Skip to main content

Woelk: Dorrell Has Steadily Improved Buffs' Depth

Aug 12, 2022

BOULDER — When Karl Dorrell took the reins of the Colorado football program in February 2020, he immediately set about the task of rebuilding the Buffaloes' depth across the board.

Not just names on a chart. Players who could contribute, players who could step up and perform when needed, players who would make sure the dropoff between the No. 1 and No. 2 at any position was minimal.

Now, heading into his third season at the Buffs' helm, Dorrell is moving much closer to that early and ultra-important goal.

The depth on the Buffs' roster is arguably the best CU has had in recent years. There are true position battles throughout nearly every position group — and each group has young players who can step in and contribute.

The importance of such depth is hard to overstate.

It means injuries will not be immediate catastrophes and the Buffs will enjoy the luxury of fresh bodies in the midst of a game. It means competition in practice — and an ever-present reminder that the top spot on the depth chart is never a given.

And, that depth also provides a boost to long-term stability. When the No. 2 and No. 3 positions on a depth chart are constantly pushing No. 1, the foundation for future seasons is improved. Young players know they have a chance to play and push themselves accordingly.

While there are no doubt a few positions where the starters are clear, there are plenty of other spots where competition is fierce — and the overall performance and reliability of the position group has improved as a result.

One of the key spots is inside linebacker, where the Buffs could be better overall this year despite losing a key player to graduation. Robert Barnes, Quinn Perry, Josh Chandler-Semedo, Eoghan Kerry, Marvin Ham II and Mister Williams could all be in position to make contributions this year.

The situation is the same in the secondary. While the Buffs lost three starters in the offseason, CU coaches got young players as many snaps as possible last spring.

Now those youngsters are taking positive steps forward in the fall. At corner, Nikko Reed, Kaylin Moore and Joshua Wiggins are making plays. Tyrin Taylor is settling in at the "star" position.

Meanwhile, there's plenty of competition at safety. While sixth-year vet Isaiah Lewis has one spot in hand, several others — returnees Trevor Woods, Jaylen Striker and Anthony Lyle, along with newcomer Dylan Dixson — are putting their names in the hat for the other spot. Each has shown flashes in camp; the key will be which one can turn those flashes into consistency down the stretch.

One area that has seen tremendous improvement in depth is the defensive line/edge rusher group. Depth on the defensive line is critical, as good teams must be able to rotate in fresh players throughout a game — and the Buffs are much closer now to having a solid group instead of just a couple of solid players.

Senior Terrance Lang can play off the edge or from a down position. Jalen Sami, Na'im Rodman and Justin Jackson have all had good camps in the interior, as has Janaz Jordan. At the edge, Devin Grant, Guy Thomas and Alvin Williams have all made the most of increased repetitions in the spring and more this summer.

Offensively, CU is also building depth in the trenches. Along with returning starters Frank Fillip, Jake Wiley and Casey Roddick, the Buffs are getting solid camps from Noah Fenske, Austin Johnson, Gerad Christian-Lichtenhan, Alex Harkey, Luke Eckardt and Van Wells.

Again, a position where depth is critical and the Buffs are establishing a two-deep that can maintain consistency.

At the skill positions, Colorado is also building depth despite losing some leaders from last season.

Alex Fontenot and Deion Smith should give CU a nice one-two punch in the backfield, Jayle Stacks adds a different dimension and newcomer Victor Venn has made an impression over the last few practices. At wide receiver, returnees Daniel Arias, Montana Lemonious-Craig, Maurice Bell and Jaylon Jackson provide experience, newcomer Jordyn Tyson is making a case for playing time right away, and transfer R.J. Sneed II brings a veteran presence and leadership to the position.

And, of course, there's the quarterback spot, where competition between incumbent starter Brendon Lewis and J.T. Shrout has been intense since Day One of camp. Both have had good moments, both have displayed the ability to move the offense and one major deciding factor will be consistency.

No matter who wins the starting spot, the position will be better this year because of the depth Dorrell and his staff have built, which has created daily competition.

By no means is the job complete. The task of building depth is a never-ending process, one that has become only more difficult in the era of the transfer portal. 

But the difference between when Dorrell first arrived and today is significant. That sends a solid message not only for this year, but for seasons to come.

PRACTICE NOTES: The Buffs were back in shells Friday after three days in full pads, and will return to full pads Saturday for their first major scrimmage of camp.

In Friday's team drills, freshman RB Victor Venn had a nice run … WR Daniel Arias caught a long ball from Brendon Lewis, going up against good coverage to come down with the catch … QB J.T. Shrout had a quick throw to Jordyn Tyson that the freshman turned into a long gain, showing his speed down the sideline.