Just five years ago, Darrin Chiaverini was preparing for his first season as an assistant coach with the Colorado football team.
He laughed a bit when thinking about how much has changed in that time.
“Definitely it’s been all over the place,” he said. “High highs and low lows. I do think we’ve made a lot of progress with the roster, which I think is important to win consistently in this conference. But, definitely, going through three head coaches, several different offensive coaches, defensive coaches. … I think we’re starting to kind of settle in now for the long run with coach Dorrell.”
While the past five years have been a unique journey, Chiaverini is primarily focused on what’s ahead as he prepares for his second season as the offensive coordinator/receivers coach under head coach Karl Dorrell.
Last year, Dorrell’s Buffaloes surprised many with a 4-2 record and a trip to the Valero Alamo Bowl. Yet, the unique nature of the 2020 season, which was delayed and cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic, leaves plenty of question marks about the Buffs going into this year.
On offense, in particular, there is much to prove as the Buffaloes and Chiaverini continue to strive for a consistently potent attack.
With Chiaverini back in the play-caller role last year – a role he also held in 2018 under former head coach Mike MacIntyre – the Buffs improved their scoring and yardage totals from the previous year. They posted 28.5 points and 413.8 yards per game last year. But, it wasn’t enough.
“The goal, to me, is 30 (points per game) or more,” Chiaverini said. “Some games you’re gonna score 40 and some games you’re gonna score 24. Sometimes you’ve got to win a game 24- 17; that happens. But I do believe in the Pac-12 Conference that you’ve got to score 30 a game consistently if you’re going to be an elite team.”
Since CU joined the conference in 2011, there have been 68 times when a Pac-12 team has averaged at least 30 points per game. Of those teams, 58 (85.3 percent) either had a winning record or reached a bowl game.
CU has had a 30-point average just once in that time, posting 31.1 per game while winning the South division title in 2016. (Last year’s scoring average tied CU’s second-best in the Pac-12 era).
Chiaverini is aiming to top the 30-point mark this year.
“In order for us to get over the hump this year, we’ve got to be more efficient in the passing game,” he said. “We ran a ball at a very high level last year. We didn’t throw it as well as we needed to in the games that we needed to win. We didn’t throw it well against Utah, we didn’t throw well against Texas, and that’s why you lose games.
“We’ve got to be more efficient in the passing game; we’ve got to be more explosive in the passing game. That comes through the quarterback development, that comes through the receiver development, and the tight end development.”
Chiaverini likes the potential of this year’s offense for several reasons, including the personnel. The Buffs are deep at running back. They are deep – although young – at receiver. They’ve also got one of the better tight ends in the Pac-12 in Brady Russell.
At quarterback, the Buffs don’t know who will start, but Chiaverini likes the options: senior Sam Noyer, sophomore JT Shrout and freshman Brendon Lewis.
“We have a competition going into fall camp and that’s a good thing,” he said. “You want to have a competition, you want to see these guys perform under pressure, perform in live scrimmages, move the first unit down the field and score points. Whoever can do that at a high consistent level, that’s the guy you roll with.”
Aside from the players, Chiaverini feels good about the staff. Dorrell is the first offensive-minded head coach Chiaverini has worked for at CU, and the two of them – along with quarterbacks coach Danny Langsdorf and the rest of the staff – have worked out some of the kinks that showed up during the rushed 2020 season.
“The longer a staff is together, the more you’re going to grow and get comfortable working with each other,” Chiaverini said.
“The good thing is if there is a disagreement, we’ll talk about it, we’ll work ourselves through it and we’ll get better. I think the six games (in 2020) was a good trial run and I’m excited for this year. There will be some challenges this year. It’s not going to be all roses all the time. There’s gonna be some adversity that hits and you’ve got to find a way to work through it and find a way to get better.”
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