Returning senior linebacker Robert Barnes (20) should give CU’s defense some big-play capability.

The Buffs are coming into the 2022 football season with dramatic improvements in strength and conditioning and an overhauled coaching staff.

 

By Neill Woelk

Photos Courtesy of University of Colorado Athletics

 

Year three of the Karl Dorrell era at CU-Boulder will be pivotal for the Buffaloes.

Almost no one expects CU to be anywhere near the top of the Pac-12 standings when the dust settles on the regular season (starting this year, the conference is no longer divided into North and South)—and those low expectations will no doubt be a motivational tool for Colorado players.

Head coach Karl Dorrell brings an 8-10 overall record at CU into his third year at the Buffs’ helm.

The Buffs are coming off a 4-8 finish last year, a step back from the 4-2 record they posted in the Covid-shortened 2020 season. Then came a tumultuous offseason, with CU losing a number of players—including several standout starters—to the NCAA transfer portal, along with a dramatic overhaul of the coaching staff in which Dorrell brought in six new assistant coaches.

Those close to the program are far more optimistic than those looking in from the outside, beginning with CU Athletic Director Rick George. “We have high expectations for this year,” George says. “We’ve got a really good football staff. I think we’ve got solid veterans coming back, and we’ve got some really good young guys on this team. So, my expectation is that we’ll be in a bowl game in December or January, and I think Karl probably has those same expectations.”

Dorrell’s staff makeover was a virtual top-to-bottom overhaul.

To jumpstart an offense that was among the worst in the nation last year, Dorrell hired Mike Sanford as coordinator. Sanford’s resume includes stops at Stanford, Notre Dame and Minnesota, and he wasted no time last spring installing a new offense geared toward creating more balance and taking advantage of the strengths of the Buffs’ skill position players.

Senior running back Alex Fontenot led
Colorado in rushing in 2019.

Colorado does have some difference-makers on the offensive side. Senior running back Alex Fontenot led CU in rushing in 2019 and was second in rushing yards last season while also scoring a team-leading six touchdowns. Senior tight end Brady Russell led CU in receptions and receiving yards last season (25 catches for 307 yards), while wide receivers Daniel Arias, Montana Lemonious-Craig and transfer R.J. Sneed all bring big-play capability to the outside.

Defensively, Colorado lost several key players, including All-Pac-12 linebacker Nate Landman and edge rusher Carson Wells.

But the Buffs added some key players via the transfer portal, including linebacker Josh Chandler-Semedo from West Virginia, who could make an immediate impact. Colorado also returns five of its top 10 tacklers from last season, including the top two—safety Isaiah Lewis and linebacker Quinn Perry—as well as linebacker Robert Barnes, who came up with some key plays to help CU win two of its last four games.

Ralphie VI made her debut as CU’s mascot last season, and just like her teammates, promises to be bigger, faster and stronger this season.

Perhaps the biggest step forward for the Buffs this year has come in the strength and conditioning department. Dorrell calls the Buffs’ improvement in the weight room “astronomical,” and he expects those gains to pay dividends in the fall.

The Buffs play one of the more difficult schedules in the nation this year, beginning with a September 2 (Friday night) home matchup against Texas Christian. CU’s final four games—Oregon, USC, Washington and Utah—are all against teams expected to contend for the Pac-12 title.

 

BUFFS SCHEDULE

September 2 — TCU

September 10 — at Air Force

September 17 — at Minnesota

September 24 — UCLA

October 1 — at Arizona

October 15 — California

October 22 — at Oregon State

October 29 — Arizona State (Homecoming)

November 5 — Oregon

November 11 — at USC

November 19 — at Washington

November 26 — Utah

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