CU pro­jected for fifth-place fin­ish in Pac-12 South di­vi­sion

Daily Camera (Boulder) - - Front Page - By Brian How­ell

In nine years of be­ing a mem­ber of the Pac-12 Con­fer­ence, the Colorado Buf­faloes have been through four head coaches and a whole lot of los­ing.

His­tory sug­gests even in a short­ened sea­son, CU will strug­gle to find the win col­umn, and be­cause of that, it was no sur­prise the Buf­faloes were pro­jected by me­dia to fin­ish fifth in the Pac-12 South di­vi­sion.

The pre­sea­son me­dia poll, re­leased Wed­nes­day, projects Ore­gon to win the North di­vi­sion and the Pac12 ti­tle game. South­ern Cal­i­for­nia was pro­jected to win the South di­vi­sion.

First-year head coach Karl Dorrell knows how out­siders feel about his new team, but with the Buffs’ sea­son opener a month away, he’s filled with op­ti­mism.

“We’re try­ing to get our­selves in that cham­pi­onship seat,” Dorrell said

Wed­nes­day dur­ing the Pac12’s vir­tual me­dia day with coaches. “I know peo­ple are prob­a­bly scoff­ing at that on this call, but that’s our goal.”

CU (5-7, 3-6 Pac-12 in 2019) has fin­ished in the bot­tom two of the South di­vi­sion eight times in nine years, the only out­lier be­ing the stun­ning surge to the di­vi­sion ti­tle in 2016. The Buffs, pro­jected last that year, went 8-1 in the con­fer­ence. The other eight years

com­bined: 12-60.

De­spite the chal­lenges as­so­ci­ated with the coro­n­avirus pan­demic, al­most no ex­pe­ri­ence at quar­ter­back and Dorrell hav­ing yet to con­duct a full prac­tice with his team, he likes the team he’s been hired to lead.

“I still have great as­pi­ra­tions for this team,” Dorrell said. “I know we haven’t had a lot of time to­gether (on the field). … But, we’ve done enough work off the field. We’ve had a lot of time from that as­pect, in terms of the in­for­ma­tion be­ing taught. Now we’re just at that point where we have to put it to­gether.”

As long as the Buffs get clear­ance from Boul­der County Pub­lic Health, they’ll open pre­sea­son prac­tice on Fri­day. Then, they’ll have 25 prac­tices to get ready for a seven-game sched­ule be­gin­ning with a Nov. 7 home date against UCLA.

“We’re go­ing to have to get it tuned up and ready to go to cre­ate a great prod­uct when we line up and go on Nov. 7,” he said. “I think we can do it, I re­ally do, just be­cause of how quickly our guys have di­gested the in­for­ma­tion. They know it, so it’s just a mat­ter of get­ting some prac­tice time and some reps for us to per­form at a high level.”

Dorrell is pleased with the men­tal part of the Buffs’ game.

“That gives us a chance,” he said. “I know their mind­set is in the right place.”

Dorrell was hired Feb. 23 and the coro­n­avirus pan­demic shut down sports less than three weeks later. He never got a chance to go through the 15 spring prac­tices that part of the nor­mal cal­en­dar, and the sum­mer workouts have been al­tered and lim­ited, as well.

He’s not mak­ing ex­cuses, how­ever.

“One thing I told this team, we’re not con­cerned about miss­ing spring prac­tice and things like that,” he said. “I would nor­mally be con­cerned, but I think there’s a lot of pro­grams in our con­fer­ence, let alone across the coun­try, that had short time be­cause of this pan­demic.”

When the Pac-12

an­nounced Aug. 11 it would post­pone fall sports un­til at least Jan­uary, Dorrell gave his team some time off. He main­tained hope, how­ever, the con­fer­ences that were play­ing would have suc­cess and help the Pac-12 get back sooner.

De­spite hic­cups around the coun­try — sev­eral games have been post­poned — many teams have played three or four games at this point. The Pac-12’s in­tro­duc­tion of daily, rapid-re­sults COVID-19 test­ing played a sig­nif­i­cant role in get­ting the con­fer­ence back, as well.

Hav­ing the op­por­tu­nity to play back on the ta­ble, Dorrell said he won’t take it for granted.

“I’m just very ex­cited that our con­fer­ence did re­con­sider and give us the op­por­tu­nity to play this fall,” he said. “As for us here at CU, the play­ers are re­ally ex­cited to go. We can’t take this for granted. It’s a bless­ing to play; it’s a bless­ing to play at a high level.”

Over­all, it’s not a typ­i­cal or ideal sit­u­a­tion, but given the cir­cum­stances, Dorrell will take it and make the most of it. And, he’s con­fi­dent the Buffs’ play­ers will, as well.

“Will we be per­fect? No, but I think we’ll show a great prom­ise early on and I think we’ll build and get bet­ter each week,” he said.

“I know the ex­pec­ta­tions prob­a­bly aren’t there on the out­side of this build­ing, but … we feel we can be a pretty good pro­gram that might sur­prise some peo­ple.”

Cliff Grass­mick / Staff Pho­tog­ra­pher

Colorado’s Brady Rus­sell tries to es­cape Ne­braska’s Mo­hamed Barry on Sept. 7, 2019, at Fol­som Field. Buf­f­

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