Buffs Present 'Unknown' For UCLA In Opener
BOULDER — Challenges facing a first-year head coach at just about any program are plentiful.
Colorado's Karl Dorrell no doubt fits into that category. Dorrell took over the Buffaloes in late February, then proceeded to see the coronavirus pandemic throw his first season with the Buffs into a blender. The pandemic led to the Buffs' spring session being canceled, a truncated summer schedule, and then a start-and-stop-and-start-again response from the Pac-12 when it came to the actual season.
That's not the perfect recipe for a new coach.
But new coaches to a program also have at least a little advantage in their corner. New coaches in the first game present an unknown to the opponent — and Dorrell will at least have that edge in his favor Saturday when the Buffs open their season with a 5 p.m. matchup against UCLA at Folsom Field.
"It's just the unknown," UCLA head coach Chip Kelly said Monday morning in a conference call with the media. "How much does their offense change? I know their coordinators have stayed the same, but how much does their offense and defense change and the impact schematically Karl will have in those areas. There's some unknown there."
Indeed, while Kelly is familiar with both of Colorado's coordinators — Tyson Summers on the defensive side and Darrin Chiaverini on offense — he has no idea how much Dorrell has changed the overall schemes. Kelly can go back and look at personnel from the last couple of seasons (he's 1-1 against the Buffs), but that can only reveal so much.
"You can't always rely on the film from last year," he said. "It's just one of the unknowns when you play a team that has a new coach in game one. You have to be prepared to make in-game adjustments."
There is also another unknown in the equation for Kelly, as the Buffs are also starting a new quarterback, senior Sam Noyer.
"We know he's a good athlete," Kelly said. "We have to be ready for that."
At the same time, Kelly is trying to make sure his team can shake the slow-start doldrums that have plagued the Bruins in his first two years at UCLA. Not only have the Bruins lost their first game in both years during his tenure, they lost their first five in 2018 and first three last season.
But that wasn't a topic he was anxious to discuss Monday, especially when asked what he has been doing in this year's camp to sharpen his team's focus.
"Our slow starts had nothing to do with not sharpening the focus," he said. "None. We played pretty good teams … and we didn't play well enough to win."
Another area the Bruins have been focusing on is reducing the turnovers by quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson. An electric playmaker with his legs and arm, he nevertheless was plagued last season by giving the ball away. Thompson Robinson, who threw for 226 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-14 UCLA win last year, committed 19 turnovers on the season — 12 interceptions and seven fumbles — to tie him with Southern Mississippi's Jack Abraham for the most in the country.
But in a call with reporters last week, Thompson-Robinson said he had virtually eliminated turnovers in camp thus far.
"I think in year three he has more of a comfort level and understanding (of the offense)," Kelly said. "He's just a more mature and seasoned player. He works really hard at the details of the game …It's comforting to know we have a veteran back there."
BUFFS NOTES: Colorado released its latest depth chart on Monday, with no real surprises. It does include one true freshman at a starting position, Christian Gonzalez at cornerback. Also of note, junior Daniel Arias earned a starting spot at one of the wide receiver spots, ahead of Brendan Rice and La'Vontae Shenault, and Jarek Broussard was listed atop the chart at running back.
Among others getting their first starts at Buffs will be Guy Thomas at outside linebacker and Frank Fillip at right tackle.