Buffs Hit Ground Running As Training Camp Opens
BOULDER — One down, 24 to go.
Karl Dorrell's Colorado Buffaloes opened training camp Tuesday with their first of 25 practices before their Sept. 2 season opener vs. TCU in Boulder (8 p.m., ESPN), and CU's head coach liked what he saw.
Of course, the Buffs aren't in full pads yet, something not scheduled to happen until next Monday, the sixth practice of camp. And, the only surprise would have been if Dorrell didn't like what he witnessed in the opening practice.
After all, players are fresh, excited and anxious to show their stuff.
The key, Dorrell said, will be how the Buffs are responding midway through camp, when bodies are sore and mental fatigue is rearing its head.
In other words, when the dog days hit. That's when offseason conditioning shows its worth and team leadership becomes imperative.
"Everybody starts and they're anxious and excited and happy and all that stuff," Dorrell said at his post-practice wrapup with the media. "Then, usually by practice 12, it's a different tune because they're getting sore and beat up and tired and all that stuff."
But, he added, he is seeing a difference in this team as he enters his third year at the helm. Call it culture, call it discipline, call it attitude — but he believes there's a marked difference with a group that now knows the expectations of their head coach.
"I think they're showing a level of maturity I haven't seen since I've been here," Dorrell said. "I think they'll be able to handle that piece better about having fast starts and then kind of being erratic in the middle."
One thing Dorrell did want from the opening practice was to see players on both sides hit the ground in stride, picking up where they left off after a solid summer of work. That meant the offense finding its groove quickly in the new playbook installed by coordinator Mike Sanford and the defense displaying a high level of comfort in year two of coordinator Chris Wilson's scheme.
So far, so good.
"I've had a lot of comments from the players offensively just saying they're excited about the system and how it works, how we have answers, how we can get to the best play, how we can go fast," Dorrell said. "Those are all the elements I think I wanted offensively — to be able to push it when I want to and be able to slow it down when I want to. So we're making a lot of progress in both of those areas."
Dorrell also addressed what is almost sure to be the most-asked question of camp — the progress of his quarterbacks.
Unlike last season, when the Buffs hit their first game with just two scholarship quarterbacks, CU has six scholarship QBs to open camp.
But there's no doubt the two in the spotlight are incumbent starter Brendon Lewis and returnee J.T. Shrout, who missed all of last season with a knee injury.
When it comes to the new offense, Lewis no doubt has a jump start after running the show in spring ball while Shrout, still recovering from his injury, was limited in his participation.
Lewis clearly looks at home in the new scheme.
"Sanford's system is very, very comfortable for me," Lewis said. "He makes sure to call plays that fit our personalities, not just calling plays to call plays," Lewis said. "He's getting us in the right situation. It's really fun being able to watch him do what he does."
But Shrout appears more than ready to play catchup and close the gap. He completed some head-turning throws Tuesday and was no doubt happy to be back on the field and cleared for 100 percent participation.
"I'm just going to go out there and manage the offense, get in the right situation and be accurate with the football," Shrout said. "Consistently move down the field and get first downs or touchdowns. I think that's what I can do."
Dorrell said he liked what he saw from both leading quarterbacks.
"B-Lew looks solid," Dorrell said. "Really good presence, good command. The things I saw in spring practice, just one more step of being more comfortable than he was even in the spring. J.T. was excited because he had his first full practice … He made a play today and got all excited, 'Oh man, I love football.'"
Much, much more will no doubt be reported about the quarterback competition as camp proceeds. But Dorrell also noted that he saw some quick progress in other areas.
Defensively, the Buffs came up with a some turnovers, a huge focus in camp after CU produced just 13 takeaways all of last season. And, he saw his offense put up some big plays — another areas in which Colorado must improve after recording just 30 plays of at least 20 yards all of last season.
"I like where we are," Dorrell said. "It was a good start."
BUFFS BITS: Dorrell said his team's depth is the best it has been since he took the reins in 2020 — something that will be invaluable in areas such as creating pressure on the quarterback. The Buffs will need a host of quality edge rushers to keep that pressure on consistently, and Dorrell believes that will be a critical element for the defense — especially one that will be young in the secondary … One newcomer's name that popped up a couple of times in post-practice interviews was incoming freshman wide receiver Jordyn Tyson, who has some impressive speed and is already showing a knack for getting open in a hurry.