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Countdown to Spring Practices – Quarterbacks

… Program Note … Colorado’s first of 15 spring practices will be conducted on March 18, with the spring game scheduled to take place nearly six weeks later at Folsom Field.

Black & Gold Day presented by Arrow Electronics will feature other events beyond the spring game, including Field Day presented by Children’s Hospital of Colorado, on April 27.

In addition to a look at the current roster and questions which Coach Prime & Co. will be looking to address this spring, we’ll take a look at the odds of whether the described unit is likely to face attrition after the spring.

Up next: Running Backs … this Wednesday …

— Quarterbacks (4) …

Returning starter (bold); walk-on (italics):

  • Seniors … Shedeur Sanders
  • Juniors … none
  • Sophomores … Walter Taylor; Destin Wade
  • Red-shirt freshmen … Ryan Staub
  • 2024 Signees …

The Stats … 

Last season, the returning “passing leader” on the CU roster was wide receiver Jordyn Tyson, who had a 37-yard completion in CU’s only win of the 2022 season (over Cal).

What a difference a year makes.

This spring, CU not only has a returning starter at quarterback, but a likely first-round NFL Draft pick next April.

Meanwhile, the battle for the backup position should be one of the most watched position battles of the spring. Ryan Staub showed he was capable of starting, faring well in the 2023 finale against Utah, while transfers Walter Taylor and Destin Wade are anxious to prove that they are the future at the quarterback position in the post-Shedeur CU world.

The numbers …

  • Shedeur Sanders … 298-of-430 (69.3) for 3,230 yards, with 27 touchdowns and three interceptions … Four more touchdowns rushing, but overall (with 52 sacks for minus-458 yards), 111 carries for a minus-77 yards …
  • Ryan Staub … 23-for-40 (57.5%) for 254 yards, with one touchdown and no interceptions …
  • Walter Taylor (at Vanderbilt) … 5-for-15 for 44 yards (33.3%), with no touchdowns and one interception …
  • Destin Wade (at Kentucky; 2022 season) … 16-for-30 for 98 yards (53.3%), with no touchdowns and two interceptions …

Nationally … CU in 2023 … 

  • Passing offense … 294.7 yds/game … 16th nationally
  • Total offense … 363.6 yds/game … 80th nationally
  • Scoring offense … 28.2 pts/game … 58th nationally

What to watch for …

In a recent interview with DNVR, Shedeur Sanders expressed displeasure at the offense he played in under Sean Lewis last season. The scheme, a cousin of the system Art Briles popularized at Baylor, has a passing game built around choice routes that read a defense’s look after the snap and attack it where it is vulnerable.

“That just wasn’t my style of play. I like definite things,” he told the site. “It’s too many variables. I don’t like having all the variables.”

Putting aside for the moment the question as to why Coach Prime would hire Sean Lewis, and install a system his son and star quarterback wasn’t comfortable with, Shedeur Sanders’ comments seem to indicate Colorado will move toward something more identifiable to Shurmur.

With the national pundits (and many Buff fans) not sure of what a Shurmur offense might produce, it will be up to Sanders (and his media outlets) to demonstrate that the Colorado offense will be more productive in 2024.

Now, comparatively, the CU 2023 offense was a marked improvement over what Coach Prime inherited. In 2022, the Buffs were 110th or worse in the nation in almost every offensive statistic. Shedeur Sanders, despite running for his life most of the season, still set a new single-season team record for passing yards (3,230), and was one score shy of Sefo Liufau’s single-season mark of 28 touchdown passes. The Buffs almost doubled their points production, going from 15.4 points per game to 28.2. But, if Colorado is going to be a bowl team in 2024 (much less a factor in the Big 12 race), production on offense will need to continue to improve.

With the starting position secure, the next order of business will be to establish the primary backup. Coach Prime stated he was going out into the Transfer Portal this off-season to find a proven starter for a backup … and he failed to sign one. Walter Taylor and Destin Wade come to Boulder from the SEC, but neither have enough playing experience to give Buff fans piece of mind that the offense is in good shape should Shedeur not be able to play every game in 2024.

Burning questions for spring … 

  • Back from jaunts to Paris for Fashion Week and to the Super Bowl, its time for Shedeur Sanders to get back to work and prove to his coaching staff, his teammates, and to NFL scouts that he is a top five 2025 NFL Draft pick. Can he make it happen?;
  • Who will make the best case for Shedeur’s primary backup for the 2024 season? Will any one of the three quarterbacks in camp – Walter Taylor, Destin Wade, or Ryan Staub – be able to give Buff fans confidence that the 2025 starter is already on the roster?;
  • Could CU use the 2024 season to showcase Taylor as a wildcat formation quarterback? Taylor is 6’7″, 235-pounds, and has shown an elusive quality when running. Could Taylor see the field in specialized plays this fall?;
  • Is CU done with the Transfer Portal for the off-season? Or will Coach Prime still be shopping for that elusive proven starter come April?

Attrition likelihood … Medium … It’s unlikely that Walter Taylor or Destin Wade will be testing the Transfer Portal waters so soon after coming to Boulder, but there is a decent chance that Ryan Staub, if he isn’t satisfied with his position on the depth chart, might seek playing time elsewhere. At the same time, there is good reason to believe that the CU coaching staff is hoping for a disgruntled backup from a quality program.


8 Replies to “Countdown to Spring Practices – Quarterbacks”

  1. I like Staub and hope he sticks around. Not that you can read too much into the snippets of videos, quotes, comments, etc. that we get fed, but it seems like he sees the opportunity to learn, grow, and compete for the job next year. But, 7 months is now like an eternity in college sports, so who knows?

    As to CP’s comment about Shedeur not being able to read and react? I thought the same thing. But, with option routes, it’s not just being able to read and react to what the defender/s is/are doing pre and post-snap, but also that your receivers need to see, read, and react exactly the same way.

    To my simple mind, that connection seems easier to make if you’ve been playing w/ the same people, in the same system for a bit. If you look at Lewis’ offense at Kent State, hadn’t he had the same QB there for a while (who then transferred after he left)? I’ll be curious to see how things go for him at SDSU. Hopefully they go well. Same for Danny O’Neill – who seemed a bit short, to me.

    As to Prime’s reaction w/ the offensive coaching? I think as much as anything he looks for fit. He believes if you’ve got the players who can make plays, they’ll make them, so it’s about a style and fit and how they gel w/ the coaching. For Shedeur, he believes Shurmur’s offensive style will play to Shedeur’s strengths of seeing the defense, reading quickly, anticipating based on those quick reads, and his accuracy putting the ball to the open spot the receiver will be to when the ball gets there.

    I can’t wait for the season to start. Oh, and spring tryouts should be interesting, too.

    Go Buffs

  2. Stuart–

    I liked your comment on Taylor. Swiss army knife? In addition to being elusive, he is fast and an absolute load to bring down even for LBs. His running highlights are excellent. Also, I saw in a recent write-up that Dre’lon Miller played some running back and wildcat too. I guess he played everywhere in HS. It will be nice for SS and the O to have options on 2nd, 3rd and short.

    For whatever reason, I hope/think Staub stays, even if he is not the clear-cut back-up. If Staub applies himself, I think he gets one heck of a reference from Prime, Shumer etc… He will be able to transfer and play immediately. Praying that SS stays upright and injury free, but if he goes down Staub could be QB3 and end up playing.

    Sounds like nuggets of info are leaking out on the SL situation. Overall, I thought SS showed his poise in handling things last season, specifically staying away from the media despite his injury/frustration. These questions will continue to percolate. I could tell around about Week 5 (@ASU), Prime and SL were not gelling and by game Week 7 (@UCLA) after the bye, Prime and SL were definitely not on the page.

    As goes SS and Shurmer, probably as goes the Buffs. I know some fans are skeptical of Shurmer, either from his time with Broncos, Oregon State or whatever. For Shurmer, the media and your article mentioned him calling the plays for Ore St., however I don’t think he really had much to call. No doubt, the play calling in that game was horrible (6 rb calls before the game was out of reach, 3 of which to run out the 1st half. -52 yards at halftime). It was basically a repeat of UCLA, just a home.

    I give Shurmer some break over the OSU game, unless you guys had inside information, the local (Adam, Howell, yourself) and national news broke on Friday afternoon Nov. 3rd (some rumblings around 10am) for the Nov 4th game of the change/demotion. Sounds to me like their was a late week/late-night coaching staff blowout. The initial AP story had “it Co-Coordinators . . . with both involved in the play-calling.” Then confusion w/ Shurmer in the box… By nightfall it Shurmer was a play-caller from the booth. I think Lewis already installed the game plan/offense for that week, thus Shurmer did not have much to all from. The Arizona game was more representative. We lost but ran more, not with great success.

    Go Buffs.

    1. will Shurmur call more than script? That’s when I really got down him when I heard him mumbling about scripting. Sure hope Staub doesnt become QB 3. I now the newbies didnt get much playing time but even at that their passing stats look pretty pathetic. Sounds like the triple option running game if both he and Sheduer go down

      1. I think Shurmer will have scripts, however an overall game-plan, thus calling more than a script. Most coaches script their opening drives to a degree, if for anything to see what the defense is giving/taking away, get some intel and hopefully their game plan has the opposing D off balance. I tend to believe Shurmer’s scripting comments, were maybe geared toward: (1) feeling out the defense; (2) presenting a more balanced run/pass attack; and (3) maybe patience. See comment below. Overall, to succeed at a high level he will have to make adjustments (i.e. the right adjustments), as every good coach is required. He can promote more balance using the RBs more, but if they stack the box, he has to send in the plays to break them downfield– outside throw, TE 1on1, slot, or hot route and the players have to make the plays. College is not nearly as intricate as the NFL chess game–less film, less familiar match-ups, old coaches, history etc… but you have to adapt and play clean. I hope with his overall coaching experience he can get it done. I surmise with him being part of program last season has, it has given him nuggets on the college game and CU’s returning players. The new Oline will be huge as they really need surge and to minimize penalties. Overall, they need to play clean, get better down & distance, and just make plays.

        The comment below was something I took from Alfred Williams reminiscing on his CU days–I think it mostly a complement to Rouen/Helton? but the O as well. His point was when the defense is good/adequate a huge part of the early game was just the O getting a few 1st downs and flipping the field with a good/decent punt. That energized the defense, an opportunity for them to set a tone or not play from behind. It paid huge dividends, if you won the initial field position battle then overwhelmed the other team. College football has changed a ton since those days–more big plays.

        IMO, some of SL’s issues emerged in the early games where either CU scored quickly or 3 & out, then the TOP was really skewed. Part of that was a tempo SL’s nuance, which might not have been a good fit. As we know our defense was not great, but if not rested either; that is a huge problem.

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