Who Will Be CU’s Starting Quarterback?

For the first time since 2013, CU entered Fall Camp with a battle for the starting quarterback position. The Sefo Liufau/Steven Montez era has come to a close, with one of the players listed below about to get their chance to be the player who leads the Buffs back to the post-season on a regular basis.


  • Seniors …. Sam Noyer … Dylan Jacob (transfer)
  • Junior … Tyler Lytle
  • Sophomore … Matthew Ryan
  • Redshirt- Fr. … Grant Ciccarone 
  • Freshmen – Brendon Lewis … Mike Chandler

Thoughts …

There isn’t much game experience among the quarterbacks on the CU roster. There have been only 47 career passes between them, with Sam Noyer and Tyler Lytle the only scholarship quarterbacks with any time spent on the field for the Buffs. Hopefully, the saving grace for Colorado this fall is that there is a great deal of experience among the coaches.

Together, head coach Karl Dorrell, quarterbacks coach Danny Langsdorf and offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini have several decades of experience with coaching offense in general and, in the case of Dorrell and Langsdorf, quarterbacks specifically.

Will it be enough to overcome a spring and summer without any practices?

“That’s a little bit of the shortcoming, because of the time essence of where we’re at, with a month before we play,” Dorrell said during Pac-12 virtual media day. “We have to determine and find that starter”.

No other position battle will garner more attention over CU’s Fall Camp than that of the race for the starting quarterback position.

“Normally when you’re in this scenario, you go through a battle in the spring, you kind of have an idea and you have some summer work and you go into training camp and you battle it again,” Dorrell said of having to pick a quarterback – and having to choose one quickly enough in order to get them ready for Game One against UCLA on November 7th. “We’re going to have to do that all in one time. It is something I haven’t done before in my career, but it is what it is given our circumstances.”

What will Dorrell, Chiaverini and Langsdorf be looking for?

“We’re going to make the best assessment we can, given these 25 practices and that’s the best we can do,” Dorrell said as Fall Camp opened. “I believe we’ll get someone out there that can manage our team and manage our offense and do some good things and probably get better as the season progresses.”

If a “game manager” is the priority – at least at the beginning of the season – that would suggest that the staff is not going to roll the dice on a true freshman, Brendon Lewis, on November 7th.

A quick look at the eligibility might suggest that the senior, Sam Noyer, would be the logical first choice to succeed Steven Montez. Yet it was just over a year ago that Sam Noyer changed sides of the field. Last August, Sam Noyer was switched positions, going from quarterback to safety … and then briefly left the team. While Noyer is back on the roster and back on the offensive side of the ball, his “seniority” is a bit-misleading.

Most Buff fans had seen the battle coming down to junior Tyler Lytle and freshman Brendon Lewis. Had CU’s schedule played out as originally planned (opening against Colorado State), and had CU had a full spring of practices (Lewis enrolled early), I might have given Lewis the nod. Now, without spring practices, and with the Buffs only getting a handful of practices before making their choice for a starter (whether the selection is announced early or not), my guess is that the CU coaching staff will go with the quarterback who has collegiate game experience, and that would be Lytle.

But then the coaching staff raised a few eyebrows, elevating Sam Noyer above Lewis on the initial depth chart.

“We’ve put Sam and Tyler in a really good competition mode,” CU quarterbacks coach Danny Langsdorf said after CU started Fall Camp. “They’ve been splitting reps and alternating ones and twos every day and every period, so it’s a real even battle that way.”

After the first week of practices, the Buffs conducted their first scrimmage of the Karl Dorrell era. Was there any separation?

Doesn’t sound like it.

“Tyler Lytle and Sam Noyer did some really good things. I thought Brendon Lewis came in and did some nice things, too,” Dorrell said. “Both of them had some real positive signs in generating offense, moving the offense. I thought they did a nice job with the operation of the offense, all three of the quarterbacks. So, I was really, really pleased with that. We’ll detail in terms of how well they did with the plays they called and adjustments they made.

So, who will start in the opener?

“Whatever we decide idea-wise what to do, it has to fit the skill set of our quarterback and the people that we operate with,” Dorrell said. “So it’s not really how much we know; it’s really what they can do and do it at a high level.

“We’ve been really guarded about not putting in too much, just because we haven’t had a lot of field time. As soon as we get someone established and starting and playing, we can continue to add more to that players’ plate, as long as he can digest it and as long as it fits what he does best. That’s how we’ll treat these 25 practices is really try to cut it down to the things that are important for that player to feel confident that he can be successful.”

While reading the tea leaves from Karl Dorrell’s comments this week would leave you to believe Tyler Lytle will be the starter, that does not mean Brendon Lewis will not see the field. With every player on the roster getting a free season, there is no reason to hold any player back for a “red-shirt” season. Even under the recently updated rules by which a player could play up to four games and not burn a season, Lewis would have seen the field for at least a few snaps this fall. Now, however, with every player who chooses to being to able to play seven games and still hold their class status into the 2021 season, it is not only unlikely for Lewis to ride the bench this November and December … it would be counter-productive.

“I’ve been very, very impressed with him,” Dorrell said of Lewis. “He’s an extremely talented kid, a tremendous athlete. He has a really good arm. His challenge, like most people in your first year, is picking up the scheme, being able to perform in a timely manner and understand it to navigate it and own it. That’s always a challenge for a freshman to do.”

Dorrell also had this to say about Lewis: “He’s very strong, he’s athletic and maybe we’ll create some things for him as we go about the season”.

That comment makes you think that there could be some formations this fall in which Lewis comes in for a specific play … Buff fans could easily see two CU quarterbacks on the field at the same time.

It should be an interesting October for the CU quarterbacks room … so stay tuned.


15 Replies to “Who Will be CU’s Starting Quarterback?”

  1. Pure speculation…but given the situation (lack of game exp. for our QBs…lack of practice, etc.) it would make sense to me to try and build a ground based offensive attack…big boy Noyer should be able to truck some Pac12 DBs. Oline, TEs, RBs look to be solid. Let’s pound the rock like the old days.

  2. Sounds like Lewis is getting a few after thought snaps in practice so far. That worries me. I know its unfair to judge Noyer and Lytle on their extremely limited time in games but what I saw so far was pretty much the opposite of impressive. Langsdorf has a job to do to get at least one of those two to step on to the field with their head screwed on straight. The difference between practice and game time for a qb has to be the greatest for any position.

    Langdorf says Lewis displays confidence and thats it exactly what it takes to come in cold.

  3. Stuart,

    First, thanks again for all you do to keep Buffs fans up to date and informed on the team. During these crazy times its been refreshing to visit the site and get away from all the craziness, negativity and “doom and gloom”.

    I think Tyler gets the start against UCLA, but Lewis will get some snaps. The coaching staff and team have been put in a bad spot with only 25 days to prepare for the season…but as Coach Chiv says “control the controllables”

    Either way I 110% agree with Boulderdevil…it’s great to really talk about football again.


  4. Seems to me you are “taking a chance” with any of these QBs. If that chance happens to fall in the hands of Lewis he will have to show enough spark to be head and shoulders above the other 2. Then you wonder if Lewis shows just a little better than the others will KD redshirt him to keep Lytle from entering the portal thereby retaining what little depth we might have ?

    1. The one thing we don’t have to worry about is burning a red-shirt. Everyone gets a free year, so none of the players who play this year will lose a year of eligibility.
      If Brendon Lewis winds up the starter, there is the risk that Lytle could transfer, but, you have to ask: If he can’t beat out a true freshman … where would he go?

        1. The fact that this is a free year eligibility wise, I could see two QBs being used, getting one major time & Lewis part time. And if next year is shortened due to a late season this year, Lewis could get 4 more games & still RS, that could be almost half the games (if shortened) to show if he’s ready to continue playing or to stop to use his RS year.

          That could be 10 games to learn & or prove himself w/o using any eligibility. If he’s as good as published, he won’t be worrying about retaining eligibility, but he can also take two years to grow.

          In other words, he can take it now, in the middle or later, the balls in his court & he can go either way. Add any injuries to any of the QBs & that changes things fast.

    2. Noyer lost valuable reps thanks to a bad coaching decision. A victim of favoritism. Glad tucker is out of here. He was challenging for the starting position and showed heart for the buffs though he was never going to be a defensive back with his size. He’s where he should have been last year.

  5. One comment I have heard over and over again from the coaching staff that I really like is that we will do what they are best at. Trying to make Montez a pocket passer and making him afraid to run really hurt the team. He was always better on the edges and he became so afraid of contact he was not longer a serious running threat. I will say I always thought Lytle looked better than Mo tea in the spring and fall games and better than Noyer and so I never understood why he was 3rd string while Macintyre was here. I wonder if he is a gamer, a guy who plays better on the field and elevates those around him…. but he was always throwing against the 3rd or second string defenses when I saw him so we will have to see. I am interested in Lewis. I have said this before but anyone who comes in and sets weight room records is someone to watch….a QB has a huge mental side but having a physical QB may put pressure on a defense that we have not in while. If we do end up with Lytle That means we could start Lytle for 2 years and still have Lewis for 4 years…

  6. I know that Tucker has joined the long list of former head coaches that we don’t talk about anymore, and I don’t necessarily trust Tucker when he says what his plans were, but when he was asked about his plan for who was going to start at QB this season, he said it was Lewis. Tucker thought he was going to play a true frosh at QB this year. Maybe this plan would have been as big a disaster as when he ran off all of the DBs last year – I still have no idea what that was about.

    Even though Dorrell will “get a pass” this season, he is in a bad spot with this QB situation. Despite all the years in the program, Lytle and Noyer still haven’t shown anything yet. The most telling is that previous coaching staffs refused to put these guys in the games, even when Montez was having his worst games (ie “garbage time”). We’re a month away from the first game, so discounting the UCLA game week, they have three weeks to teach everyone the new offense and pick the starters. I’m trying to have hope, but this could be rough.

  7. Yo Stuart,

    Brendon Lewis is certainly intriguing. If he’s as tenacious with the mental aspects of the game (film study and learning the playbook) as he is in the weight room, he could be a phenomenal .

    It seems that freshmen coming in and playing right away is happening more and more around the country. A lot of it is going to depend on what the CU coaches think and do. Colorado should realize that recruits look to see if underclassmen really get opportunities or if it’s just an empty promise during recruitment.

    The problem CU finds itself in now is due to prior coaching staffs NOT getting the younger guys at QB ready to play. Sefo didn’t/ wouldn’t come out even when the Buffs were way ahead. He’d have a tizzy fit when the did. And Montez never got ahead enough to come out. And they both stayed in no matter how far behind they got.

    That philosophy of coaching hasn’t really worked out in the wins vs losses column. All it’s allowed is for CU to have record-setting quarterbacks with horrible won-loss records. That’s gotta end.

    Man, it’s great to be able to really talk about football again.

    Mark/ Boulderdevil

    1. “All it’s allowed is for CU to have record-setting quarterbacks with horrible won-loss records. That’s gotta end.”

      That is true with the last 3 QBs w/ exception of Sefo’s senior year, he was a big part, emotionally & leadership wise, of that run in wins.

      When I typed the above, the question arises, would Sefo have had the year he had in 2016 if didn’t have those close losses in 2015?

      But that is only 2 of what 10-12 years… or more?

    2. Let’s face it, except for 2016, when did any coaching decision work out? Even Mel who started off so well had boneheaded and inexplicable lapses. Remember Air Force, Arizona, USC? 5-7? Again! Well at least we know the Buffs won’t finish 5-7 this year although I’d be happy with 5 wins.

      1. 83, I totally agree about Mel having some boneheaded inexplicable lapses. I will say that he did start to change the culture at CU after Mac II but obviously always really looked at the opportunity at CU as a stepping stone in his mind.

        Actually KD actually has at least in my mind as good or better resume compared to the last coaches starting with Hawkins, and all through the Pandemic that CU has experienced since his hiring (I guess we did have a vaccine in 2016 though).

        This will most likely be a rough year although hopefully this group is at least somewhat more talented then many of teams in the past but it has been such an unsettling number of months going all the way back to last Nov. when the rug was pulled out by MT, maybe we’ll get lucky and win a few that are close games.

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