Random Thoughts – Vol. III

Mustafa Johnson

On Friday, Mustafa Johnson announced that he would forego a second senior season, and enter his name into the NFL Draft.

“It just came down to this is the best option for me,” Johnson told the Daily Camera. “I’ve been thinking about it, obviously, since the season ended. I had it in mind already. I just wanted to play in the bowl game and see how things went out. Then I just started weighing pros and cons of how this year went for me, what I’ve already done. It came down to opportunity. I don’t want to risk injury for another year. All those different things, really.”

What seemed to raise the hackles of the Buff Nation was not so much that Johnson, a senior, was going pro, but that we had been celebrating the apparent announcement that Johnson was coming back. “Nate, Mustafa Johnson, Carson Wells and ‘T-Lang’ (Terrance Lang)… they are all back next year,” head coach Karl Dorrell last week told Matt McChesney, the founder of Six Zero Strength and the host of the popular podcast on TheDNVR.com. “I am very impressed with them buying into the direction we’re going and the message that we’re presenting to our team right now”.

Was Dorrell aware of Johnson’s plans? Did Johnson’s announcement demonstrate that Dorrell is out of touch with his locker room? Was Johnson’s announcements, coupled with the departures of K.D. Nixon, Derrion Rakestraw, and Jaren Mangham, signal a rift between the players and the coaching staff?

Thoughts ... Probably, No, and No.

Karl Dorrell and the coaching staff were likely aware that Johnson was considering leaving for the NFL, which certainly was the plan had Johnson been able to play a normal 2020 senior season.

Perhaps Dorrell didn’t want to rob Johnson of his moment by not mentioning him during the podcast. An omission from the list of players returning would have been a signal that Johnson was in fact leaving.

The better course, in hindsight, would have been for Dorrell not to mention any names at all. “We have a number of players coming back, and we’re excited about that” would have been more than acceptable.

All we can do now is wish Mustafa well, and wait for his name (along with that of Will Sherman) to be called at the NFL draft in April.

Transfer Portal

With players coming back to campus for the start of spring classes, news about those who are coming back (quarterback Sam Noyer, running back Ashaad Clayton) is being over-shadowed about those who are leaving.

The Transfer Portal is here to stay, and the defections (if you want to call them that) are not over. And, if you take a look at the rest of the Pac-12, CU is not only not alone, but has been fairly quiet overall (as of this writing, CU has lost five players, which is only good enough for a tie for 7th in the conference (see my story under the Pac-12 Notes heading).

Of the most recent announcements, only one is a head-scratcher

  • Running back Jaren Mangham. After going for over 440 yards last year as the backup for Alex Fontenot, good things were expected from Mangham this fall. Instead, he was passed over by Jarek Broussard, finishing the season with 23 carries for only 35 yards. With Broussard and Fontenot back for 2021, it makes sense for Mangham, who is from Detroit, to find more touches elsewhere;
  • Wide receiver K.D. Nixon. Similar story, but with a player with only one season left to play. Nixon came back for his senior season after dipping his toes into the NFL waters, only to produce a 10-catch, 93-yard campaign. As with the running back room, there is no shortage of talent at wide receiver at CU, so it makes sense for Nixon to go somewhere where he can be the featured receiver;
  • Safety Derrion Rakestraw. This is the one which was a surprise. Rakestraw, with 42 games and 15 starts to his credit, would have been a fixture in the defensive backfield this fall. A senior from Woodstock, Georgia, I have read that Rakestraw, like linebacker Akil Jones, is a father, and may be looking for an opportunity for his family closer to home.

P.S. As to the other two players who have so far entered the Transfer Portal … Defensive lineman Jason Harris, who is from Arizona, has returned home to play with his brother in Tucson. The other is quarterback Tyler Lytle. It is being reported that Lytle, considered a favorite to start this year for the Buffs, has found a new home … at UMass.

Dissecting Karl Dorrell’s Post-Season/Pre-Season Press Conference

It’s All About the Spin You want to put on it …

CU head coach Karl Dorrell gave a end-of-the-year/first-of-the-year press conference on Friday, discussing the status of the program, and his hopes and fears for the 2021 season.

Below I’ll give you my thoughts on some of his quotes. But, just to show you how subjective the interpretation of a press conference can be, I present two stories based upon the quotes from the press conference.

The Daily Camera’s article, “CU Buffs’ Karl Dorrell begins preparing for 2021 season – Head coach looking for new defensive coordinator and strength coach” focused on the losses, both on the field (the Alamo Bowl) and in the locker room:

Dorrell opened his media session by saying that 2020 is “long passed” and he’s moving on to preparing for 2021. Part of that includes not only personal and program reflection, but some major changes on staff, players leaving the program and players coming in.

Meanwhile, Associated Press writer Pat Graham chose a more upbeat approach in his article for YahooSports.com entitled: “Off to solid start, Dorrell sees big things in store for CU“:

It’s a roster filled with potential as the Buffs turned in their first winning season since 2016. Back on the field will be returning starting quarterback Sam Noyer … Also back will be Jarek Broussard, the league’s offensive player of the year in his return from two knee injuries.

Some of the best news Dorrell received was a call from standout senior linebacker Nate Landman, who tore his Achilles against Utah and missed the bowl game. Dorrell figured Landman was letting him know he was moving on to the next level.

Instead, Landman, one of Colorado’s all-time leading tackers, announced he was returning to campus.

”An extremely pleasant boost,” Dorrell said. ”He knows there’s unfinished business.”

… Which is a long way of saying you have to take any interpretation of what Coach Dorrell is saying – including mine – with a grain of salt.

Onto to the quotes:

On letting defensive coordinator Tyson Summers, and finding a replacement …

“We’re going to make sure that the next person that is in that position will do a great job of bringing our defense forward. We have done some positive things this year. There is a number of things we need to fix and re-examine and really try to tailor to our skill set of our players that are in the program. Those are things we’re going to work on and continue to be the driving force for us to be as good as we can be defensively.

“Was there a point in the season that led me to this decision? No, not necessarily. I reflected on a lot of stuff after the season ended and flying back from Texas, coming home, so I went through about 10 days of evaluation just me going through a lot of different things that I have saw this year that I want to move forward that is going to help us in 2021. I am still going through it right now. I am going to comb through this thing. There is no time frame in terms of what I am feeling right now. I just want to make sure when we come out and line up in 2021, I want to be different than we were in 2020.”

Thoughts … “There is no time frame in terms of what I am feeling right now” ???.

Tyson Summers was due to be paid $500,000 this year as CU’s defensive coordinator. Reportedly, he is entitled to his entire contract as a buy out.

This just in … Colorado, along with the rest of the college football world, is facing a considerable deficit in its athletic department budget. The Buffs played half a season, which will significantly reduce television revenue. And, until the Alamo Bowl, the only audience allowed to watch CU play were the 554 lucky souls who were allowed to attend the home opener against UCLA. Ticket sales make up around 20% of the athletic department budget, and the lack of fannies in the seats represent about a $20 million hit to the bottom line.

Which is a long way of getting to my point … I find it hard to believe that Karl Dorrell would be willing to take a $500,000 hit to his assistant coach budget without a plan. I find it equally difficult to believe that athletic director Rick George would be excited about having two defensive coordinators on his payroll this fall.

We’ll see how this plays out, but I would have thought that, if Dorrell had made the decision to look into making a change at the defensive coordinator position this off-season, he would have had someone in mind before letting Tyson Summers go.

2 Replies to “Random Thoughts – Vol. III”

  1. Positive view: I really like KD saying he wants the team to look different when they line up next year. Based on what’s happened that probably means more about defense. I think he means business and wants to get pieces set i. Olace this year.

    Negative view: So far we are losing more staff and players than gaining. We need to see gains soon. Worry KD is putting a lot on himself alone which might make finding new DC, etc., go too slow.

  2. Like everyone else, I am sorry to lose Johnson and Rakestraw, but some of it had to be expected. Given the change from Tucker to Karl, I would have thought more kids would have left this time. It was too late for a lot of recruits to leave last Spring, but now they could bolt if they wanted to. Seems like like this team and coaching staff changes.
    I’m super excited for next year. We have enough talent to be in the mix, now if the coaches and schemes don’t change too much the players can really play with confidence and we pull off more upsets. Just like the MBB team is doing this year.

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