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CU's Dorrell Provides Steady Hand As Buffs Return To Work

Sep 9, 2020

BOULDER — Colorado head coach Karl Dorrell continues to provide a steady hand to the rudder as the Buffaloes navigate the uncertain seas produced by the Covid-19 pandemic.

That means taking advantage of every opportunity possible under the current circumstances.

Last week, the Buffs hit the practice field wearing helmets — the first time they have been allowed to do so in the Dorrell era. 

The NCAA recently approved a modified practice schedule for teams whose conferences are not playing this fall, which includes the Pac-12 and Big Ten. The approved schedule allows a total of 12 hours a week for football activities, including time for meetings, strength and conditioning and on-field activities with helmets. No contact is allowed, and no 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 work is permitted.

But teams can conduct individual and group skill sessions, and run offensive and defensive schemes. That is an improvement over the walk-through sessions that were permitted in August.

The 12-hour schedule will be revisited by the NCAA later this month, with possible adjustments on tap as soon as Oct. 4.

The Buffs, from Dorrell down to his staff and players, would no doubt rather be playing this fall than practicing. As Dorrell noted over the summer, this is the first fall in 33 years that he won't be coaching games on the weekends.

But the Pac-12 — along with several other conferences across the nation — postponed the fall schedule until the spring. Currently, no Pac-12 competition is scheduled to resume until at least Jan. 1, although that could change with the recent acquisition of rapid-result testing for every school in the conference.

In the interim, Dorrell isn't waiting to see what might happen. Instead, he is making sure the Buffs use their time as wisely as possible in every regard — and he is even mining some positive nuggets out of the situation.

"Because there is no fall season, we still have football preparation and fundamentals we can do," he said in a recent interview on Sirius/XM radio. "That's going to allow us a little more time than we'd normally have and we're going to take advantage of that with some workshops, building our team, things we haven't had a chance to do."

Indeed, there has been nothing "normal" since Dorrell was named CU's head coach last February. Just a few weeks after he took the reins, the pandemic shut down college sports across the nation, meaning the Buffs didn't even get a spring ball session under their new head coach and staff.

But Dorrell and his assistants also quickly became experts on conducting Zoom meetings and coaching sessions, and he kept his team engaged until players were allowed to return to campus in mid-June for voluntary workouts.

Now, despite the limitations of the current practice rules, he is finally getting a chance to establish his culture on a team-wide basis where it counts most — on the field.

"We have to learn to become a team," he said. "We have to learn what that looks like from an everyday standpoint when you're coming in to train and work out and work against each other. We talk about goal setting, the mission statement for our program. All those things we've talked about briefly, we haven't had a chance to really spend much time doing."

And, he said, he looks at the time the Buffs have together as a chance to develop some chemistry, both on and off the field.

"I look at this opportunity that's in front of us this fall — we're going to get a chance to do a lot of football stuff, which is great," he said. "But it's also going to allow us to kind of build our program. I'm looking at that as a big positive for us."

Dorrell and his Pac-12 peers recently began holding coaches meetings to discuss what the future might hold. While they still have no clear idea what the 2020 schedule might look like in terms of a start date and number of games, one thing they are all in complete agreement about is that they want the next season to be as normal as possible in every respect.

"We want the fall of '21 to be a normal fall of 21," he said. "We want it to be a normal 12-game season, which is what everybody was geared to play this year. We're hoping whatever we do in the spring doesn't impact what the normal fall schedule would be like."