After 13 months, Karl Dorrell finally gets first spring practice with CU Buffs – The Denver Post
Three months after Colorado’s 2020 football season came to a close, the Buffaloes returned to the practice field on Monday.
Head coach Karl Dorrell said the players were excited. He appeared to be, as well.
“It feels great. It really does,” he said after the Buffaloes’ first practice of spring. “I think all of us, coaches included, are happy to be out and getting to coach their positions and me getting the chance to look over things.
“They know that today was the start of, really, the 2021 season. … It’s an exciting time, it really is. I think they’re all pretty pumped about it.”
Thirteen months after he was hired, Dorrell finally got to conduct a spring practice with the Buffs, after the 2020 session was canceled because of COVID-19. Although players weren’t in pads, Dorrell felt they brought “good energy” to the field.
“Obviously a lot of guys that are wanting to start off spring practice on a very positive foot,” he said. “We saw a lot of good things on both sides of the ball.”
Coming off a 4-2 season, which ended with a 55-23 loss to Texas in the Alamo Bowl on Dec. 29, it’s an important step as Dorrell and his staff strive to develop depth on the roster.
“We’re trying to get everybody reps,” he said. “That’s what spring is for is getting everybody reps, so it’s good to see some of those younger players, particularly the guys that came in here mid-year at the start of the semester, getting some reps.
“I was very pleased with everyone’s effort. Everyone’s trying to make plays, everyone’s trying to get coached up on the defensive side of the ball with the new calls and stuff like that. Offensively, there’s a lot of new faces out there.”
At quarterback, returning starter Sam Noyer isn’t participating because of offseason shoulder surgery, but Dorrell liked the start by the other three on scholarship: returning freshman Brendon Lewis, true freshman Drew Carter and Tennessee transfer J.T. Shrout.
“I thought J.T. had some positive things today for the first time operating in the huddle,” Dorrell said. “Brendon Lewis is confident. I think the bowl game has really helped him in his confidence. He looks like a totally different guy out there now, since he had that experience in the bowl. Drew Carter, I thought he did some really positive things. You can tell it’s a new offense, a completely new process for him going on.”
After the loss to Texas, Dorrell said it was a game that showed CU has plenty of work to do in order to get better. Dorrell said Monday he didn’t mention that loss before practice, but that the team shares his urgency.
“They understand we can’t be like we were last year,” he said. “Plus, I keep preaching to these guys for the last few months here about 2021 has nothing to do with 2020. … You can sense there’s a little bit more energy and passion about really getting things right. I mean, they’re trying hard to get things right, doing things the right way.”
On both sides of the ball the Buffs have made some changes to the scheme.
Offensively, Dorrell said the Buffs were “a little bit bland” with motion and shifts last year and that they’re doing more this year. On the first day of practice, Dorrell said, “I thought we did a pretty decent job offensively in executing a few of those things.”
Defensively, the Buffs have a new coordinator (Chris Wilson) and new terminology.
“I felt it was a pretty positive start with a lot of the changes we made defensively,” he said. “We’re putting a lot of pressure on the defense already.”
In all three phases, Dorrell said, “We’re trying to address the things we’re trying to be better at, that we didn’t show as much last year. It was a good start for that.
“You can tell that they’re champing at the bit. They have high expectations of themselves.”
On Monday, CU announced team awards for the 2020 season, with linebacker Nate Landman taking home two of the main honors.
Landman was honored as the overall team MVP, while also being voted by fans as the Buffalo Heart Award winner.
Running back Jarek Broussard was named as the most outstanding player on offense; outside linebacker Carson Wells as the most outstanding on defense; and receiver Jaylon Jackson was honored for his work on special teams. Cornerback Christian Gonzalez and receiver Brenden Rice shared the award for outstanding freshman.
Other awards went to receiver Alex Smith (offensive scout player of the year); defensive tackle Jayden Simon (defensive scout player of the year); outside linebacker Joshka Gustav (academic excellence); defensive end Terrance Lang (outstanding team leadership); and defensive lineman Mustafa Johnson and Noyer (best interview, as voted by media).
Dorrell said the coaches won’t install the entire defensive playbook this spring, but there’s a learning curve with the new terminology. … The Buffs are scheduled to practice every Monday, Wednesday and Friday through April 30.
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