Three different quarterbacks played in at least seven games at Colorado last fall and none of them enjoyed much success. All three are back this spring trying to write a much different chapter in their college careers.
For senior Jordan Webb, it's the last chapter and his final chance to lead an offense and a team to a winning record. For a pair of fourth-year juniors -- Nick Hirschman and Connor Wood -- it might be the last chance to earn the starting job here, especially if they are passed over for younger teammate such as redshirt freshman Shane Dillon.
All three players still believe they can be the guy who leads the Colorado program out of the abyss it is in following a 1-11 season, the worst in the modern era of the program. There is a segment of the fan base rooting against any of the three earning the job because those fans believe what they saw from the three in 2012 was the best they had to offer.
But there is a new coaching staff in place, teaching all six quarterbacks on the roster a new offense and the players are all taking equal snaps in the first eight practices this spring. Coaches then intend to spend a week over spring break evaluating with plans to trim the list of players involved in the quarterback competition to three or four for the remaining seven sessions.
With those parameters, there is a sense of urgency among all the quarterbacks to make each snap count.
"This definitely isn't my first rodeo in that regard," Webb said. "I'm definitely used to competing. I think we've got a good group of guys at the quarterback position. We've got a lot to learn and we're all going to push each other. We're going to get there as far as the quarterback position goes."
The two biggest factors that have changed aside from the changes in coaches is the addition of more speed at wide receiver with Paul Richardson returning from his knee injury, Jeff Thomas joining the roster after greyshirting and D.D. Goodson moving from running back to slot receiver. More speed is on the way with three new receivers in the freshman class that will arrive this summer.
The other factor that could make these quarterbacks more effective is the scheme change on offense. The quarterbacks say the up-tempo Pistol offense coach Mike MacIntyre brought with him from San Jose State is more quarterback friendly than what they were operating in the past two seasons.
"Not knocking on the offense and the coaching staff we had, but I think the simplicity the offense helps quarterbacks play faster and our heads aren't as busy at the line of scrimmage," Wood said. "We have a couple things to think about and that's it. You can play faster. For me, I think I'm more consistent and accurate because I'm not thinking so much. It's just easier."
San Jose State threw for nearly 4,300 yards last season. Those are eye-opening totals to CU quarterbacks.
"I think we're all really excited," Webb said. "It's a quarterback friendly offense. They like to go vertical with some stuff and they like to get it out quick sometimes. I think we're also going to have a good running game."
Webb is coming off two surgeries on his throwing hand and isn't at full strength. He is unable to grip the ball with full strength just yet so his passes occasionally come out wobbly.
"It's my throwing hand, so nothing is too minor when it comes to that," he said.
Webb was the starter for the majority of the season in 2012 throwing for 1,434 yards in 10 games with eight touchdowns and eight interceptions. He led the Buffs to their only win, a come-from-behind victory at Washington State.
Hirschman missed spring ball last season recovering from foot surgery and finished second to Webb in the quarterback competition in fall camp. He played in eight games, including two starts, and threw for 589 yards with two touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Wood never found his comfort zone last season and his opportunities were limited when it came to playing with games still in doubt. He's the first to say he was thinking too much at times and putting too much pressure on himself to make plays. He threw for 265 yards in seven games with one touchdown pass and four interceptions.
All three quarterbacks are now playing for their third coaching staff in a third offensive system. Webb and Wood contributed to finding themselves in that situation by transferring from Kansas and Texas respectively.
Hirschman has been through three coaching staffs and two coaching changes in his CU career. It has been forced on him and it has taught him some lessons. One of them is not to put too much pressure on himself in this first segment of spring ball.
"I don't think it makes the first section any more important than the second," Hirschman said when asked about coaches trimming the list of competitors at the position midway through spring. "College football, you can lose your job really quick and you can get a job really quick. I've been on both spectrums of that. Honestly, you come out here every day and just worry about yourself, make sure your reads are right, make sure your progressions are right and make sure you're doing the right things. Hopefully it will all work out."
Hirschman said that while there is heated competition between all six quarterbacks in practice each day, the players involved have good relationships and don their best to help each other. He said he's thankful to have a meeting room with that dynamic.
"The camaraderie is great," Hirschman said. "We have a great room and we have the ability to separate football and off-the-field. Off the field, things are a little more candid and fun and on the field things are more serious and you're thinking about yourself a little more."
Defensive back Sherrard Harrington used his Twitter account to announce he is medically retiring from CU after too many injuries. MacIntyre confirmed the plan, saying Harrington has a chronic hip injury. Harrington joined the CU program in 2011 but did not play in a game in either of his two years on the roster. ...The Buffs practiced in pads for the first time this spring and MacIntyre said the Buffs weren't quite as sharp as they were Friday. ...When asked for his opinion on CU's practice bubble, MacIntyre said, "I like it. It's works good. It's better than slopping around in the snow out there right now or being in a gym."
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