Karl Dorrell has memories as a player and a coach with UCLA, but a trip down memory lane doesn’t appear to be on the agenda for him this week as coach of the Colorado Buffaloes.
The Buffaloes came up winless in nonconference play and Buffs fans are grumbling for a change going into Saturday’s Pac-12 opener against the Bruins in Boulder, Colorado.
Dorrell preached a sense of urgency and improvement during his weekly press conference Monday, a day after Colorado athletic director Rick George released a statement addressed to “Buffalo Supporters.”
George stated that he can “recognize and understand” the fans’ disappointment and frustrations but never mentioned a change in direction away from Dorrell.
“(George) is all in, just like I am all in,” Dorrell said. “We know our fans are disappointed. We are just as disappointed. … I know we can get better and I know we will get better but that’s all part of it.”
Dorrell has mentioned a number of different areas that can help steer the program in the right direction and help earn another victory over his alma mater.
Making sense of the team’s quarterback situation is probably among the highest priorities. The Buffaloes (0-3) used three quarterbacks, including sophomores J.T. Strout and Brendon Lewis, in their last outing against Minnesota.
Strout and Lewis were with the Buffaloes last season but there’s some talk of freshman Owen McCown potentially starting this week.
“I thought he came in when (Minnesota’s) backups were in and played well,” Dorrell said of McCown. “I was really encouraged by that. We are going to turn over every stone about this quarterback position in trying to figure out what’s best for us moving forward.”
UCLA coach Chip Kelly and the Bruins (3-0) are already familiar with Lewis, who was sacked three times in the Bruins’ 44-20 victory in November at the Rose Bowl.
The uncertainty at the quarterback position could work in the Buffaloes’ favor, as Kelly made note of all three having played last week and preparing a plan for each quarterback.
Since 2015, the home team has won each game in the series between the Bruins and Buffaloes.
In Dorrell’s Colorado coaching debut to kick off the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, the Buffaloes earned a 48-42 victory over the Bruins . After a 4-2 season, Dorrell was named the conference’s coach of the year.
If Dorrell is unable to produce a result similar to 2020 against the Bruins, it could lead to his last season in Colorado.
“We been through this before,” Dorrell said. “I’ve been through this before. It’s part of the job and you know when you get into coaching that there are risks. … it comes down to honing in on what you know best … there’s a lot of football left.”
Dorrell has in fact been through this before while leading the Bruins for five seasons. In 2007, the Bruins finished 6-6 overall and 5-4 in the conference before he was fired by then-athletic director Dan Guerrero. The former Bruins receiver finished his Westwood coaching tenure with a 35-27 overall record and 24-18 in the Pac-10.
Dorrell made it clear he isn’t looking to make excuses for the slow start this season, but the Buffaloes are coming off an offseason that saw some of their top playmakers leave for other programs through the transfer portal and changes to his offensive staff.
Dorrell fired offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini in November. Chiaverini is now working as an offensive analyst for the Bruins.
“That doesn’t help me right now with what we have going forward,” Dorrell said about the offseason. “Those are consolations I don’t want to think about. We want to be in the moment with this team. We have a game this Saturday against UCLA and we need to get our football to be as good as it can be.”
With UCLA’s announced move to the Big Ten Conference, Dorrell hasn’t bothered to put much thought into the nostalgia of this potentially being UCLA’s final trip to Colorado for an extended period of time.
“I’m not even thinking about those things, to be honest,” Dorrell told reporters Monday. “I’m concerned about this moment and what I’m doing after this press conference – which is getting right back in the film room and finding ways to play better so we can get a win. … I got so much work that’s important now.”
Donavyn Pellot announced he verbally committed to the Bruins on Wednesday. Pellot is listed as a 3-star athlete by 247sports.
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Pellot is a running back and safety at Silverado High in Las Vegas. In four games, he has 237 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 24 carries. As a receiver, he has 299 yards and four touchdowns on 12 receptions. Pellot also has 18 tackles and an interception this season.
Last season, the 6-foot-1, 190-pounder led Silverado to an undefeated season and Class 4A championship, with 1,229 all-purpose yards and 17 touchdowns on offense and 66 tackles and two interceptions on defense.
UCLA at Colorado
When: 11 a.m. Saturday
Where: Folsom Field, Boulder, Colorado
TV: Pac-12 Networks