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Dorrell Wants Strong Spring Finish

Apr 20, 2022

BOULDER — With 13 spring practices in the books and just two remaining — including Saturday's Spring Showcase at Folsom Field — Colorado coach Karl Dorrell wants the Buffs to finish with a flourish this week, then use that momentum as a springboard into what will be a critical summer session.

"We just have to finish strong now," Dorrell said after Wednesday's workout. "Collectively, there's been so much gain and growth that happened over these last 13 practices. It will show on Saturday when fans get a chance to see it and it's a good place to be, getting out of spring, being in the position we're in."

The Buffs had a healthy list of priorities heading into the spring and they utilized every minute possible to achieve their objectives. They have made big steps in the process of installing new offensive coordinator Mike Sanford's scheme and have also made significant progress in identifying potential replacements for departed starters.

And, where possible, they have developed some depth, bringing along young players who should be able to step in next fall and contribute.

The term "young players" has a new meaning these days, thanks to the extra year of eligibility granted because of the 2020 Covid season, as well as redshirt rules that allow a player to participate in up to four games and not lose a year of eligibility.

Colorado thus has a host of players who are in their second and third years in Boulder and have some playing experience under their belts, but are still technically sophomores or even freshmen.

Wednesday, he used outside linebacker/edge rusher Alvin Williams as an example. Williams is entering his third season in Boulder, has played in eight games and has lettered twice — but is still just a sophomore.

He has also had a solid, consistent spring and figures to be in the mix for some significant playing time next fall.

"He's still a young player in terms of his years, but he's been around and been in our system for a good bit of time," Dorrell said. "It's good to see those guys step up and let their natural instincts go a little bit more because they're confident. They know what they're doing and they're playing faster. When they're playing faster you really get a chance to see their abilities."

The Buffs have seen a number of those young players step up this year on both sides of the ball — and in places where they need to replace starters and establish depth. That includes wide receiver, linebacker and defensive back.

"We need to just continue building on the success of some of these guys," Dorrell said.

Saturday's Spring Showcase will be conducted under a scrimmage format, with the No. 1 offense facing the No. 1 defense and the No. 2 units squaring off. Because the Buffs are lacking depth at some places — especially the offensive line — Dorrell said he hopes to get in about 65 plays.

"We're going to have some fun," he said. "It was really a good spring. We have two more practices to go and I want to finish strong and show our fans what to look for in the fall. There's definitely some promising stuff we're doing and we want to showcase that on Saturday."

The Showcase will begin at 1 p.m. and will be televised by the Pac-12 Network.

BUFFS NOTES: While four of CU's offensive line spots seemed to be solidified this spring, Dorrell said the battle at center between Austin Johnson and Noah Fenske has been a good one. 

"Austin and Noah both together have made huge steps of improvement," Dorrell said. "Austin is a totally different player than what we saw last fall."

The other spots on the No. 1 unit this spring have been manned by guards Tommy Brown and Casey Roddick and tackles Jake Wiley and Frank Fillip.

Dorrell also said true freshman OL Travis Gray has made solid strides this spring …

Sophomore Nikko Reed, who had a kick return for a score last year against Utah, continues to get work on both return units. The Buffs also plan to use wide receiver Chase Penry — who has been out with injuries this spring — as a return specialist next fall, along with Jason Oliver and Maurice Bell …

Quarterback J.T. Shrout has been limited to 7-on-7 work this spring, but Dorrell said they hope to have Shrout cleared for all activity by the time the Buffs return to campus in June for summer workouts.