UCLA Football Preview: Karl Dorrell Returns to the Pac-12
It will be Dorrell's first game as a head coach since UCLA fired him in 2007.
While it may be hard to believe but this Saturday, we will finally have some college football being played on the West Coast. The UCLA Bruins open their 2020 schedule by visiting the Colorado Buffaloes.
The Buffs will have a new look this season following the departure of Mel Tucker after just one season. Tucker left the school to take the head coaching job at Michigan State. That’s a nice move up for a guy who had a combined 7-10 record as a head coach prior to this season.
In his place, Colorado chose to hire one of the worst coaches in UCLA football history. That’s right, Bruin fans. The Buffs hired Karl Dorrell. When Dorrell was let go back in 2007, he had a record of 35-27 which was skewed by one 10-2 season in 2005. Aside from that season, he was a mediocre 25-25.
Since being fired by UCLA, Dorrell has spent all but one season in the NFL. In 2014, Dorrell landed as the offensive coordinator at Vanderbilt, where his offense was such a disaster that Vanderbilt ran him out of town after just one season.
Now, Dorrell has retained Darren Chiaverini who has been on the Buffs’ staff since 2016. That means Chiaverini is now serving under his fourth head coach including Kurt Roper who served as interim head coach after Mike MacIntyre was fired in 2018. If Dorrell allows Chiaverini to run the offense, he may stand a chance. But, if Dorrell insists on running his horrible West Coast offense, the once-proud Buffs will continue to languish at the bottom of the Pac-12 South.
Of course, that says nothing about Dorrell’s complete inability to recruit. If Colorado gives him a few seasons, he will certainly have Colorado recruiting worse than Chip Kelly.
Dorrell also retained Tyson Summers as Colorado’s defensive coordinator. This will be Summers’ second year running the defense for the Buffs. The decision to retain Summers looks to be highly suspect. That’s because Colorado’s defense went from being ranked 52nd in the nation in 2018 to 104th in 2019. They went from allow 380 yards per game to 441 yards per game, and they gave up 50 touchdowns last season after allowing 39 in 2018.
How bad was the Colorado defense last season? Well, they were ranked close to UCLA’s defense last season. The Bruins were 113th in total defense. So, that gives you a pretty good idea how bad the Buffs’ defense was.
There are two other familiar names about Dorrell’s Colorado coaching staff. Former UCLA defensive backs coach Demetrice Martin has joined the staff as the cornerbacks coach and former Bruin Taylor Embree is the team’s tight ends coach.
Let’s also take a look at the Buffaloes’ Special Teams.
Last season, James Stefanou made 70.59% of his field goal attempts. If Karl Dorrell implements the West Coast offensive as he did at UCLA and Vanderbilt, Stefanou will see plenty of action this season. When he was at UCLA, Dorrell was known for trotting out the field goal team and settling for three far too often. Of course, that becomes a problem when your defense is giving up touchdowns. So, at least, the Buffs have solid college kicker.
The Buffs will have a new punter this season, but whether that will be Australian Josh Watts or Denver native Paulison Fosu remains to be seen. Neither has punted before in college but both are juniors.
Sophomore receiver Dimitri Stanley handled most of the punt returns last season and will probably do that again this year, though senior receiver K.D. Dixon did return a few. Dixon will probably take over the bulk of kickoff returns again this year after leading the team with 16 returns last season. Over three seasons, Dixon is averaging 23.4 yards per return with no touchdowns. His career long is just 38 yards. While that doesn’t necessarily predict future results, it does mean that, so far, he hasn’t been the infamous “dangerous return man.”
So, overall, the most dangerous man on Colorado’s special teams is again James Stefanou, especially given Karl Dorrell’s propensity for trotting out the field goal unit and settling for three. When Dorrell was UCLA’s head coach, he went for the field goal so often that I really grew to despise even made field goals because Dorrell’s offense would sputter their way to another field goal attempt.
And, that wraps up our look at the coaching staff and special teams of the Buffaloes.
Trivia time: What was Karl Dorrell's first game as a college head coach?
Answer: U.C.L.A. vs CU, at Folsom Field in Boulder, Colorado. The more things change...
I was there and briefly met Karl's parents. Lovely people. The Buffs won 16-14. A crappy late PI call (oh, how I have NOT missed you SPTRs) kept a CU drive alive for the winning field goal.
Guess I won't be attending this one, though. Only a limited number of player families are allowed in. FU covid.
I don’t understand the vitriol around Dorrell. As I recall he had the team in contention for the Rose Bowl in 3 of his 5 years. We didn’t beat SC in any of those years I’ll admit (the Reggie Bush years), and I’m pretty sure we lost to Wyoming in the Las Vegas Bowl one of those years. But no other coach since then has come anywhere near the Rose Bowl. Or maybe I’m misremembering, I am getting old.