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Dorrell Likes Progress Of Young Players

Apr 13, 2022
Buffs RB Jayle Stacks has had a consistent, productive spring.

BOULDER — With spring ball now hitting the home stretch, Karl Dorrell's Colorado Buffaloes are putting in some solid full-contact work, while still staying mindful of trying to keep injuries to a minimum.

Wednesday — CU's third straight practice in full pads — the Buffs turned their focus to goal line and red zone work. Dorrell and his staff devised a scoring system for the red zone session, with the defense taking the early lead before the offense closed strong to get the win.

But more importantly, Dorrell is seeing progress on both sides of the ball from players who are vying for more playing time, particularly from those who are getting extended snaps this spring because of injuries to "regular" starters.

"Some of these guys that haven't played so much, the light bulb's coming on," Dorrell said. "They're really starting to close the gap with the guys that are starting."

Among those Dorrell mentioned were edge rushers Alvin Williams, Zion Magalei and Jamar Montgomery, running back Jayle Stacks and inside linebacker Marvin Ham II.

None were starters last year. Ham and Montgomery played 138 snaps on defense, Williams played 38 and Magalei appeared in one game for one snap. 

Stacks, meanwhile, appeared in six games on offense, getting one rush and one reception.

But this spring, they are all getting some extensive time, thanks either to the absence of returning starters who are limited by injury or by transfers/graduation.

Dorrell has been particularly pleased with the effort of his group of edge rushers — a place where Colorado struggled to be consistent last year. The Buffs registered just 15 quarterback sacks last year, the lowest total in the Pac-12.

This spring, they are showing signs of making big improvements in that number. While the defense had just one in last Saturday's scrimmage — from Williams — they did manage to get pressure more often and force some early and errant throws.

"I think that's kind of that chip on their shoulder, trying to prove they're better than they were a year ago," Dorrell said. "They're making that progress.  Alvin's been a very strong edge presence for us. Jamar Montgomery, he's played some but he hasn't played a lot, he's having a very good spring. We have more depth on those edges so we can now play a 60-minute game and feel like there won't be much dropoff in terms of the pass rush."

Williams played in all six games for the Buffs as a freshman in 2020, but was hampered by injuries last season and played in just two.

Now healthy, he's having a productive, consistent spring.

"He's really showing up, you saw it in the scrimmage last week," Dorrell said. "He's in the backfield, he's putting pressure on the quarterback. It's good to see that. We're excited about the transformation he's making. He's now a big factor in what we're doing on the defense moving forward."

Ham is also a player who has shown promise in the past but hasn't always been healthy. This spring, he's been a mainstay inside with the No. 1 defensive unit alongside Quinn Perry and Robert Barnes.

"He's been here a few years and he's having his best time of football that I've seen since he's been here," Dorrell said. "He's getting a lot of reps and it's paying off for him."

Another youngster who has made big strides this spring is safety Trevor Woods, who played 138 snaps last year, but came on strong at the end of the year.

This spring, he's been running with the No. 1 unit since the beginning. He had a nice play Wednesday in goal line work, helping turn a play inside that was stopped for no gain.

"The biggest jump that he's made is his discipline, and his man-to-man coverage skills," safeties coach Brett Maxie said earlier this week. "He has a natural feel for the game. He has probably the best hands that I've ever seen for for safety."

Stacks, a 5-11, 235-pound sophomore, is also getting plenty of reps out of the backfield this spring, thanks to some injuries and departures. He has had a consistent spring and has shown the ability to be a dependable receiver out of the backfield as well as a powerful runner.

"He did some really positive things (in Wednesday's workout)," Dorrell said. "Jayle has been a guy that has been a little bit more consistent. Whenever he's out there, he's made plays happen. It's been surprising to all of us, but we're excited."

Another area in which Dorrell said he's seen solid, consistent progress is the offensive line. While the Buffs lost two starters from last season, the line this spring has gelled quickly.

"Our offensive line is a different group than it was a year ago, I can tell you that for sure," Dorrell said. "In a way, they have a chip on their shoulder, too. That competition up front is fierce."

SCHEDULE: The Buffs have six practices remaining — two more this week, then four next week, ending with the April 23 Spring Showcase at Folsom Field (1 p.m.).