Dorrell Pleased With Buffs Training Camp Opener
BOULDER — Night and day.
That's how Colorado coach Karl Dorrell described the difference between his Buffaloes' fall camp opening practice Thursday and the fall opener 10 months ago.
"I was really pleased today," Dorrell said of his team's work in shorts and helmets. "I thought today's practice proved to me that they were doing some work over the summer and I was really, really pleased with our effort. I thought our execution was night and day different from where it was when we first started last year in October … This was a tremendous start for our team today."
Of course, last season's training camp — the first under Dorrell — occurred under the most unique of circumstances. No spring ball, a greatly reduced summer session and two months of not even knowing if the Buffs would actually have a season.
But now, life has returned to a semblance of normal. The Buffs enjoyed a productive spring ball session, a solid summer of strength and conditioning under new coordinator Shannon Turley, and hit the fields Thursday with a sense of optimism that left Dorrell in good spirits.
Dorrell is happy with his quarterbacks, in particular freshman Brendon Lewis and sophomore J.T. Shrout, who will engage in what will no doubt be a heated competition for the starting spot.
He's happy with the Buffs' new faces — from the youngsters who are getting their first real taste of college ball to the transfers who may be new to Boulder, but have enough experience that they could become immediate contributors.
He's pleased with the familiar faces, players such as Nate Landman, Jarek Broussard, Carson Wells, Kary Kutsch and Colby Pursell — players who have proven themselves at CU.
And, he's happy with the leadership he saw the first day. That means players communicating, setting examples — and making sure newcomers know the expectations Dorrell and his staff have established.
"It is definitely a better football team than we had a year ago," Dorrell said. "We're going to build off today. It was really really positive."
Directly ahead are five major "installs" of offensive and defensive schemes. That will, Dorrell noted, require intense focus from players — and an area where the veterans will be expected to step up and make sure no one is left behind.
"Each day is a lot of information going in, so these first five or six practices are going to be challenging practices because what we did today is not necessarily what we are practicing tomorrow," Dorrell said. "It's going to be a test from day one and day two into day three."
One major difference between spring ball and fall training camp will be the number of practice repetitions allotted. While Dorrell did his best to make sure everyone received an opportunity to get plenty of quality reps in the spring, that equation will shift to the No. 1 and No. 2 units getting the majority of snaps.
"We only had one period today where it's just the threes," Dorrell said. "We're getting ready to play (a game)."
Indeed, the Buffs' Sept. 3 season opener against Northern Colorado is just four weeks away, with only 24 practices between now and then.
That means just a few weeks to sort out a healthy list of position battles.
LANDMAN BACK: One sight that definitely put a smile on Dorrell's face was No. 53 on defense back on the field. Senior linebacker Nate Landman, who suffered an Achilles injury in the regular season finale last fall, is back and ready to play.
"he's definitely very instrumental for us because he's our most proven player," Dorrell said of the two-time all-Pac-12 linebacker and Butkus Award candidate. "He's practicing and he feels great. Hearing his voice barking out calls and adjustments on the defense … it's very comforting to me as a head coach knowing that when that guy's out on the field."
TRANSFER HELP: The Buffs have six players in camp who arrived via the transfer portal, including grad transfer linebackers Robert Barnes (Oklahoma) and Jack Lamb (Notre Dame).
The others are quarterback Shrout (Tennessee), offensive linemen Max Wray (Ohio State) and Noah Fenske (Iowa) and defensive end Blayne Toll (Arkansas).
"It was good to see a lot of those transfer players kind of get entrenched and see them work," Dorrell said.
ON QBs: It's a question Dorrell will almost certainly field every time he steps behind a microphone, and it didn't take long to come up Thursday.
What about your quarterbacks?
"Brendon and J.T. have both embraced the competition," Dorrell said. They both add different qualities to to the offense and both of them can be very dynamic players," he said. "First and foremost they're great teammates. They're into this football team, they want to lead, they want to do things the way that we're orchestrating ourselves to be."
Last week at Pac-12 Media Day, Dorrell said he hoped to sort out the competition two or three weeks into camp. He hadn't changed that timeline Thursday, noting that he wants to reserve at least the week leading up to the season opener to give his starter most of the practice reps.
SCHEDULE: The Buffs will practice again Friday and Saturday in shorts and helmets, then add "upper pads" to the equation on Saturday. Their first full-pad workout is scheduled for Tuesday, with the first scrimmage of camp set for Saturday, Aug. 14.