Spring Practices … First Look: Coaches (Offense)

Program Note … Spring practices will begin February 23rd (Spring “Showcase”: Saturday, March 17th, 1:00 p.m., Pac-12 Networks). Leading up to spring ball, previews have been posted for each unit of the 2018 Colorado roster.

Previously posted: QuarterbacksWide ReceiversTight Ends/FullbacksRunning Backs … Offensive LineDefensive LineLinebackersDefensive BacksSpecial Teams


Coaching Staff

Coaches no longer with the team …

— Brian Lindgren … Co-offensive coordinator in 2016-17 … Quarterbacks coach since 2013

— Jim Jeffcoat … Assistant coach, defensive line coach since 2013


Coaching Staff, 2018 season … 

— Mike MacIntyre, head coach

— Darrin Chiaverini, Co-offensive coordinator / wide receivers coach / recruiting coordinator

— Klayton Adams, Co-offensive coordinator / offensive line coach


— Kurt Roper, assistant coach, quarterbacks

— Darian Hagan, assistant coach, running backs

— Gary Bernardi, assistant coach, tight ends and H-backs

— D.J. Eliot, Defensive coordinator / outside linebackers coach

— ShaDon Brown, defensive passing game coordinator / secondary coach

— Ross Els, assistant coach, inside linebackers / special teams coordinator

— Kwahn Drake, assistant coach, defensive line

— Ashley Ambrose, assistant coach, cornerbacks

— Drew Wilson, Director of Football Strength and Conditioning

2017 Statistics … Offense

— Rushing offense … 157.2 yards per game … 74th nationally

— Passing offense … 260.4 yards per game … 39th nationally

— Total offense … 417.6 yards per game … 48th nationally

— Scoring offense … 26.4 points per game … 81st nationally

— Third Down conversion offense … .418 … 46th nationally

— First Downs … 271 … 53rd nationally

— Sacks Allowed per game … 3.25 per game … 122nd nationally

— Turnovers Lost … 14 … 19th nationally

Spring coaching – Offense

Darrin Chiaverini – Co-offensive coordinator / Wide receivers coach / Recruiting coordinator

Take a poll of CU fans, and the coach most likely to win a popularity contest would be Darrin Chiaverini. CU’s co-offensive coordinator is affable, approachable, and best of all, successful.

Chiaverini has played a large role in turning around CU’s recruiting, with the last two Classes far more impressive than those who came to Boulder before “Coach Chiv” hit campus just two years ago.

Last season, Chiaverini shared the co-offensive coordinator title with Brian Lindgren, with Lindgren doing the play-calling. This year, Chiaverini will share the co-offensive coordinator title with offensive line coach Klayton Adams … with Chiaverini doing the play calling.

One the one hand, it’s a daunting task.

Colorado loses one of its most productive running backs in school history, with Phillip Lindsay graduating as CU’s all-time leader in both all-purpose (5,675) and yards from scrimmage (4,598). The Buffs also lose three senior wide receivers, Shay Fields, Bryce Bobo, and Devin Ross, who finished their CU careers ranked third, seventh, and eighth, respectively, on CU’s all-time receptions list.

Even with those four seniors on the roster, Colorado was no better than 48th nationally in total offense … and 81st in scoring.

And yet, Buff fans are expecting nothing but improvement from the offense in 2018.

Was it Brian Lindgren’s play-calling which doomed the Buff offense to mediocrity in 2017?

Starting February 23rd, this is Chiaverini’s show … and all eyes will be upon him.

Klayton Adams – Co-offensive coordinator / offensive line coach

The offensive line performed poorly in 2017 … and Klayton Adams was the coach.

Adams not only remains as CU’s offensive line coach in 2018, but Adams has also assumed the duties of co-offensive coordinator.

“Last year was not good enough on the offensive line because our standard is extremely high,” Adams told the Daily Camera. “We want to be one of the best groups in this league, if not the best group in this league. It needs to improve. It needs to improve a lot in our opinion.”

Adams continued … “I’m as excited as I’ve ever been for spring football and a lot of that has to do with how hard the kids are working and the amount of, in my opinion, raw ability that we have, be it inexperienced and young,” Adams said.

Before we get too excited about these words, however, Buff fans need to remember that this time last year, Mike MacIntyre was declaring the 2017 offensive line to be the best in his tenure in Boulder.

—  Kurt Roper – Assistant coach, quarterbacks

Roper is the new addition to the lineup of offensive coaches, and is something of a wildcard.

“Kurt brings a tremendous amount of quarterback coaching experience and has tutored some of the great ones like Eli Manning at Ole Miss and Thaddeus Lewis at Duke,” MacIntyre said in January when announcing the hire. “He has great offensive knowledge and we are extremely excited to have a coach of his caliber on our staff to work with our quarterbacks.”

Roper’s last job was at South Carolina, where he was quarterbacks coach as well as the co-offensive coordinator. Roper has also held the position of offensive coordinator at Florida (2014) and Duke (2008-13).

How will it work, with two co-offensive coordinators with relatively no experience at the job, sitting in the same room with a position coach who has been the offensive coordinator at both SEC and ACC schools? Isn’t there room for concern that Roper, who has worked with Mike MacIntyre in the past, will try to have more say than his title of quarterbacks coach would suggest? Will Chiaverini and Adams feel like Roper is looking over their shoulder when decisions are made?

I asked Lance Carl about this possible dilemma when we sat down for our annual interview a few weeks ago (teaser alert: The fill interview will appear as a three-part series which will be run during spring practices):

“It would only be an issue if there were egos involved”, said Carl. “On this staff, there are no egos involved. Darrin decided to have Kurt’s input, to lean on Kurt a little bit for some advice. We’re excited for Klayton to take control of that running game, to establish a dominant attitude, a dominant culture on the offensive line that we’ve been missing.”

Buff fans will certainly hope that Roper will add a steadying influence in the game-planning and play-calling, and will only serve to make the Colorado offense that much better in 2018.

The experiment begins this Friday …

— Darian Hagan – Assistant coach, running backs

There are two questions I have concerning Darian Hagan, who is entering his third season as CU’s running backs coach under Mike MacIntyre (after serving in the same position from 2006-10 under Dan Hawkins):

First, how will Hagan handle his running back roster this spring?

The likely starter this fall, Virginia Tech senior transfer Travon McMillan, will not be on campus until May … if ever. While McMillan has signed a financial aid agreement with Colorado, the agreement binds CU, but not McMillan. Come May, when McMillan graduates, he could still opt to play for another school this fall (See: Webb, Davis; 2016).

This leaves Hagan and his charges in a unique position. The four scholarship running backs currently on the roster – seniors Donovan Lee and Kyle Evans, junior Beau Bisharat, and redshirt freshman Alex Fontenot – will not only have to compete with one another, but with the specter of McMillan, who will not be there on the practice fields.

How Hagan handles this situation, and which back emerges as the potential starter should McMillan not make it to campus (or not live up to his billing), will make for an interesting story line this spring.

Oh, and question No. 2: How in the world is Hagan the lowest paid coach ($200,000) on the staff?

Which leads us to …

Gary Bernardi – Assistant coach, tight ends and H-backs

You could win many a bar bet if you asked Buff fans to name the highest-paid non-coordinator assistant coach.

Coming in at $311,000 this year, tight ends and H-Backs coach Gary Bernardi will earn $11,000 more than new quarterbacks coach Kurt Roper, and at least $50,000 more than every other assistant coach.

What Bernardi is doing to earn this pay is not evident on the field, with the Buffs not having a tight end or H-Back with over 15 catches in a season in the past five years (Chris Bounds led the tight ends last fall, with seven catches).

Perhaps it is Bernardi’s seasoned influence in the coaching room which has kept him in Boulder since 2013 (the first three seasons as offensive line coach). Perhaps Bernardi’s assistance in recruiting has justified his continued tenure.

This spring, however, Bernardi will have a larger spotlight, as 6’6″, 250-pound junior college transfer Darrion Jones will be on the practice field. In two years in junior college (17 games), Jones had 55 receptions for 973 yards and eight touchdowns.

Buff fans will be looking for stories about how well Jones has been integrated into the CU offense, and how the Buffs will finally … finally … have a tight end catching balls across the wide open middle of opponents’ defenses.

Bernardi is the only assistant coach with just one year remaining on his contract.

This may be his make-or-break season … and it all starts with the installation of the Chiaverini/Adams offense this spring.



10 Replies to “First Look: Coaches (Offense)”

  1. I am not a fan of the No Ego’s philosophy. Of course it sounds great to say and write about, but most great teams are full of coaches with big egos. Buddy Ryan used to wait till the Head Coach left the room then yell at his defense that this was his defense and forget what that guy just told you…
    Listen to Gary B. talk about the rivalry and competition between the offense and defensive coaches under Mac and you’ll again see the huge egos and conflict that was encouraged. Maybe we need less nice guy and more passion (think MMac and our old defensive coordinator). Just saying I want that confidence and passion that engenders winning.

    1. you beat me to the punch. I cant go with Lance Carl’s take at all. In fact his quote makes me even more worried. I am hoping the statement that Chev is going to defer to Roper in some ways is coach speak too.
      If Mac promoted Chev to play caller he has to have his back and full confidence. Roper is the one who has to keep his ego in check and not run to his ol buddy Mac every time he thinks he sees a weakness.
      I thought we were going to see a fresh approach with lingering finally out of the picture but this is a setting with conditions that could lead to fail.
      Its up to Mac to keep everyone on their place and focused on their job description.

      1. Adam Munsterteiger From Buff Stampede With Roper

        You were a coordinator at the power conference level nine of the previous 10 seasons. You come here and Darrin Chiaverini is set to call plays for the first time in his coaching career. How will your experience calling plays help CU’s offense in 2018? And how do you avoid it becoming a “too many cooks in the kitchen” type of situation?

        “Well, that is exactly the point. My job is to coach the quarterbacks, not call the plays. Darrin and Klayton (Adams) will put together the system as we go forward. And again, my job will be figuring out the best way to coach the quarterbacks with what they want them to do. It is lot like the situation when I went to Kentucky in 2005 and Joker Phillips was the receivers coach, offensive coordinator and was calling the plays. I see it as the same role here.”


        How big of a factor was your familiarity with MacIntyre when you decided to accept this position?

        “It is always important when you can work with someone you know really well. We know how to work together. I know what is important to Mike. And what is important to him are the same things that are important to me. So that makes the transition easier for sure. Mike is one of the best coaches I have ever been around. “

        Okay then.

  2. Excellent work Stuart.

    Waiting for the first game is exciting. I will fill most of my time:

    The next 6 weeks finalizing taxes.
    The next 20 weeks……………..Golfing

    That is all


    1. Rats … this means I lost two bets to my wife this week.
      First, I bet her that you would feel compelled to reply to my comment about you on the Freeballin podcast … crickets
      Second, I bet my wife that you would take credit for getting me to write a preview for the coaches … crickets..


  3. Great website Stuart and always well researched and provocative articles. I certainly hope that all egos are suppressed.

    Speaking of that, why hasn’t this article as yet received a reply from the The International Hdqs., President, CEO, Oracle on all things Coaching, including the learning curve rating, vision of the program, etc. etc……..(have I left anything out?) He must be preparing a dissertation that will have all and I mean all of the answers. Even though I don’t look good in Purple I remain with bated breath.

    1. Yo Ol AZ, golfing today 65………perfect…………Colorado Sun……….even better.

      Okay gonna read it and then………………..

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