Innocent bystander.

That's what Nick Hirschman was relegated to for most of Colorado's fall camp after suffering a foot injury.

Meanwhile, starter Tyler Hansen practiced like a senior captain should, and freshman walk-on John Schrock made the most of his opportunity.

However, Hirschman was impressive enough during spring drills and through the first six practices of camp to earn the No. 2 spot. Starting with Monday's practice, the backup plans to be back on the CU practice fields.

Walk-on quarterback John Schrock has earned third-string duties for the Buffs this fall.
Walk-on quarterback John Schrock has earned third-string duties for the Buffs this fall. ( PAUL AIKEN )

"Nothing is given to anybody on this team. It's a whole new mindset and it's good for us," Hirschman said when asked if he felt comfortable with his position in the pecking order. "The way I looked at it is that I must have played well during that time frame. I was glad they had enough confidence in me to allow me to keep my spot. But as athletes, we're always looking behind our shoulders and looking ahead of us to make sure."

The Buffs closed camp with a scrimmage on Friday that was dominated by the defense. One of the few bright spots for the offense was Schrock, who threw a pair of touchdown passes to lock up his spot on the travel roster for the Sept. 3 opener at Hawaii.

"I was incredibly impressed with John. That's a hard situation to be thrown into your first semester here," Hirschman said. "To come in with no prior knowledge of the offense, I thought he stepped up and played real well. I'm proud of him."

While his teammates were grinding in the heat, Hirschman was studying his X's and O's in the Dal Ward Center. The coaching staff didn't want the 6-3, 230-pound redshirt freshman standing on his injured foot watching three-hour practices.

"It allowed me to get into my playbook even more so than I would have been able to having practices every day," Hirschman said. "I was able to master the offense even better than I think I would have been able to."

CU head coach Jon Embree was unhappy with the offense after the final scrimmage, but wide receiver Paul Richardson and running back Rodney Stewart didn't play, and Hansen, Ryan Miller and other regulars didn't play much.

"I feel good when we have the 11 that I need to have. I like it," Embree said of the starters. "The problem is we're going to need more than 11."

Hansen started the first seven games of the 2010 season but suffered a ruptured spleen against Texas Tech, allowing Cody Hawkins to finish his polarizing career under center.

When Hirschman is healthy, the 2011 Buffs feel good about their backup plan. During three spring scrimmages, he completed 22 of 43 passes for 274 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.

"Of course we don't want to get anybody hurt or anything like that," Hirschman said. "But the coaches have been preaching that we all have to be ready because if someone gets hurt it's better to have a smooth transition than a bumpy road."