Spring Quotes of Note: Offense (Part II)

As CU’s first spring practices wind down, it’s time to take a look at the quotable quotes which have been posted during the second half of the sessions. Spring ball, 2021, will conclude on Friday, April 30th, with the CU Spring Showcase (9:00 – 11:00 a.m., MT, Pac-12 Networks).

Quotes of Note” from the first half of Spring Practices (through April 9th) can be found here.

Despite not having open access to practices, there have been plenty of quotes worth noting. In case you haven’t been able to sift through all of the posted stories, here is a collection, with stories from CUBuffs.com, the Daily Camera, CUSportsNation, and BuffStampede.com.

Overall …

Dorrell wants to have the entire team vaccinated by June … Colorado athletic director Rick George recently said that while it will be strongly encouraged for student-athletes to get a COVID-19 vaccine, it will be an individual choice.

So far, several football players have made that choice, and head coach Karl Dorrell said there is a goal to get most, if not all, of the team through the first round of the vaccine by the time spring practices come to a close on April 30.

“If we can do that by (April 30), they can get that second shot … wherever they are in May, prior to coming back here in June,” Dorrell said. “That’s the goal is to try and get everybody vaccinated by the time we start the June process.”

Quarterbacks … 

On J.T. Shrout … “For a newcomer, he’s behind the eight ball a little bit but he’s done a great job, studying, really putting in the time in the offseason to be comfortable at this point in spring ball,” CU quarterbacks coach Danny Langsdorf said.

… “He’s been very good,” Langsdorf said. “We just ran a two-minute drill just now and he had really good command of the huddle, the signals, getting guys lined up decision making. He led us on a touchdown drive.

“For a guy that’s not been here very long, I’m very pleased. He’s a really smart quarterback, and that’s helping him. He’s put in some time here in the short period and he’s been very comfortable. You put somebody in a two-minute drill, you get to know a little about what their level of understanding is, and we threw a lot at him right there. He went down the field and made a nice touchdown pass. I feel really good about his progress.”

On Sam Noyer … Despite a shoulder injury, Sam Noyer threw for 1,000 yards, six touchdowns and five interceptions, while adding 191 yards and five touchdowns on the ground during the five-game regular season, helping the Buffs reach the Valero Alamo Bowl.

After the bowl game, Noyer had surgery on his shoulder and is sitting out this spring, but is doing well in his recovery.

“I think he’s progressing great,” Langsdorf said. “I’m not a physical therapist or doctor but I think he’s feeling better. Every time we talk about it, he seems to be improving, so I’m hoping for him to be gradually getting back into throwing here soon and having a great summer and getting a chance to compete in fall camp.”

… “I think he’s done a great job of being engaged in practice,” Langsdorf said. “He’s working on his rehab. In practice, he’s able to kind of step back and take a little bit different view of what we’re doing. I think that’s been helpful.”

Langsdorf said he and Noyer have also had time to review last season.

“We were really able to dissect and cut every play that we had from last fall, and go through in kind of a slower pace, take a look at what was good and bad,” he said. “I think all of that will be really beneficial.”

Running backs … 

Running backs to be a focal point in the passing game … “That’s one area I think a lot of teams maybe use as the second or third thought in a passing progression; there’s nothing there, check it down to the back,” Dorrell said. “Well, we do have some featured plays for the back where he’s the first read. We feel good about our backs in space.

“Those are the things that these guys can do; in space, it’s hard to bring these backs down.”

Joe Davis, in particular, has flashed his receiving skills. “Joe is getting really solid on doing all those types of things, really from the start,” Dorrell said. “He’s one of those guys, he’s kind of an unsung hero. He doesn’t draw a lot of attention, but when you recognize him, and you see that when Joe’s on the field, he’s usually a very productive kid, he’s a dependable kid, and he plays that role for us really, really well.”

Alex Fontenot shines in CU’s first full scrimmage …The Buffs’ leading rusher in 2019, Fontenot missed the 2020 season with a hip injury but had a big day Friday. Unofficially he had nearly 100 yards in total offense, including a long run of about 30 yards, during which he ran through safety Mark Perry downfield. Fontenot added another run of about 15 yards and caught a screen pass for another 12-15 yards.

“I was impressed with Alex today,” Dorrell said. “He was very assertive. He wasn’t tippy-toeing on anything. I thought he was running hard and getting through the line of scrimmage. Really what I saw on film in 2019 is what I saw Alex Fontenot do today, so that was a really, really positive sign that he’s back and he’s gonna have some great value for us in our backfield.”

On Jarek Broussard and Ashaad Clayton … The Buffs’ freshman running back was impressed with what teammate Jarek Broussard did last season, though. Broussard battled back from two knee injuries to rank third nationally in rushing yards per game and earn Pac-12 offensive player of the year honors.

“I had a knee injury, but coming off of two knee injuries, believe it or not, that motivated me to see the breakout season he had,” Clayton said this week. “I wish we had a lot more games because could have probably been a 1,000-yard rusher if we had a regular season. … Just seeing everything he was going through, it just kind of humbled me. If Jarek can do this, anybody can do it. You just have to put your mind to it. That made us closer.

“Last year, Jarek was like, ‘Hey bro, I can’t do it by myself; I need you too.’ We motivated each other. I feed off his fuel. Every time he broke a long run, I’m on the sideline happy for him. At the end of the day, that’s my brother, so we just feed off each other.”

On Jayle Stacks … “We’ve been, I would say, pleasantly surprised with Jayle,” Dorrell said. “He seems like he’s got a comfort level in what we’re doing offensively. He’s a lot more comfortable doing a lot of different roles that we’re asking him to play, and it was good to see him having a few carries where he was actually carrying some people, running down the field. Very, very happy with his progress.”

… “He’s working really, really hard,” Dorrell said. “He’s done, I think, some really, really positive stuff from what he did in the fall. He’s more comfortable with understanding our system and being more proficient at it, I would say. I’m very encouraged where he’s at. He’s one of those kids that he’s had some really bright moments up until this point and we’re hoping he continues that progress in making some of those plays and more efficient plays as we continue to move through spring.”

Wide receivers … 

On Brenden Rice … Despite playing among a group loaded with talent, Rice scored on three of the nine times he touched the ball during the 2020 season.

“Being under the wing of KD Nixon and people like Maurice Bell, Vontae Shenault, the confidence factor is everything in the wide receiver game,” Rice said. “You see (former NFL star) Chad Ochocinco, and all these great wide receivers; if you don’t have confidence, you can’t take that next step.

“As soon as I caught my first touchdown, I got my feel for the game and it truly balanced out, and I felt as though I can truly come in here and make an impact, day in and day out in every single game.”

Due to a finger injury and then COVID-19 protocols, Rice missed the first nine practices, returning to the field on Monday. Rice is using the last two weeks of spring practices to make up for the lost time.

“It’s definitely a catch-up game here, but at the same time, I’ve got my brothers around me,” he said. “They’re gonna lift me up, they’re gonna help me. I’ve got great coaches. I’m in the right system to actually elevate and truly grow.”

On Daniel Arias … Entering his fourth season with the Buffs, receiver Daniel Arias is still aiming for a breakout year. Dorrell said the 6-foot-4, 205-pound junior is off to a good start.

“You can tell every time he’s out practicing he’s so much more confident, he’s so much more assertive,” Dorrell said. “You feel his speed on the field because he’s a lot more comfortable knowing what his information is and what he needs to perform and do.”

… “To me, he’s a completely different player now than what I saw of him in the fall,” Dorrell said. “I didn’t see the assertiveness and him being confident, that he knew what he was doing. That’s completely changed right now when you watch him. He’s playing fast, he’s strong and big and he’s having a really good spring so far.”

Tight ends … 

CU adds a tight end from the Recruiting Class of 2021Austin Smith was ready to spend next season playing for the Independence (Kan.) Community College Pirates.

A phone call earlier from CU quickly changed his plans.

“I committed on the spot,” he said. “It’s really a blessing. One of my dream schools. I love Colorado and just getting to play on a big stage like that, getting to play teams like UCLA, USC and just being able to make my family proud on a big stage there. It’s beautiful up there, too.”

… “I took that leap of faith and went JUCO and Colorado found me,” he said. “They originally were going to recruit me as a 2022 recruit, but they saw me run track and I ran some good times and they decided to pick me up for this year.”

Smith recently ran the 100 meters in 11.1 seconds at a high school track meet and CU coaches took notice. It also likely helped that ICC head coach Jason Martin is the younger brother of CU cornerbacks coach Demetrice Martin.

On the Tight Ends … Dorrell said freshmen tight ends Caleb Fauria, Erik Olsen and Alec Pell have “really stuck out” this spring as they continue to develop.

Walk-on tight end Nick Fisher is no longer on the roster. A graduate transfer last year, Fisher did not appear in a game during his one season with the Buffs.

Offensive line … 

Buffs add a transfer Perhaps the biggest story of the past two weeks concerning the offensive line – at least in terms of long-term ramifications – was the addition of Iowa transfer Noah Fenske. Fenske was a member of the Recruiting Class of 2019. He red-shirted in 2019, and played sparingly during the shortened 2020 season. With the 2020 season not counting against eligibility, Fenske will come to CU this fall with four years to play four.

“I had a few intriguing offers,” Fenske told the Daily Camera, “but for me, it was the relationship I’ve built with (CU offensive line coach Mitch Rodrigue). Watching film with him, I believe that this program can win and win big-time games. I wanted to be a part of this program.”

Rated a three-star prospect by 247Sports.com coming out of New Hampton (Iowa) High School. Although he was on the depth chart at center with Iowa, the 6-foot-4, 300-pound Fenske said he could play anywhere on the line with the Buffs.

“(The coaches) have pretty much talked about me having an opportunity to learn all three line positions,” he said.

Injuries a focal point … Colorado’s top five offensive linemen only started together twice during the 2020 season, and the group has been plagued by injuries again this spring. Frank FillipCasey RoddickAustin JohnsonChance Lytle and Nikko Pohahau are all currently sidelined.

CU offensive line coach Mitch Rodrigue said Wednesday after the Buffs’ completed the 11th of their 15 spring practices. “We’ve got so many injuries from last season and then compounded by the injuries that we’ve had in the spring. We’re just really thin.

“We’ve been having to play musical chairs, which is not really good for anyone, because you don’t have any continuity, but we’ve been fighting through it. It’s given us an opportunity to play people at different positions, so that’s been the positive.”

Already without four linemen going into spring, the Buffs lost projected starting left tackle Frank Fillip to a labrum injury recently.

“He tried to push through it, but as a left tackle, when you have a left labrum (tear), it’s not a good situation,” Rodrigue said. “He was unable to punch with his left arm and be as effective as he usually is, but he did get some good work there and he showed us that he can handle the left tackle position. There’s no doubt about it.”

This spring, CU has been without Chance Lytle, who started three games at left guard before a season-ending injury, and Casey Roddick, who started five games at right guard and one at left guard. Roddick is dealing with a medical issue this spring.

On Gerad Christian-Lichtenhan … Although the Buffs have been shorthanded up front, Rodrigue said the situation has benefitted some young players. In particular, freshman tackle Gerad Christian-Lichtenhan – nicknamed “Tank” – has taken advantage of the opportunity, as he’s playing left tackle with Fillip out.

“Not only has he been playing left tackle but he’s been playing left tackle with the one group, and the two group because he’s the only tackle we’ve got,” Rodrigue said. “He’s getting double the amount of reps, but I would say that he has benefited most from the adversity that we’ve faced.”

At 6-foot-10, 330 pounds, Christian-Lichtenhan is the tallest player in CU football history and Rodrigue is seeing the young tackle develop.

“We’ve got to get him to bend, that’s the No. 1 thing,” Rodrigue said. “He’s got to bend at his ankles and his knees and his hips. He’s got to realize that he’s not going to face anyone that is as tall as he is. The work in the weight room and developing his core and strengthening his core, he’s starting to play a little lower, but that’s a process that’s going to take a while.”

On Kary Kutsch … After playing mostly on special teams during his first season at CU in 2018, the 6-foot-5, 310-pound Kutsch started all 12 games at left guard in 2019. That’s where Kutsch started against UCLA in the first game of the delayed 2020 season, but an injury to Colby Pursell forced Kutsch to step in at center the next two games. After missing the following two games while dealing with COVID, Kutsch returned to the lineup for the Buffs’ Alamo Bowl loss against Texas at his more familiar left guard spot.

“I think focusing on (left guard) will help a lot,” Kutsch said. “I really only got to play one game fully prepared at left guard. I feel like another year is great for improvement. I’m still trying to practice center too in case anything ever happens, but I am focusing more on left guard.

“I think I’ve made a jump every year, and I think every coach I’ve had has done something new for me every year, taught me something new. The longer I spend here, the more my confidence builds, and that also helps. Every year I just get more confident in my play.”

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