Grading the Hires: CU’s Assistant Coaches – Offense

CU 2020 Coaching staff ... With a press release on Friday, March 6th, the CU coaching staff for the 2020 season became complete. Head coach Karl Dorrell retained four coaches from the previous staff, and added six new assistants.

Here’s a list of CU’s 2020 assistant coaches:

Offense

Darrin Chiaverini – Wide receivers/Offensive coordinator*

Taylor Embree – Tight ends

Darian Hagan – Running backs*

Danny Langsdorf – Quarterbacks/Passing game coordinator

Mitch Rodrigue – Offensive line

Defense

Tyson Summers – Inside linebackers/ Defensive coordinator*

Demetrice Martin – Cornerbacks

Brian Michalowski – Outside linebackers*

Chris Wilson – Defensive line

Brett Maxie – Safeties

(* Coaches retained from previous staff)

So … what do we make of Karl Dorrell’s list of assistant coaches? …

Assistant Coaches: Offense

Darrin ChiaveriniOffensive coordinator/Wide receivers coach/recruiting coordinator

Chiaverini is a name well known to Buff fans. Chiaverini interviewed for the head coaching position this past month and there was some question about his staying with CU after not getting the top job. There have never been any questions, however, about his loyalty to CU.

From 1995-98, Chiaverini played receiver for the Buffs and his position coach was Dorrell. Chiaverini returned to CU in 2016, hired by former head coach Mike MacIntyre as co-offensive coordinator/receivers coach, a role he held for three seasons. Last year, Chiaverini was retained by Tucker as receivers coach and assistant head coach.

Named a Rivals.com top 25 recruiter the last three years, Chiaverini has played a key role in recruiting several players on the existing roster, as well as almost a third in the incoming 2020 class.

As a recruiter and as a Buff, Chiaverini has few peers.

As an offensive coordinator, however, the results for Chiaverini were mixed. In Chiaverini’s three seasons (2016-18) as CU’s co-offensive coordinator, Colorado ranked 47th, 48th, and 74th nationally in total offense, and 51st, 81st, and 79th nationally in scoring.

Not exactly numbers which scream success.

Some blame Mike MacIntyre for having too much say in play-calling. Some blame fellow co-offensive coordinators Brian Lindgren (2016-17) and Klayton Adams (2018) for keeping CU’s offense from its full potential.

And some blame Darrin Chiaverini.

If, as reported, Chiaverini will be CU’s offensive coordinator, he, along with his former position coach, Karl Dorrell, deserve a season or two to show us that they have learned from past mistakes, and are ready to lead a Power Five conference offense to – at least – the top half of the Pac-12 conference in production.

The retention of Chiaverini – for what it means to the returning roster and the retention of most of the Recruiting Class of 2020 – deserves an “A”.

Reservations about how Chiaverini will fare as offensive coordinator drop the grade a notch.

Grade … “A-“

Taylor Embree – Tight Ends

The 31-year old Embree was entering his fourth year as a coach in the NFL when he was plucked from the San Francisco 49er staff to join the Buffs. Embree served as a defensive assistant with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2016 and has spent the last three-plus years as an offensive quality control coach with the 49ers, where his father, Jon Embree, is the assistant head coach and tight ends coach.

A UCLA Bruin in his playing days, Embree saw action in 50 games, with 32 starts, as a wide receiver. Embree set a UCLA true freshman record for receptions in a season, led the Bruins in receptions as a sophomore and junior, and then finished up ranked eighth on the school’s all-time list for catches.

Embree tried out for the Los Angeles Rams before beginning his coaching career as a graduate assistant at UCLA in 2014. He was born in Denver and saw his father serve as the head coach for the Buffs in 2011 and 2012, so he is familiar with the area and CU’s program.

While Embree is young, and will be relatively new to the recruiting game, CU’s new tight ends coach should bring some energy and new ideas to the coaches’ room. With CU’s aversion to using the tight end in recent years, and with Jared Poplawski already lost for the season (torn ACL in February), one might see the tight ends – or their new coach – as not being a significant area of concern one way or the other.

Karl Dorrell’s offenses, however, both at UCLA and Vanderbilt, made significant use of the tight end position. Brady Russell is a good fit for a tight end/H-Back/fullback position (and just try and keep him off the field), with talented recruits – Louis Passarello and Caleb Fauria – coming in as part of the CU Recruiting Class of 2020.

CU’s tight ends – and their coach – may not be a force in 2020, but the future for both looks bright.

Grade … “B”.

Darian Hagan – Running Backs

The other returning coach on offense from the Mel Tucker/Mike MacIntyre era is running backs coach Darian Hagan.

Dorrell won’t be the third CU head coach for Darian Hagan … it will be his sixth. He was hired as an offensive assistant by Gary Barnett in 2005 and then coached running backs from 2006-10 under Dan Hawkins.

Under coach Jon Embree in 2011-12, Hagan shifted to a role as director of player personnel. When MacIntyre was hired in 2013, Hagan worked three years as director of player development before shifting back to coaching running backs in 2016. Hagan was retained as running backs coach under Tucker and will fill the same role under Dorrell.

Over the years, Hagan has coached two of the top three rushers in CU history: Phillip Lindsay (2014-17) and Rodney Stewart (2008-11). The last four 1,000-yard seasons at CU came with Hagan as running backs coach, with Stewart in 2010, Lindsay in 2016 and 2017 and Travon McMillian in 2018.

After setting a school record for consecutive seasons with a 1,000-yard rusher (at three), the CU offense failed to produce a 1,000-yard rusher in 2019, with Alex Fontenot going for 874 yards; Jaren Mangham for 441. Splitting the carries last season should benefit both players heading into the fall, however, and the Buff Nation is excited about what Class of 2020 signee Ashaad Clayton will bring to the table.

As was the case with Chiaverini, retaining Darian Hagan provides benefits outside of his coaching of his unit. Hagan is a proven recruiter, and is a popular ambassador for the program. It would have been a much more difficult transition to the Karl Dorrell era without the retention of Hagan on the coaching staff. It’s hard to imagine Dorrell bringing in anyone from the outside who would have been a dramatic improvement over what Hagan already provides.

Grade … “A-“

Danny Langsdorf – Quarterbacks/Passing game coordinator

While Danny Langsdorf has bounced around a bit in the past two years (offensive analyst at Oregon in 2018; quarterbacks coach at Fresno State in 2019; was set to be the quarterbacks coach at UNLV this season), Langsdorf’s career includes nine seasons (2005-13) as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Oregon State and three years (2015-17) in the same role at Nebraska. In both of those stops, he worked for head coach Mike Riley.

Langsdorf, in fact, has spent 15 of his 23 seasons as a coach with Riley. He got his first full-time job as a coach working for Riley as Oregon State’s tight ends coach from 1997-98. The two also worked together in 2002 with the NFL’s New Orleans Saints.

Oregon State has had nine 3,000-yard seasons in its history, with four coming during Langsdorf’s time as coordinator (by three different quarterbacks).

In 2014, Langsdorf worked as the quarterbacks coach of the New York Giants. That season, he coached two-time Super Bowl champion Eli Manning, who produced one of the best statistical seasons of his career.

Langsdorf seemingly checks all of the boxes … he has experience coaching the position … he has had success in coaching the position … he has experience not only in recruiting, but recruiting in the west.

If Langsdorf can take his new quarterback – be it Tyler Lytle or incoming freshman Brendon Lewis – and turn them into a 3,000-yard passer (Steven Montez threw for 2,808 yards last season), and then recruit over those two with a quarterback for the Recruiting Class of 2021, Langsdorf will be very popular with the Buff Nation.

Grade … “B+”

Mitch Rodrigue – Offensive line

Sigh.

The consensus was that the Colorado offensive line made great strides under Chris Kapilovic during the 2019 season. Of all of the assistant coaches to leave Boulder with Mel Tucker for Michigan State, one of the biggest disappointments was the loss of Kapilovic (Kapilovic had turned down job offers from Auburn and Missouri, but then almost doubled his salary – from $450,000 to $700,000 – to move to East Lansing).

With the hope that there would not be a drop off with the loss of Kapilovic, there was much anticipation as to who Karl Dorrell would bring in to be his offensive line coach.

Mitch Rodrigue doesn’t really fit the bill.

Rodrigue has spent the past two seasons coaching high school football in Alabama, but does have more than 25 years of college coaching experience. A graduate of Nicholls State, Rodrigue coached the offensive line for seven years at Louisiana (2011-17) and three years at South Alabama (2008-10).

During a nine-year run at Southern Mississippi (1999-07), he coached offensive line, as well as tight ends and running backs for one season. Prior to Southern Mississippi, Rodrigue coached at Nicholls State for six years, working as offensive coordinator, as well as line and tight ends coach.

Rodrigue has been a part of teams that earned 14 bowl invitations and he has had several linemen go on to the NFL, including Houston Texans tackle Chris Clark, who played five seasons (2010-14) with the Denver Broncos.

So … no Power Five coaching experience … coaching high school for the last two seasons … no upward mobility in over two decades in the profession … no recruiting experience west of the Mississippi.

Fingers crossed that this works out, but, after seeing what the offensive line was able to do after one year under Chris Kapilovic, this hire has to be viewed as a question mark at best, a disappointment at worst.

Grade …. “C-“.

Overall … What will be CU’s offensive identity under Karl Dorrell?

There are coaches on the staff who have been a part of air raid offenses … power running games … RPO’s … West coast offenses …

“Offensively, I like balance”, said Dorrell at his first press conference. “We’re going to throw the football for sure, but we need to be able to run the football as well.”

Okay, not much help there.

If we are being objective, CU has a head coach in Karl Dorrell and an offensive coordinator in Darrin Chiaverini who have had led offenses which, charitably, under-performed. Offensive production at UCLA and Vanderbilt under Dorrell and at CU under Chiaverini (2016-18) … were not great.

Have they learned from their mistakes? Will it be beneficial that two of the new coaches – quarterbacks coach Danny Langsdorf and offensive line coach Mitch Rodrigue – have also served as offensive coordinators?

Time will tell …

Overall Grade … “B”.

… Coming Sunday … Grading the Defensive Assistant Coaches … 

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8 Replies to “Grading the Hires – Offense”

  1. Stu, as always I really like the work and thought you put in. HOwever, I think all the grades are 1 or 1/2 too high. Just my opinion, but I would have given Coach Kap an A, so none of these guys rise to the level of him. Honestly, which one of these new or existing hires would be stolen away by a Big Time school looking for a top position coach? That should be the standard for an A grade. When you get to Defense ratings I’d think Chris Wilson would be a B or B+ hire. Just one man’s opinion.

    1. Cmon’ D…Buff. Truthfully did you think that Kap originally was an A hire? I’m old now but I can’t remember anyone last year that just went Bonkers when the Kap hire was announced. Did the majority, and you really know what he could accomplish? It was all a guessing game just as it is today. The only thing I can truly say about the new hires is that KD has been a head coach as opposed to MT and while both have been around football at various levels, KD has certainly made it known more then MT what he wants in an Asst. Coach. Teacher. I’ll buy that for now as it is the now current makeup of the team. Let’s see how the Offensive Line does after about 3 games or so.

      1. I was definitely not stoked on kap at first. His best lines at unc we’re with the guy before them’s kids. In the latter part of fedora’s reign, their line and offense were unimpressive. I thought he acquitted himself pretty well last year though.

        What I am curious, maybe even excited to see, is whether Rodrigue, after spending a couple years in the Alabama high school game, can bring some 300lb guys with 4.8-ish speed, good feet and quickness to CU. If he can? Home run hire.

        Go Buffs

        1. That thought alone regarding a Bama high school kid with those stats coming to CU, should raise the hire of Rod…… from a C- to a B+

  2. Good analysis Stu, very thorough and I would assume somewhat time consuming. Oh by the way have you prepared that 50 page answer to the lawsuit which I was served with, I only have about 24 more hours to respond.

    Seriously I am going to hold my judgement on Rodrigue, as you did pose the question as to why KD hired him. I will be optimistic and hope that it is because KD is aware of some things that aren’t known to us peasant Buff fans. I feel that KD at this time in his coaching and football life is not going to react on a big time hire with a hope and on a wing & prayer and use a lot of the IF’s in his decisions on how to put a staff and team together. At least I hope IF with a wing & prayer that that is the case.

  3. I’m loving it. We have a QB coach who has the best credentials for that position than any former guy I can think of….and just in time with a bench rider and a freshman to whip into shape. We have an HC who ‘s background is almost all Offense with a lean to the passing game not to mention Chev who comes from an air raid background. For all you guys who point to some of the bone headed calls at critical moments when Chev was operating under an HC whose mind was someplace in Dixie…its extremely hard for me to believe he wasn’t over ridden in those moments.
    OK it could have been rookie OC jitters but this time around if he is over ridden I have a lot more faith in KD for that sort of thing.
    Summers should have a killer D line, healthy DBs and Nate to lean on to keep improving. The biggest question mark is gonna be the O line….again. We might even see Wray and/or Lee starting which may not be a bad thing.
    Pass the koolaid

    1. I will have a drink. For a while, Chev led a lights out offense. Then, IMO, Mac2 cramped up and played not to lose. This was evident between games and even within games. Let’s see what Chev can do without a muzzle on him. Jury is out but I feel we will be pleasantly surprised. Another cup please.

  4. Yo I like it. B grade very conservative. Seems fair.

    Oline coach. Not sure a sigh was needed. Supposedly there were an amount of Oline coaches out there that Talking Heads, and fans, and bloggers stated were available and HCKD should go get them. But he pulls this rabbit out of the hat. Wonder if he knew him or someone referred him? It is interesting isn’t it? This could be the “good-feel” hire of the cycle. He is a teacher and HCKD wanted teachers. Teaching high school in Alabama, so what. (Inside note: hmmmm the Maxie ws coaching high school as well.) Oh well if ya gonna grade this I say incomplete. ( He does have a lot of AP credits though) Trending to b+

    Okay Chev. A. Recruiting. The wr and oc part is c + range. Continuity A. (Another Note: The C is for the results. I do believe he was held back by the gardner and the gardners migrants)
    WR? Recruited but coached up? Okay kinda maybe.

    Langsford. Very interesting and possibly the best hire out of the group. The qb the last 3 years has underperformed mightly. Okay some stats but no wins. 15 and 21 looks a lot like a Cody 3 year deal. If he can get them out of the Buff qb funk this will be great. I give A-
    Also on his twitter page his title is
    Colorado QB’s/Passing Game Coordinator
    So he will have a major play in the offense. I like that a lot.

    Embree a B is a stretch. Recruiting needs to be his game.

    Hagan is Hagan. I hope he continues to reel em in and coach em up.

    Overall grade: INCOMPLETE. (GUESSING B+ FOR THE YEAR CAUSE THE OLINE IS GONNA BE A GREAT SURPRISE………………

    GO BUFFS

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