“Out of left field” is sort of where the hire has to come from for if you strike in every other part of the field. After the longest eight days of his life, Rick George appears to have played it safe. And you know what, I don’t hate it.
Let’s take a look around. Your Colorado Buffaloes have made two bowls in 13 years. The second a coach showed positive progress or momentum, like Mike MacIntyre or Mel Tucker, they were met immediately with overtures from other big-time programs. The Buffs need to show they can win at an average rate for an extended period of time. Karl Dorrell has shown that he can win at an average rate for an extended period of time. He’s not an alum, but he’s coached at CU-Boulder for five years, and coached under Bill McCartney and Rick Neuheisel. He has experience up and down the West Coast, he’s familiar with Colorado, and at the very least, he is a good wide receiver coach. He turned Preston Williams and Devante Parker into one of the best receiving duos in the NFL. He was at least in the room when Michael Westbrook and Charles Johnson became a 1,000 yard duo at CU. And he coached/mentored some young gun by the name of Darrin Chiaverini.
I feel confident in saying that Dorrell will not win 10 games consistently. That was his high water mark when he coached at UCLA, but that was a fluke season in a lot of ways. I don’t think Dorrell has nearly the upside of Mel Tucker. Tucker could’ve grown up to be a star. However, this late in the process, I do think Karl sets a nice floor for what CU should be.
A mediocre bowl team. CU can and should be AT LEAST a mediocre bowl team. Dorrell has shown that he can make that happen. And he has the staff connections to make a bunch of hires happen quickly. Are they good? Maybe. They’re definitely not the exciting young guns you may like, but they’ll beat who they should.
Currently, CU is without an OC, OL coach, LB coach, and DL coach. Dorrell has worked on a lot of staffs and has a lot of connections. For now, let’s assume he is keeping the current staff (though I doubt they all stick around). Here’s what the staff is now:
HC - Karl Dorrell
OC - ?
OL - ?
TE - Al Pupunu
WR - Darrin Chiaverni
RB - Darian Hagan
DC - Tyson Summers
DB - Travarres Tillman
LB - ?
OLB - Brian Michalowski
DL - ?
There are some names for these positions that should excite CU fans. Chris Wilson was already rumored for the DL coach job before Mel Tucker left, and seeing as Dorrell and Wilson are connected, I bet that hire holds. A veteran DL coach who has been successful everywhere he’s been, Wilson has stability. For offensive coordinator, Chiaverini would be a logical promotion, but it’s possible Dorrell calls the plays. He has connections to Chan Gailey, Frank Bates, Rick Dennision, and a few others in the NFL, but I doubt any of them jump ship. The OL coach should be the hardest to replace, as Chris Kapilovic might have been the best assistant on staff in 2019 and he followed Mel Tucker to Michigan State. An obvious connection is Tom Cable, who coached with Dorrell at Colorado and UCLA and is currently the offensive line coach for the Las Vegas Raiders. Cable would be a nice move in terms of scheme continuity and name cache, and recruiting has to be easier with a Super Bowl ring on your hand. LB coach is a bit harder, but Chad Brown wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
All of this is conjecture, but this to me is the biggest strength of Dorrell’s. He has been everywhere, and he has a stellar reputation in the coaching community. He should be able to fill out a staff that not everyone hates in late February. That is a hard feat to do. His results exude mediocrity at UCLA, he’s not a name hire, and he will definitely not excite the fan base. But if he takes CU to five bowls in five years, like he did with the Bruins, then this hire in an unquestioned success.