CU Buffs’ Karl Dorrell building player in-roads despite pandemic distancing

Karl Dorrell’s introduction as Colorado’s next football coach lasted just one month before the coronavirus pandemic forced him to physically distance from his team.

Talk about bad timing.

“Honestly, we really didn’t get to know him well at all,” senior CU defensive end Mustafa Johnson said.

Dorrell managed to host a seniors-only meeting prior to the NCAA shutdown where players like Johnson “got to know him a little more personal in a smaller setting,” he said. But it wasn’t until the Buffs returned to Boulder starting June 15 for voluntary workouts that many players had a chance to interact with their new coach, and still, at a distance.

“I’ve seen (Dorrell) at some of the workouts watching some of the groups,” senior safety Derrion Rakestraw said. “I think he’s done a good job of showing us who he is, even through the Zoom meetings we had going on the last couple of weeks. I feel like we got a good feel for what kind of coach he is and the things that he expects out of us.

“I know he’s fired up to get out there on the field and all of us are, too. I like him a lot.”

The Buffs’ early connection with Dorrell, players say, is a byproduct of his commitment to transparency within the program. A recent national rise in student-athlete social activism, which sparked Mississippi to change its state flag, has not gone unnoticed among the Buffaloes. While Rakestraw said he does not sense major player unrest at CU, he knows Dorrell’s office door will be open should team issues arise.

“He preaches a lot about transparency,” Rakestraw said. “Whenever one of us has an issue, we know we can go to Coach Dorrell and tell him about what’s going on. He’s going to do his best to get that issue resolved.”

It’s yet to be seen whether Dorrell’s leadership style will translate to victories. But CU players are already sensing a culture shift — even without a more personal touch from their new head coach.

“It’s definitely a big change from Coach (Mel) Tucker, and I think it’s a good change, too,” junior tight end Brady Russell said. “It’s been cool to see the different things (Dorrell) has brought from the NFL and the different experiences that he’s had. … He will tell us every single thing that is happening and everything that’s going on with the program. If someone is doing something they shouldn’t, he’ll call them out in team meetings.

“He’s just really transparent and I think that’s a cool part of his coaching personality.”