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Buffs Head Into Stretch Run As They Prepare For Opener

Aug 23, 2021

BOULDER — Almost overnight, the Colorado Buffaloes' season opener seems to have transformed from a day off in the distance to a point squarely on the immediate horizon.

Now, Karl Dorrell's Buffs have just 10 days before they open the season Sept. 3 under the lights against Northern Colorado at Folsom Field (7 p.m., Pac-12 Network).

That is still plenty of time to hone the edges, a priority for this week.

But next Monday, the Buffs will switch to game week mode and begin settling into the routine of the regular season.

"They can see the light at the end of the tunnel," Dorrell said of his team after Monday's practice, a light workout in shorts and helmets. "School's in, and we don't have the camp mentality in terms of evening meetings, walk-throughs, stuff like that … Still, in my mind, we're still in camp. We have to work to do to get ourselves cleaned up on both sides of the ball and special teams. We'll be tailoring toward cleaning up those things."

The Buffs completed their last major scrimmage of camp Saturday, a workout that gave CU coaches a good idea of how their initial depth chart might shake out. 

This week, they'll use some time to get a handful of players who have been nursing soft tissue injuries back into the regular mix and hopefully ready for the opener.

"We're trying to get those guys ready," he said. "For a guy like (linebacker) Robert Barnes, he'll start to ramp up a little bit more toward the middle and end of the week. We're trying to get some of our health back."

LEADERSHIP BLOSSOMING: Dorrell continues to be pleased with the leadership being built on the team.

"I couldn't be more proud of what this team is doing on their own," he said. "They're starting to take ownership and starting to govern themselves and understand the purpose of everything that we do. It's almost like they don't need us (coaches). That's kind of the goal. I'm trying to get this team to realize that coaches can take you to the water, but you have to drink it."

It is part of Dorrell's process of building a culture that will help take the Buffs to the next level, an area in which he has seen his Buffs grow significantly over the last year.

"Part of what I've asked them to do is govern themselves," he said. "That part took some time to develop and I think those things really developed over the summer in the programs when the coaches weren't around. They really bought into the accountability piece about everybody working hard and doing their jobs and being as detailed as possible. I think that led to a little bit more chemistry on our team."

BROWN'S BACK: Greg Brown, who served as an assistant at CU at a couple of different junctures over the years, is working as a volunteer assistant with the Buffs this season.

Brown last served as an assistant at Purdue. One of his stops at CU came in the 1990s, when he worked on the same staff as Dorrell under Bill McCartney.

"He's the one that's responsible for two of those Jim Thorpe Award winners (Deon Figures and Chris Hudson) that we have in our history," Dorrell said. "He has some time left on his contract, he has family here in the area and he doesn't want to get stale."

Brown grew up in Colorado (his father is the late broadcasting legend Irv Brown).

"He's very familiar with this place so you know he's going to be a guy that we can utilize as a resource and help us on the defensive side. I know him personally so I think it's a win-win for us."

OL DEPTH: Dorrell said he is still pleased with the overall depth of the Buffs' offensive line, noting it is in better shape than it was a year ago. 

Still, they're not where they would like to be at tackle, where projected starter Frank Fillip has been out with an injury and may not be back until the third or fourth week of the season.

"The thinnest area is probably our tackle positions," Dorrell said. 

The Buffs have basically four healthy tackles at the moment. Jake Wiley has built on a solid spring and looks to be a solid bet for a starting assignment in the opener. Others in the mix are Chance Lytle, Gerad Christian-Lichtenhan and Joshua Jynes.

"When Frank gets back, that will give us another boost," Dorrell said.

On the interior, the Buffs have some solid depth, led by returning vets Colby Pursell and Kary Kutsch. Guard Casey Roddick, a starter last year, is rounding back into form and guard Kanan Ray has had his best camp yet with the Buffs. There are also several other young players who are figuring into the depth chart as well, along with transfer Noah Fenske.