Colorado backup quarterback Jordan Gehrke started spring practices back in March with a goal of giving returning starter Sefo Liufau a run for his money when almost no one gave him a chance.
While Liufau will complete spring ball atop the depth chart when the Buffs walk off the practice field for the final time Monday morning, Gehrke certainly accomplished his mission.
In the final week of spring practices, head coach Mike MacIntyre was comfortable in saying Gehrke was genuinely pushing Liufau, but maybe not quite pushing past him. On the field in the moments after Saturday's spring game ended, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Brian Lindgren said he will go into August eager to see more from Gehrke.
"I think the emergence of Jordan Gehrke," Lindgren said when asked what he'll be looking for in August at quarterback. "We were unsure of how he would pick things up coming off of a redshirt. I've been really pleased with the way he played."
MacIntyre and Lindgren both solidly committed to Liufau as the starter, but MacIntyre said after Saturday's game that he would feel comfortable putting Gehrke into a game in the fall based on how he has practiced.
Connor Wood left the team in January and gave up his senior season of eligibility to move on to life after football. The decision created big concerns for the coaching staff with only two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster this spring in Liufau and Gehrke and one more coming in the summer in freshman Cade Apsay.
Gehrke's spring performance is significant because before practices began March 7, coaches had real concerns with Liufau as the only player at the position with any major college experience. That will still be true in August when the season begins against Colorado State, but coaches now believe Gehrke can play if called upon. They also believe he could be a weapon at times because of his ability to run the ball.
At the very least, it seems they won't go into fall camp hoping a true freshman can prove worthy of the backup job for the second straight season.
Gehrke said hearing praise for his performance publicly from coaches boosts his confidence. He said he hopes to add some weight between now and the start of the season.
"I feel a lot more comfortable with the offense," Gehrke said. "Obviously there is a lot to improve on and that I really need to get down. ... I think overall I took a step, but there is a lot more steps I need to take."