When Karl Dorrell was selected as the head coach at Colorado following the 2019 season, it was not met with loads of excitement. But after one year of the Dorrell era in Boulder, everyone has to be pretty happy.
Colorado won its first four games of 2020 and was in the New Year's Six chase before losing to Utah in their final regular-season game. Even with a decisive loss to Texas in the Alamo Bowl, Dorrell's first year had to be considered a huge success.
Now comes year two and a chance to build the program even further. Here are some things to watch as Colorado opens spring camp.
5 Storylines to Watch During Colorado's Spring Practices
1. Plenty of reps for young quarterbacks
Starting quarterback Sam Noyer will miss all of the spring sessions following recent shoulder surgery. This will give some of the younger signal-callers a chance to show off their skills. Brandon Lewis subbed in for Noyer in the Alamo Bowl and performed pretty well, going 6-for-10 passing for 95 yards. With Noyer coming off that injury and playing his final season for Colorado, Lewis will be looking to prepare himself for 2021 while also making a case to be the quarterback of the future. He will be pushed by J.T. Shrout, a transfer from Tennessee with three years of eligibility remaining.
2. Finding help for Jarek Broussard
Perhaps because the Pac-12 played a shortened schedule or because of an east coast bias, Broussard was one of the most under-appreciated running backs of 2020. The 5-foot-9, 185-pounder from Dallas finished third nationally with 149 rushing yards per game. He also was second with 26 carries per game. That worked fine over a short season, but with a full 12-game slate on the way, Broussard will need a break now and again. Someone has to step up in a reserve role and Ashaad Clayton could be that guy. Colorado's top recruit from its 2020 class, Clayton had just seven carries last fall.
3. Ball security
The Buffaloes turned the ball over 11 times in six games with six of those coming in the final two games. Seven of the giveaways were Noyer interceptions and though he will not be in action in the coming weeks, protecting the football and making the right decisions have to be drilled into the younger quarterbacks. Colorado returns much of their offensive firepower, with a deep receiving corps ready to complement Broussard. The Buffs cannot continue to take away scoring opportunities by turning the ball over.
4. Adapting to the defensive coaching changes
Dorrell shook up the defensive staff, though many of the faces are familiar. The unit will now be run by Chris Wilson, who was the defensive line coach in 2020. Mark Smith will instruct the inside linebackers and comes to Boulder from Long Island University though he also spent time at Oklahoma, SMU, and Arkansas. And safeties coach Brett Maxie has added the title of passing game coordinator. The Buffaloes have much of their defense returning in 2021 and this spring will be a time for these coaches to figure out the best way to utilize their personnel.
5. Linebacker holes
Akil Jones entered the transfer portal and will not be returning in 2021. Also, leading tackler Nate Landman is recovering from an Achilles tear suffered in the Utah game and will obviously be unavailable this spring. While he is expected back in the fall, someone will need to be ready to go in case there is a setback. Landman's injury along with Jones' departure makes linebacker a position to watch for the Buffs this spring. While there is still some experience at the position, youngsters like Joshka Gustav and Mister Williams will see plenty of reps.
— Written by Jon Kinne, who has been part of the Athlon Contributor Network for three years, covering the ACC and Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.
(Top photo courtesy of @CUBuffsFootball)