The Colorado Buffaloes enjoyed a breakout season. They came out of nowhere to go 4-1 and nearly won the Pac-12 South. For their success, first-time head coach Karl Dorrell has been named Pac-12 Coach of the Year, and sophomore running back Jarek Broussard won Offensive Player of the Year.
Dorrell came into an impossible situation at CU. He replaced a one-and-done Mel Tucker, filled out his coaching staff very late in the coaching carousel, somehow maintained the majority of the roster and recruiting class, and then, after all that, he barely met his players before the pandemic.
This was supposed to be an in-between year for the Buffs, but because of a stellar coaching job and breakout performances on the field, they overachieved. Dorrell’s players are truly excited about the job he’s done this year and the culture he’s building in Boulder.
If Dorrell winning COY is surprising, Jarek Broussard winning OPOY is getting struck by lightning in your bedroom. He wasn’t even on the preseason depth chart, yet he won the starting job and became an instant star. Maybe CU’s best big play running back in twenty years, Broussard put the offense on his back as he averaged 163 yards per game, the second most in the nation.
Broussard, the first Buff to win conference OPOY since Chris Brown in 2002, was on pace to rush for 1,951 yards and 7 touchdowns in a 12-game season.
Colorado had six players named first or second team All-Pac-12, including Broussard as one of two players on the first team.
Nate Landman was the second player listed on the first team. He was the heart and soul of the Colorado defense, the stability and intimidation on the inside, and a playmaker when his team needed a big play. He tore his Achilles against a Utah — which is probably why he wasn’t named to the Butkus semifinalist list — but not before he racked up 53 tackles, 9 tackles for loss and 4 sacks. There’s an argument he should have won Defensive Player of the Year over Talanoa Hufanga, but the USC safety did have 62 tackles, 4 interceptions and 3 sacks.
Colorado had four players named to the second team: QB Sam Noyer, OL Will Sherman, DL Mustafa Johnson, and AP/ST Jaylon Jackson.
Sam Noyer was famously converted from QB to safety in 2019, tried to transfer out of CU, but was brought back to compete for the starting job. To everyone’s surprise, however, he was really effective moving the ball over the middle of the field. Less surprising was his ability to run the ball, which he did with reckless physicality and toughness.
The entire Colorado offensive line was great all season, but Will Sherman was the only one healthy and consistent enough to be named all-conference. As the Buffs’ o-line battled injuries on the interior, Sherman’s job as a pulling tackle was essential to Broussard’s breakout season.
Mustafa Johnson was named All-Pac-12 for the second time in his career. Previously a first team selection, Johnson didn’t quite have the same numbers as he did in 2018, but he was critical in freeing up his teammates to make plays. CU had an elite run defense and a surprising pass rush, much of that is credited to Johnson’s disruption as a 3-4 defensive end.
Jaylon Jackson was the final second teamer, which would be another pre-season surprise. He was a special teams ace in 2020, using his elite speed and ball tracking to lead Colorado’s much-improved punting and kickoff coverage. It speaks volumes to Jackson’s heart that he’s overcome multiple career-threatening leg injuries to become such a valuable team player.
Omitted from any of these selections is Carson Wells, the Buffs’ outside linebacker who absolutely should have been named first team. In just five games, he had 4.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss, plus an interception and 4 passes defended. His disruption behind the line of scrimmage was irreplaceable for a defenses that needed big plays to win tight ball games. He was CU’s second best defender and third best player overall. It’s a shame he was shunned by the Pac-12 voters.