BOULDER — Karl Dorrell, as you’d imagine, did not take it well.
Not his first-ever eight-loss season as a college football coach. Not his first-ever losing season in conference play. Not an offense that was historically inept. Not the headlines.
And certainly not his first-ever squad, after six bowl berths in six seasons at UCLA and with CU, that didn’t wind up reaching the postseason.
“I’m not happy about it,” the Buffs football coach said during a media luncheon this past Thursday.
“And that’s the tough part of this business. It’s a business that it’s about being productive and winning games, and, you know, being competitive.”
The 2021 Buffs, en route to 4-8, were competitive early (Texas A&M) and late (Oregon State, Washington, Utah). But CU was mostly a mess in the middle, failing to score at least 15 points in half of its games. The scoring clip was so anemic that Dorrell fired offensive line coach Mitch Rodrigue in the middle of the season and let go of popular offensive coordinator and Buffs alum Darrin Chiaverini shortly after it ended.
“I want to make the necessary changes to keep us out of this unhappy feeling so that we’re successful in the future,” Dorrell explained. “So it’s important that we continue to move the needle from a coaching perspective.”
Dorrell hasn’t just moved the needle. He’s shoved that thing into the La Plata Mountains.
If there’s a theme for Dorrell’s third winter at the helm, it’s this: change.
Half of Dorrell’s full-time staff could be completely new by the start of spring ball. And, thanks to the transfer portal, as much as 15-17% of his roster could be donning CU gold and black for the first time this fall.
He’s gotten to pick his offensive coordinator, his defensive coordinator and his strength coach, arguably the three most important support positions on an FBS coaching staff. Health permitting, Dorrell will open camp in August with a quarterback room that’s got at least twice as many bodies as were available during the 2021 preseason.
After a late hiring in February 2020, COVID-related delays, transfers, bowls, firings and schizophrenic results, the Buffs, for better or worse, will finally have more of Dorrell’s stamp on them in 2022.
So why are some CU fans, especially the ones active on social media, wondering if that’s necessarily a good thing?
Transfers: Yep, it’s a lot
It’s the portal.
When it comes to transfers, specifically the sheer number of guys high-tailing out of Boulder County, it’s probably too soon for Buffs faithful to throw their arms up in panic.
But it’s not too soon to raise an eyebrow. And some questions.
From Oct. 1 through this past Thursday, at least 12 Buffs football players had either entered or announced their intent to enter the NCAA’s new transfer portal, based on the database maintained by 247Sports.com.
If that seems like a high number for that short of a stretch, it is. Among Pac-12 programs over that span, only USC (14) and Washington (13) have seen a larger exodus than the Buffs, and both of those programs recently went through a coaching change.
“In a lot of respects in the portal, as we know, that’s a new element that’s going on right now, that no one really has a great understanding of all of the facets of it,” Dorrell said. “And then kids, particularly how it’s been set up this year, with guys going in, and the reasons for going in — and some of it’s related to playing time, why they want to go to another place, some of it’s related to (the fact that) they want more than just the playing time.”
More context: CU saw only three players hit the portal from Oct. 1, 2020 and Jan. 6, 2021, although another four Buffs, most notably wideout K.D. Nixon, entered the portal from Jan. 10-17, 2021. CU has lost three expected starters to the portal since Thanksgiving: safety Mark Perry, cornerback Christian Gonzalez and wideout Brenden Rice, son of NFL legend Jerry Rice.
At least two former 4-star prep prospects on CU scholarships, as rated by 247Sports, had entered the portal since October. The Huskies, with the departures of four 4-stars, are the only Pac-12 school to have seen more than two over the last three-plus months.
“We have to continue to create opportunities and avenues for us as we move forward, to be competitive in all those markets,” Dorrell said. “So that’s something that we’re kind of working ourselves through right now.”
Staff changes: Also a lot
Those avenues could include adding at least one full-time portal “analyst” dedicated to monitoring transfers, Dorrell said. While some tweaking isn’t new for his football staffs, this much tweaking is.
From Year 1 at UCLA (2003) to Year 2 (2004), Dorrell, the then-Bruins head coach, welcomed at least three new assistants, including a change-over at offensive coordinator in Tom Cable. Dorrell only made one change before the spring of 2005 in Westwood, at defensive line.
So the fact the Buffs are bracing for at least four new assistant coaches for Dorrell’s Year 3 at CU, or 40% of his full-time staff, is new.
And it could be as many five new faces by the spring if quarterbacks coach Danny Langsdorf is, as reported by Bruce Feldman of The Athletic, leaving to become the new offensive coordinator at Temple.
“The coaching side, just as much as the player side is too, when you come off of a disappointing year, I don’t believe in just being status quo going into the next season,” Dorrell explained. “That sends the wrong message about the expectations that we all have.
“So I wanted to make, with (athletic director) Rick (George’s) endorsement of it, the necessary changes for us to be better as a staff, in coaching our players, so that we can get a better product on the field … I want them to coach in a way that we’re trying to get that position to be the best position on the football team. And if we have that mindset, throughout our coaching staff, that elevates everything.”
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