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What They Said: Spring Quotes – Offense

The Buff Nation was only able to actually watch CU spring practices twice (April 9th scrimmage; April 23rd Spring “Showcase”). So, for information and updates, Buff fans were left to post-practice quotes from the coaches and players to try and discern progress of the team through the 15 spring practices. Below is a compilation of what was said about different players and units this spring, with thanks to CUBuffs.com, the Boulder Daily Camera, CUSportsNation (Rivals), and BuffStampede.com (247 Sports) for their reporting.

Coaching Staff 

Before we get to individual units on offense, it’s worth noting that the changes in the coaching staff on offense will have as much of an impact on CU’s success this fall than will the changes in personnel. Of the five coaches on offense, only running backs coach Darian Hagan remains.

The new coaches:

  • Mike Sanford – Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks
  • Clay Patterson – Passing Game Coordinator/Tight Ends
  • Kyle DeVan – Offensive Line
  • Phil McGeoghan – Wide Receivers

So … here are some of the quotes about how the new coaches are getting along …

“It’s about as much fun as I’ve had coaching football in quite some time,” Mike Sanford said. “It’s just great to work in a healthy environment with a head coach that has a clear vision, lets you coach and be who you are. I just love that he lets all of us as position coaches and coordinators lead the way that we are comfortable leading with our personalities. It starts with coach Dorrell and his vision and allowing us to do things that we see are fit for our offense.”

Sanford and the rest of the staff have enjoyed the challenge of changing those numbers.

“I’m just having a blast because this coaching staff offers a variety of experiences, a variety of systematic approaches, and we’ve had a lot of fun putting it together and doing it in a way where everybody’s got some skin in the game and it’s been really fun,” Sanford said. “It’s a really unified offensive group right now, which is exciting.”

“You know in a room of coaches when it’s right; when it feels right,” he said. “There’s a free-flow interchange of ideas, there’s different backgrounds, everybody’s respectful of each other. We are working together as one and it comes across with the players because the players are working together as one. … I’ve been in bad rooms, where everybody’s kind of looking, ‘That’s my idea, that’s his idea.’ Everyone’s looking to cover themselves and this is not that. We’re all in it together and it feels that way every day I go to work.

And there is this, from Adam Munsterteiger at BuffStampede.comNot intended to be a Kool-Aid guzzling type of post, but from what I’ve been able to observe as a media member on the fringe, just outside the program, hearing practice from outside the gates and seeing the coaches interact with each other after practice… it genuinely seems like the closest group of offensive coaches the Buffs have had since I’ve covered the program.

As to the new offense Sanford is installing … 

Sanford said CU has “thrown the kitchen sink” at players in terms of installing the offense this spring. It’s a system designed to run plays through multiple formations and groupings, so there’s a lot to learn.

“The great thing about what we’re doing schematically is that we’re not going to pigeon-hole ourselves into being like, ‘This is all we do,’” Sanford said. “There’s going to be multiplicity and the offense is going to be malleable as the year goes on. We’re gonna study NFL teams, we’re gonna study trends and we’ll keep growing as the season goes on.

“The kids have taken to it really well. It’s a smart group of kids and they love what we’re doing. They’re confident in what we’re doing.”

Now, onto the quotable quotes about each position group … 

Quarterbacks 

Sanford said he has been “really pleased” with how sophomore quarterback Brendon Lewis has played this spring.

“Brendon Lewis is playing at a really high level right now,” Sanford said. “He’s operating what I would call a complex system, and he’s doing it well. He’s spending extra time, he’s taking charge of the offense. He’s making really good, fast decisions, which was clearly a growth area for him coming off the 2021 season.”

Sanford said he’s also been excited about the growth of junior JT Shrout, who has been limited this spring because he’s recovering from a knee injury. Shrout has been “taking the lion’s share of the seven-on-seven reps,” Sanford said.

Junior quarterback JT Shrout has been unable to fully participate this spring as he continues recovery from an August knee injury. He has been able to get a lot of work in, however, particularly in seven-on-seven drills.

“It’s been good for him,” Dorrell said. “It’s unfortunate that he can’t get more work than that. That’s his challenge that he fights every day is that he only gets the seven-on-seven reps and he doesn’t get any team or anything like that. His development in his mind, I’m sure he would tell you, is not good enough, because he’s not getting that type of work, but he’s got this summer.”

Dorrell said Shrout should be full-go when the Buffs get back together for workouts in June.

Running Backs

“I’m ready to show the world because honestly I feel like in my time here I have yet to really just show everyone what I have,” Deion Smith said. “My coaches know; (running backs coach Darian) Hagan knows; my fellow teammates and running backs know, but from the outside looking in nobody really knows Deion Smith.”

Healthy again last year, Smith was behind Jarek Broussard and Fontenot on the depth chart, but still posted 192 yards and two touchdowns on 53 carries in his most extensive playing time in four years. Although his role was limited, Smith said last year was big for him mentally to get into a groove again.

“Honestly, it felt good to me just because coming off the injury and getting back on the field and actually playing football is a difference from being on a sideline and being in meetings,” he said. “I can go to all these team events (when injured) but me not being on the field doesn’t feel the same, so last season for me felt like a stepping stone. I got on the field. I was able to do a little bit. Now let me use that same momentum and push it forward and get me to fall.

“Now it’s time to really just put it all together.”

“A big thing that happens often is that a lot of people on the outside don’t really know what’s going on in here on a day-to-day basis, so their judgment is what they see on Saturdays every single week,” Smith said. “We’ve got guys like Jayle that y’all didn’t see much of him last year, but inside the room we knew what we had. It’s one of those things to where it’s just like on the outside, they’re like, ‘Oh my God, you don’t have any backs.’ But on the inside, we’ve been the exact same. It’s my turn and it’s my turn to show y’all that I’m next.”

“I’ve learned from some great running backs — Fontenot, J-Bru, Deion,” Jayle Stacks said. “When I got here, the game was fast. Everything was coming at me boom, boom, boom. I think (the game) is slowing down. I’m reading the holes faster. My cuts are a little stronger. That’s kind of what makes you a better back.”

Stacks said in high school he could simply get the handoff and run downfield. In college, there’s much more to the position, including reading defenses and knowing the assignments of his teammates.

Stacks admits he wasn’t ready to play as a true freshman but felt ready last year and even more so now.

“This year I feel like I can show a little something that I have,” he said. “I think you’ve just got to stay humble (coming from high school). … Just keep grinding, have fun with it and one day you’re gonna shine.”

Walk-on running back Charlie Offerdahl “just keeps making plays,” Sanford said. “I’m excited about his growth and development.”

 

Wide Receivers

“I think the area that I’m really, really pleased with has been the receiver growth,” Mike Sanford said. “That was a big question mark with everything that happened in the offseason and today I looked over and you see Maurice (Bell) and Daniel Arias and Montana (Lemonious-Craig) and RJ Sneed, Chase Penry. I looked over after a big play and I was like, ‘We’ve got a wideout group here and they’re being coached.’”

“They’re being coached by two of the best in coach McGeoghan and what he brings to the table; I’ve seen development,” Sanford said. “Then also with coach Dorrell. The tips that these two can offer, I don’t think there’s a better receiving/coaching combination out there that I’ve been around, and I’ve been around it now for quite some time.”

Dorrell on Daniel Arias

“I’m excited about what his future is going to look like because here’s a guy that I think in the last couple of years, he hasn’t been targeted all that much and I think he’s gonna be a big part of what we are in the future,” Dorrell said. “So it’s good to see him come alive. You can tell he’s becoming a better player because he’s getting more attention.”

A third-year sophomore, Montana Lemonious-Craig is one of the top players and leaders for a receiver group that has gone through some changes this offseason.

“I have taken on a leadership role within the room, in terms of wide receivers,” he said. “I feel like it’s a responsibility for me going on my third year here. Even though I am a young guy, I feel like with the team expanding my role, I need to be able to step up to the plate, just be more of a guy that some of the young guys can lean on.”

“Oh yeah, most definitely,” quarterback Brendon Lewis said when asked if Lemonious-Craig is somewhat of a security blanket for him on the field. “Montana is getting better every day. He’s one of the hardest workers I’ve seen, so he’s getting better each and every day. He’s one of those guys: possession catches, a big-time third-down guy. So for sure he could be one of those guys.”

Tight Ends 

Aside from senior Brady Russell, the Buffs don’t have any experience at tight end. They do have talent, however.

Redshirt freshmen Caleb Fauria and Erik Olsen have made a strong impression this spring, while Austin Smith continues to improve.

“He’s a talented young man and he is going to be a different dimension for us offensively,” Dorrell said of the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Smith. “He’s still a young player though. He hasn’t played a snap yet. He still is going through some growing pains.”

A late signee in 2021, Smith came from Elmaton, Texas, which has a population of less than 30, and he’s still learning how to play tight end.

“He has made a lot of progress,” Dorrell said. “We do think he has a really bright future, but he’s still going through some growing pains. You’ll see some things like, ‘Hmm, that wasn’t so good,’ but then you’ll see some, ‘Wow, that was pretty good.’ Let’s hopefully keep building on the wow category and eliminate … the stuff that is inexperienced out there. He’s growing. He’s getting better.”

Offensive Line

CU began spring with 14 offensive linemen, including three walk-ons, but only nine are healthy as practices wind down.

The lack of depth has led to starting guards Tommy Brown and Casey Roddick rotating in with the second team. While the lack of depth isn’t ideal, Brown and Roddick have helped the second unit improve.

“That’s usually the biggest drop-off is when the twos don’t have as much knowledge and experience as the ones but now that we have (Brown and Roddick) … with the second group, they’re able to help those guys identify what they’re looking at, create communication,” Dorrell said. “It allows the twos to actually play pretty well. But that’s the reason why I think there isn’t really that much of a drop-off with our twos and our ones.”

Jake Wiley went through plenty of growing pains in starting at left tackle during the 2021 season but feels he’s better now because of the experience.

“I think it was really just trial by fire,” said Wiley, who played only seven career snaps before last year. “Going in there and learning from my mistakes, to be honest. The first game against (Northern Colorado) was really my first snaps playing collegiately, so going in there kind of just seeing what I did wrong and how I can fix that.

“Jake, obviously he knew he didn’t have a great year and coaches hit on it, but his approach this offseason has been freaking unbelievable,” DeVan said. “You talk about a guy that loves the game, loves the work, loves the development side of it. His approach has been unbelievable. I’m really excited about him.”

Sophomores Noah Fenske and Austin Johnson continue battling for the starting job at center. “Those guys have been going back and forth,” Dorrell said. “Austin and Noah both together have really made huge steps of improvement.” … Dorrell has been impressed with the development of walk-on offensive linemen Jack Seavall, a sophomore, and Ben Reznik, a redshirt freshman. “They’ve got a chance at some point in time to earn a scholarship here because of their development and what they’re doing,” Dorrell said.

“I think (spring) is going pretty well,” Frank Fillip said. “I feel a lot better than I did last season as far as my shoulder goes, so it’s nice to be able to just get better.”

The 6-foot-7, 295-pound Fillip was in line to take over at left tackle when he suffered a torn labrum in his left shoulder midway through last spring. The injury required surgery and he didn’t return until the third game of the season, coming off the bench. He started the last nine games at right tackle, but his shoulder was never fully healthy.

“I mean, it can be tough, but you’ve just got to push through,” he said. “You can’t just press pause on the season. You’ve just got to keep going. So it doesn’t really matter how I feel; the season matters.”

The injury did impact his play, however, as Fillip struggled at times along with the rest of the line.

“I definitely wasn’t 100% when I was playing; that’s probably the best way I could put it,” he said. “Maybe I wasn’t as confident.”

He’s feeling that confidence now as he has gone through spring settling in at right tackle.

“Oh yeah, I’m back to the old me,” he said. “(Being healthy) just allows me to play with more confidence. I trust myself a lot more. I trust my arm a lot more. I think confidence is key, especially this position. Having that confidence back makes all the difference.”

Frank Fillip, left tackle Jake Wiley and right guard Casey Roddick are back as starters, and several others stepping up to compete on the line. DeVan is helping the group come together.

“It’s like the blindfold has been taken off and we’re all just … everyone’s getting better every day,” Fillip said.

3 Replies to “Spring Quotes – Offense”

  1. What happened to Fontenot? I don’t see him on the field yesterday but also didn’t see his name on the scratch list.

    1. A hamstring injury. After the scrimmage last week, Karl Dorrell said he hoped to have Fontenot back for the Spring Showcase, but it didn’t work out.

  2. Great write up Stu! Thanks for collapsing it all in one place. I gotta say the one comment to rule them all is about Lewis. If we can see him read and react faster that alone will improve us dramatically. We had a surprise 4-2 season 2 years ago and everyone was amazed. I think that we might, just might jump out and surprise people. At a minimum I expect the team to do better and be pushing hard for a bowl game. I will be at the spring game tomorrow so I am excited to see how they look after a spring with the new coaches. Has the o line gelled more? Is Lewis getting the ball out of his hands in 3 seconds? Can Jayle run some dudes over? Can Smith be explosive? Will Arias finally fulfill the potential, create separation or go win jump balls? How does Sneed look? So many questions…..

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