UCLA opens against Colorado, ex-Bruins coach Dorrell
A Pac-12 season that was in doubt of being played at all finally gets underway for UCLA and Colorado on Saturday night in Boulder, Colo.
The Bruins hold a stability advantage with Chip Kelly returning as the head coach, while the Buffaloes have their third head coach in the last three years. Mike McIntyre was let go after a disappointing 2018 season and Mel Tucker was hired away by Michigan State after just one season with the Buffaloes.
Now it is Karl Dorrell, a former UCLA head coach, leading the CU program. He is going into the season somewhat blind after the pandemic forced the cancellation of spring practice and there were no non-conference games to work out the kinks.
Dorrell played for the Bruins in the 1980s and was the coach from 2003-07, going 35-27 before being fired, and he downplayed the meaning of playing against his alma mater and former team.
“It’s been a while, 13 years I guess, since I was on that sideline,” Dorrell said last week. “So I would say no special significance.”
One of his most important decisions early was naming a starting quarterback, and he is going with senior Sam Noyer. Noyer was switched from quarterback to safety last year by Tucker and entered into the transfer portal last winter before coming back to Colorado.
He won the starting job over Tyler Lytle.
“We had three weeks to make a decision without any spring practice and you feel like you’re missing a period of time to do a complete evaluation,” Dorrell said. “But the season’s upon us and Sam, we felt that operationally, he is just a little bit better at this point in time.”
The Bruins, on the other hand, return an experienced starter at quarterback in Dorian Thompson-Robinson. The junior threw for 226 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-14 win over the Buffs last year but overall he struggled with turnovers in 2019, throwing 12 interceptions and losing seven fumbles.
Thompson-Robinson will be under center on Saturday night and he has three returning wide receivers and a returning running back to work with.
“Everybody knows exactly what they’re doing on exactly every play,” Thompson-Robinson said. “So I expect to get off to a fast start, I expect everybody to move off the ball a lot faster and get to their spots a lot faster and I think that will turn everything around.”
The mystery for UCLA is what to expect from CU. The Buffaloes retained their offensive and defensive coordinators but Kelly doesn’t know how each unit will attack his team.
“It’s just the unknown,” Kelly said Monday morning in a conference call with the media. “How much does their offense change? I know their coordinators have stayed the same, but how much does their offense and defense change and the impact schematically Karl will have in those areas. There’s some unknown there.”
–Field Level Media