Five keys for CU Buffs football entering Karl Dorrell’s second season as head coach

Colorado begins its second season under head coach Karl Dorrell on Friday night with a home game against Northern Colorado. A year after a surprise run to the Alamo Bowl, here’s what the Buffs need to do in order to produce a repeat performance:

1. Real or mirage?

Quarterback Brendon Lewis combined for 168 yards passing/rushing with three touchdown drives in the Alamo Bowl a year ago during his college debut. He appears to have all the physical tools (6-foot-3, 215 pounds) to reinvent CU’s offense. But the Buffs absolutely need Lewis to stay healthy after Tennessee transfer QB J.T. Shrout endured a season-ending fall camp injury, because the depth behind him is thin.

2. Ground control

Running back Jarek Broussard, the reigning Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year, is in line for another big season. But don’t forget about Alex Fontenot — the Buffs’ 2019 leading rusher — who is back from a hip injury after missing all of last year. A strong CU running attack will take some pressure off Lewis and open throwing lanes downfield.

3. Exceptional genes

Wide receiver Brenden Rice, the son of NFL legend Jerry Rice, had a solid freshman year with six catches for 120 yards and two touchdowns. Rice also returned an 81-yard punt for a score. Expect his production to rise with a more significant role. The Buffs receiving corps is young.

4. Defensive strength

Linebacker is the strong point of CU’s defense behind Nate Landman and Carson Wells. Landman is returning from a torn Achilles. The Buffs also brought on a pair of transfers at linebacker in Robert Barnes (Oklahoma) and Jack Lamb (Notre Dame). First-year defensive coordinator Chris Wilson has the personnel to get creative.

5. Dorrell’s big test

Give Karl Dorrell credit for earning Pac-12 Coach of the Year honors in a shortened pandemic season. However, a complete 12-game schedule will better determine if the Buffs chose their next head coach wisely after Mel Tucker’s surprise exit to Michigan State. Dorrell has talent to work with this season but lacks depth at several key positions.

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