It has been one frustrating year for Colorado quarterback Nick Hirschman, but there were no traces of that on his face Monday as he joined his teammates on the field for the first practice of fall camp.
Hirschman endured three foot surgeries in the past 12 months, robbing him of confidence and some of his ability in limited playing time last fall. The surgeries also kept him out of spring ball entirely.
But he was back under center as one of three players battling for the Buffs' starting quarterback job as camp opened. He is competing with fellow third-year sophomore Connor Wood and junior Jordan Webb, who transferred to CU this summer after graduating from Kansas.
Hirschman said he is 100 percent healthy and has been since June.
"I feel fantastic," Hirschman said. "My feet feel back to normal and don't even notice them any more. It's great to be back out here, too. I had a real good day. It was fun."
With Hirschman out, Wood took all the first-team snaps in the spring and Webb brings two years of starting experience with the Jayhawks to the competition. Despite those facts, Hirschman said he doesn't feel any kind of disadvantage. He said all three players seemed to receive equal reps in the first practice and coaches have given no indication that will change.
"We're all coming in here just trying to compete and we're all working hard for the starting job," he said.
The Buffs only have one practice under their belts, but Hirschman said the quarterback competition already feels more intense than his previous two seasons. He said competition across the roster appears that way.
Coach Jon Embree said coaches probably won't make any kind of decision about who the starter will be until after camp ends Aug. 25. The starter would then have a full week to prepare for the season opener against Colorado State.
"It will probably happen after camp unless it just clearly separates itself," Embree said. "... I'd like to have it done sooner than later. That's for sure, but I still want it to be done right."
True freshman Shane Dillon, who is continuing to recover from shoulder surgery, will not be a factor in the quarterback competition and will likely redshirt, Embree said. Dillon has been cleared to practice but coaches are easing him back into a throwing regimen.
"They all flashed and had their moments," Embree said. "I'm excited to see. It's going to be a competitive battle."
Embree said the Buffs were sharper on the first day of camp than they were a year ago. He said the work players put in on their own in the summer showed on Day One. "A lot of little things we were coaching last year we don't have to coach this year." ... Embree said freshman wide receiver Jeffrey Thomas "got dinged a little bit." ... Wide receiver Paul Richardson was at practice and did some light running.