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Spring Quotes of Note: Offense

CU has not had open practices, so there has not been independent reports as to how well the first spring practices under head coach Karl Dorrell are progressing. The Buffs are allowed 15 practices in the spring (including the Spring Game on April 30th), and are making their way to the midway point of the spring.

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 from the first two weeks of spring ball, here is a collection, with stories from CUBuffs.com, the Daily Camera, CUSportsNation, and BuffStampede.com.

Offense overall …

“What we’ve been able to do as an offensive staff is do a lot of self-scout evaluation,” Chiaverini said this week. “That’s what’s good about having spring ball. We have a chance to truly evaluate and last year we didn’t really get that.

“We’ve had a lot of time since going through that six-game schedule to kind of self-scout evaluate and see how we can improve the offense,” Chiaverini said. “At the end of the day, it’s about scoring points and winning football games. I like where we’re going with this thing.”

Quarterbacks … 

On the quarterback race, with second-team All-Pac-12 selection Sam Noyer out for the spring with shoulder surgery, the spring has taken on extra meaning for freshman Brandon Lewis and sophomore transfer J.T. Shrout …

On Sam Noyer …“We’re hoping he gets back to full health sometime late (in the) spring, maybe the early part of the summer, where he’s able to do some things,” Dorrell said. “He told me a couple weeks ago that he’s ahead of schedule (with his rehab) and is actually going to start some light throwing. Nothing this spring with us, but I think he’s going to start throwing in May. He’s progressing well.”

On Brandon Lewis … Per Dorrell, Lewis has used his Alamo Bowl experience as a foundation upon which he has built significantly since then.

“He’s graduated from that developmental stage,” Dorrell said. “You’ll remember seeing him in the (Alamo Bowl) and how well he played there, which I think we all were excited about the type of production he was able to do. Just imagine that but he’s doing better than that.”

“He just feels a lot more comfortable with our system, the familiarities (and) it’s helpful that he’s doing stuff that he was building on doing from the fall,” Dorrell said. “I’ve been very pleased with what Brendon has done. He looks night and day from the player he was in 2020.”

On J.T. Shrout … “When I listen to him in the huddle, when I watch his presence on the field, he has a natural savviness to him about playing the quarterback position,” Chiaverini said about Shrout. “Really accurate, very strong arm. I think he and B-Lew going back and forth each and every day, it’s been really good. Watching them compete on the field, they’re really good teammates to each other.”

… “Yes, we’re going to start a depth chart after spring to kind of see where things are, but nothing really gets ironed out until the end of (fall) training camp, when you’re getting ready to play your first game with the final rosters,” Dorrell said.

Overall … “Really the job in the spring is to try to get everybody a chance to showcase what their skill set is and then, as we continue to move forward in spring and being more competitive in these drills, you start to build your depth chart that way,” Dorrell said. “We want to get them all a chance to feel like they get a chance to compete.”

“Someone’s gonna have to come and beat (Noyer) out. Hopefully, he’s fully healthy and ready to go (in preseason camp). We’re hoping that he’s full go and ready to do some positive things this fall. The best thing I know is that we have some capable guys from what I see so far right now that, in case Sam isn’t completely healthy or there is an issue with Sam, we do have the people in the program that can help us win.”

Running backs … 

On Jarek Broussard … After Colorado’s Jarek Broussard was caught from behind on a trio of long runs at Arizona on Dec. 5, his coaches joked that if he wasn’t wearing a knee brace, he would have scored.

“I think we made enough jokes about it that ever since we started the offseason, he hasn’t worn it,” CU head coach Karl Dorrell said Wednesday after the Buffaloes completed their second practice of spring. “He got rid of the Linus blanket.”

Wearing the brace provided some comfort last season, but ditching it this spring is another step in his progression.

“Personally, looking at film from last year, I’ve noticed that the brace kind of restricted me to a lot of things,” he said. “This spring, I’m going without the brace to try to see how it’s different and honestly, I feel a lot better, I feel a lot faster, I feel more elusive. Right now it’s going good.”

On Alex Fontenot … “He’s back and it’s good to see him at practice,” CU head coach Karl Dorrell said. “He feels good. He doesn’t look like he’s favoring anything. He’s making good cuts; he’s vertically getting push up the field; he’s running strong through the line of scrimmage from what I saw today, so I think he’s over the hump. It’s good to have him back.”

Fontenot, who led the Buffs with 874 rushing yards in 2019, said he’s felt 100 percent healthy for months.

“Getting through this process, really it was just sticking to my rehab that I had to do and really just not going away from that so I can get back on the field as soon as possible,” he said.

“(Running backs coach Darian Hagan’s) main point was that it’s anybody’s position, so take that and run with it,” Fontenot said.

“There’s a lot of talent, really, but the way I look at it is like, I know my abilities. I’m going to show out regardless. I’m going to find a way on the field.”

On Ashaad Clayton (and the first scrimmage) …  From offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini: “I’m excited to see (running back) Ashaad Clayton get touches.”

Wide receivers … 

On LaVontae Shenault … Receiver La’Vontae Shenault has a few off-the-field traffic incidents in the past year, but he’s also flashed his tremendous talent.

In the early going of spring, Dorrell said he’s seeing some maturity in the redshirt freshman, who was suspended twice last season but caught 17 passes for 193 yards in the four games he played.

“I would say it’s an ongoing process, but he’s getting so much better,” Dorrell said of Shenault, who was recently recognized by the team for his academic work. “He’s growing up. Vontae is a very passionate kid. He’s doing a lot of really positive things right now. He’s doing great in school; he’s having his best semester he’s had since he’s been here in school, so that’s a big positive.”

Dorrell also said Shenault is stepping up as a vocal leader in the receiver room.

“He’s doing a great job this offseason, in training,” Dorrell said. “He looks great and he’s practicing great. There’s a positive vibe that he’s going through right now. We’re hoping there’s a consistency that he can develop and maintain for the rest of his career. If he does that, he has a chance to be special.”

On Maurice Bell … “I should have had three (touchdowns) last year,” said Maurice Bell, a junior receiver with the Colorado Buffaloes. “This year we’re gonna have to go for at least five. I’ve got some making up to do.”

“Maurice has worked really hard this offseason,” Chiaverini said. “He’s worked hard in the weight room, he’s worked hard obviously in the offseason conditioning program. I’m excited to see him take the next step this year.”

Whether it’s as a receiver or returner, Bell is eager to play a bigger role.

“I love just having the ball in my hands in general, honestly,” he said. “Returning kicks is definitely fun, especially with all the open space and opportunities you have back there.”

On DiMitri Stanley … Receiver Dimitri Stanley was added to the CU track and field roster this week, joining safety Mark Perry as dual-sport athletes. Stanley is slated to run in the 100 meters at the CU Invitational this weekend.

Stanley, who caught 20 passes for 335 yards last year, is doing well on the football field, too.

“Dimitri is having a great camp so far this spring and I feel like we didn’t utilize him enough last year,” Dorrell told Johnson. “We need to get him more targets, get him going a little bit more because he’s a fabulous player.”

… In the past two seasons, Dimitri Stanley has become one of Colorado’s best receivers.

The sophomore doesn’t believe, however, he’s reached his full potential.

“I want to improve upon my blocking,” Stanley said after the Buffs’ third practice of spring on Friday. “I think I could have been a lot more efficient in the blocking game and in the run game. And then pretty much yards after catch – I think I can do a lot more from that standpoint.

“Even on punt return, I think I can be one of the best returners in the (Pac-12). Just going into the season with that kind of confidence is going to take my game to the next level.”

… “Dimitri is one of those guys that he’s trying to step up and fill the void (left by Nixon), but it’s … a very talkative group anyway,” Dorrell said. “They get after each other to try to get them all hyped up and going, but I would say those two guys particularly have done a nice job of really starting the process. Hopefully, that’ll continue for the rest of the group.”

On Brenden Rice … “Obviously with Brenden Rice, you saw glimpses of greatness last year with him in certain games (and) I think he’s going to be a guy that continues to improve,” Chiaverini said.

Overall … “It’s a little bit of a turning of a page,” Chiaverini said. “K.D. is an alpha male, so he kind of owned that room and since he’s moved one, those other guys have really stepped into their own.”

“I’ve seen growth from La’Vontae, I’ve seen growth from Dimitri — I’ve really seen a lot of growth with those young guys and I’m excited about that group.”

“I’ve been really, really pleased with the other guys. Chris Carpenter has dynamic speed…I think he’s really taking the next step. So is Montana Lemonious-Craig — his growth has been really good from year one to year two and Keith Miller is a 6-foot-4, 215-pound young man who has gotten faster (and) stronger.”

“I’m really pleased with that 2020 receiving corps. It reminds me of when we signed Laviska, K.D., Maurice Bell and Jaylon Jackson. That was a really good group we signed back in 2017 and this group to me has a chance to be really good.”

Tight ends … 

On the Tight Ends … Offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini said tight end Brady Russell, who missed the last four games of the 2020 season with a leg injury, is limited this spring but on track to be fully healthy in the fall. “He was a dominant player in (the UCLA) game for us,” Chiaverini said. “Now we need Brady back 100% and he’s headed that way.”

Offensive line … 

Overall … “We really, right now, have just 10 healthy players to give us a two-deep in our linemen,” Dorrell said.

Chance Lytle (leg) and Casey Roddick (medical condition) were both starters last season and are out this spring. Freshmen Austin Johnson (Achilles) and Nikko Pohahau (shoulder) are also out.

Despite the lack of depth, Dorrell said he’s pleased with the work of the group so far.

“We have just enough to get through practice right now with a two-deep, but it’s a good two-deep,” he said.

On Frank Fillip … One key player who is healthy is Frank Fillip, who started all six games at right tackle last year. With left tackle William Sherman leaving for the NFL Draft, the first thing Fillip told Dorrell was, “I’m moving to the left side.”

“(Fillip is) doing really well,” Dorrell said. “He’s excited about it and loves the challenge of what that brings. I think he’s very confident about the year that he had last year in 2020, carrying it over to doing better things in 2021.”

Joining Fillip on the first team in the early going is Kary Kutsch (left guard), Colby Pursell (center), Kanan Ray (right guard) and Jake Wiley (right tackle).

Valentin Senn and Gerad Christian-Lichtenhan are both competing at tackle, with Josh Jynes at center and guard and Carson Lee at center. Walk-ons John Deitchman and Jack Seavall are also getting some reps.

Although the Buffs aren’t at full strength, the reps are valuable for those players who wouldn’t normally get them.

“It’s kind of cool for them to understand that they’re getting a lot of work and getting a chance to showcase themselves and trying to take advantage of this opportunity that they have,” Dorrell said

On Colby Pursell …  “It was kind of a weird little trip I’ve been on since I’ve been here, as far as injuries, but right now I’m feeling pretty good,” Pursell said Monday after the Buffs’ fourth practice of spring.

In addition to two strength and conditioning coaches, Pursell’s career at CU has included three different head coaches and three position coaches. This spring, Pursell and the rest of the Buffs’ linemen are starting their second season with offensive line coach Mitch Rodrigue.

“It is kind of nice to have that continuity,” Pursell said. “I get to learn from three different coaches and see three different ways of doing things. The way it’s been described to me in the past and the way I look at it is I can add more tools to my toolbox. A certain coach might teach something a certain way; a certain technique that could be applied in certain situations. I’m going to try and add that to my toolbox. Maybe I could use that to try to make myself a more well-rounded player.

“(Having so many coaches) was a bit different, a unique experience for sure, but I’m going to try and make that work to my advantage, and try and learn as much as I can from those three individuals.”

On Chance Lytle … Lytle, who suffered a leg injury against Arizona on Dec. 5, is finally out of his walking boot and “gradually getting himself back into playing shape,” Dorrell said. Lytle is expected to be ready by fall camp.

… Pursell said several inexperienced players are stepping up. In particular, Pursell said sophomore center Josh Jynes “has had a really good spring ball, so far,” and added, “We’ve got guys who are ready to step up. We have guys who want to play.”

Overall … Seven of the eight offensive linemen that played at least 92 offensive snaps for the Buffaloes last season return, with William Sherman taking his game to the NFL. Sherman’s 81.3 grade for the 2020 season ranked first on the team. He was a second-team all-conference honoree.

“Obviously Will was a really good player for us. We were here together almost the whole time and we developed together and watched each other grow into better players,” Pursell said. “Yeah, we’re missing him, definitely, just as a person. But people come and go all the time. That is just the natural of the sport. Then you develop guys so they can fill in so we don’t skip a beat.

“We’ve got some guys who previously haven’t had much playing time before who are stepping up now. I think Josh (Jynes) has had a really good spring ball so far. I think he has been playing really well. There’s more guys, but that is just one that stands out. We have guys that are coming along, and are ready to step up and want to play.”

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