UCLA is just a few days away from Saturday’s season and Pac-12 opener at Colorado (4 p.m., ESPN2), which means a meeting against Buffaloes first-year coach Karl Dorrell, who was a receiver with UCLA in the mid 80s and was the Bruins’ head coach from 2003-07.
It’s an important opener for both teams that struggled last season, especially with just seven games to be played over the next seven weeks.
Buffaloes first-year coach Karl Dorrell, a former UCLA receiver who was the Bruins’ head coach from 2003-07, knows if his team is going to beat UCLA, it will have to do it against one of its most experienced players in third-year starting quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson.
The Buffaloes have used a backup QB to emulate Thompson-Robinson in practice, but Dorrell knows what he’s up against on game day.
“Mike Chandler is one of our young quarterbacks that has tried to emulate Dorian,” Dorrell said. “But Dorian is a really, really good player. He’s a dynamic player. He’s obviously a tremendous athlete. I think what’s underrated is that he’s a very accurate thrower.
“He can throw the deep ball very, very well and make it effortless. And his ‘escapability’ with what he does playing that position, I think he’s one of the better ones in our conference for sure.”
Thompson-Robinson had an issue with turnovers last season, but what Dorrell sees is a quarterback who matured late in the season and should be even better.
“Watching him on last year’s tape and knowing that he’s made another step going into this year,” Dorrell said. “He is going to be a very, very dynamic player. He is going to be tough to go against, there is no question about it.
“So, from our defensive perspective, we understand we’re going to have to play the length of the field pretty well. We’re going to have to make sure we’re in position to make some plays. That is going to be difficult to do. But we’re forced with the challenge. We’re excited about playing and proving that we’ve made progress from last year to this year. We’ll see how things work out on Saturday.”
The Buffaloes have the opposite situation at quarterback with Sam Noyer, who will be a senior making his debut at the position after playing safety and special teams last year.
The athletic Noyer, 23, was in the transfer portal before deciding to return.
“He gets a call from the new head coach and he is asked to move back to quarterback,” Dorrell explained. “I would say it was probably a surprise to him. But a couple of coaches that are on our staff, (offensive coordinator) Darrin Chiaverini being the most, thought that Sam was a very, very capable quarterback.
“I think his biggest strength is his age, his level of maturity. That really has allowed for him to really hone in and focus in such a short period of time of really digesting our system.”
Colorado was 4-7 last season and UCLA finished 4-8. When Dorrell was asked if this was a game his players wanted to win for him because of his previous stint at UCLA, Dorrell brushed it aside.
He knows it’s crucial for both teams to win game one and get off to a good start.
“I don’t want them to get a win for me,” Dorrell said. “I have hardly mentioned anything about me and my experiences at UCLA. It’s really more our preparation of this first game.
“Obviously, they know the circumstances that are involved, but to me, their approach is business as usual. We need to come out and play with a great effort against a really, really good quarterback and play well to see if we can come out and win this first one. That is what I have been preaching with this team. We want to come out and play well and make this a very progressive season where we get better week after week, and it starts with this first one.”