Dorrell, his assistants and the players still in the program have maintained that they’ve bonded through adversity, improved the leadership and are now ready to prove the naysayers wrong.

“We’re happy to be in a position we’re in right now,” CU head coach Karl Dorrell said this week. “Sometimes you have to go through the fire to really refine yourself to being the type of program (you want) and meet those expectations. I think that’s where we are right now. It just took some time to weed out (some players) and get some guys that are committed to playing for this great university.”

On Friday night, the Buffs aim to focus on the noise in Folsom Field – enhanced by a brand-new sound system – as they put their offseason work to the test in the season opener against TCU.

Under the direction of new coordinator Mike Sanford, Dorrell believes the Buffs have fixed an offense that was one of the worst in the country a year ago. Under the direction of returning coordinator Chris Wilson, he believes the Buffs have tweaked the defense to improve upon their performance in 2021.

Most importantly, Dorrell didn’t shy away from the negativity of the offseason. Instead, he addressed it.

“I think it’s always important to learn from those mistakes and those issues that were obviously a disappointment for us a year ago,” he said. “It was something that I think needed to be reached, needed to be talked about, not only with our coaching staff moving forward, but also with our players moving forward.”

While outsiders focused on the players that left the program – including safety Mark Perry, who will be on the field in a TCU uniform on Friday – Dorrell got his players to focus on those who stayed.

“For them to be excited about the future, they had to change that mindset from being a concerned mindset about players leaving to being a mindset about solidarity and galvanizing what’s in the room and what’s in our program and then trusting that coaches are going to bring in the right players to fill in those gaps and to get us to be a competitive program going forward,” Dorrell said as he addressed the crowd at the Boulder Chamber luncheon in August. “Well, let me tell you this, because the players were involved in this as well: We have not only filled the gaps, but we probably, in our mind, we got even better than what has left our program.”

Dorrell understands the reason for last winter’s instability. CU’s current roster still has players who have been led by three different head coaches. Most of those who left last winter were recruited to CU by coaches no longer in Boulder.

“I think a lot of the challenges at this place for a long period of time has been the inconsistency of the head coach in this position,” Dorrell said. “I would say there were expectations from coaches when guys were recruited here from other coaches about what they thought they would be; and it didn’t turn out that way.”

Entering his third season in Boulder, Dorrell believes the Buffs are finally building upon a positive foundation.

“That’s where I think this team is now,” he said.

Dorrell and several players have said the leadership is better than it’s been in the past two years. Dorrell said this team gets along and is closer than in the past.

While the outside noise hasn’t been favorable, Dorrell has spent the last nine months fixing holes and building trust in the roster that will take the field for the first time on Friday.

“If we do things right and we come out the blocks how I think we’re capable of becoming, the mindset of this team is completely different than the last two years,” he said at Pac-12 media in Los Angeles in late July. “I think we finally have a football program.

“We had guys (the past two years) who weren’t as committed. It was always guessing who was going to really show up to play. It’s up and down. Now, I know who’s here. I know who’s going to be stepping on the field because they’ve been so consistent (in the offseason).

“Now there is complete commitment.”

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