At the time he was hired as Colorado's quarterbacks coach three months ago, Kurt Roper didn't know much about the players with which he would work.
After 15 spring practices and numerous meetings and film sessions, Roper is now confident that the Buffaloes have talented quarterbacks that, if they continue on their current path, can help CU win this fall.
Led by incumbent starter Steven Montez and backed by youngsters Sam Noyer and Tyler Lytle, the Buffs came out of spring pleased with the work of their quarterbacks.
Of course, there's still plenty of work to be done, but Roper's first impression is a good one, particularly of Montez. In his first year as the full-time starter, Montez threw for 2,975 yards, 18 touchdowns and nine interceptions last season, and he took a step forward in spring.
"He's really talented," Roper said of the junior. "I think he has a good command of our system, which helps you go fast and use the tempo which you want to use. I think he's growing in the sense of how to apply our system, our plays to what the defense is doing. I think his understanding of protections is growing, which is key."
Although Montez threw a pair of bad interceptions in the annual spring showcase on March 17 — mistakes magnified by fans who saw just that one practice — those who have been around Montez all offseason have praised his development.
"I believe that he is starting to understand coverages and rotation of where pressure is coming," head coach Mike MacIntyre said. "He's understanding a little bit better of when you have to get the ball out of your hand and when you can hold it a little bit. That will help us a lot. That will cut down on a lot of our sacks that we had last year. I think that'll be a benefit for everybody."
Between now and the season opener on Aug. 31 against Colorado State, Roper would like to see Montez — as well as Noyer and Lytle — increase understanding of defenses and his knowledge of the CU passing game, but feels good about having one of the most experienced quarterbacks in the Pac-12 as the Buffs' starter.
"Every day is a day that you go out there and compete, but I think that any time you have a guy that has established game reps and has played well in a lot of instances, there's comfort in it in as a coach," Roper said. "There's comfort in it as a coordinator with a guy having reps, but each day is its own day."
The growth of Noyer, a sophomore, and Lytle, a redshirt freshman, was important this spring, as well. Should something happen to Montez, Roper said he'd feel good about putting either one into the lineup on game day.
"Absolutely you feel comfortable because those guys have been with us now and we've been working at it," Roper sad. "Like I tell them all the time, they have to be ready to play regardless of the situation, and just because they go play doesn't mean we're not supposed to win. You're still going to be held to that standard. I think those guys are talented and have the ability to be good quarterbacks in this league."
As the top backup last year, Noyer completed 13-of-27 passes for 119 yards. Entering his third year with the Buffs, he's got a good command of the offense, and MacIntyre said Noyer showed his athleticism throughout the spring.
"Sam does a good job of playing at the speed of the game," Roper said. "He has fast-twitch ability. For Sam, it's getting more of a grasp of what we're doing pass-game wise and getting more reps."
Lytle, who has yet to play in a game, but has been impressive in his own right and looked good in the spring showcase.
"He was kind of catching up with (Montez and Noyer) a little bit the beginning of the spring," MacIntyre said. "I think he's caught up."
Roper has been impressed with Lytle's arm, but said the emphasis is now on his feet.
"When you watch quarterbacks play, their feet have to play at the speed of the game," Roper said. "That's been the focus for Tyler. For Tyler, it's understanding the pass game and playing with faster feet."
The Buffs have about four months before they start fall camp and there's plenty to do, but Roper is not only pleased with the development of the quarterbacks; he's also enjoying his time with them.
"They're great guys," he said. "That's the first thing as a coach, is do you enjoy going into the room and spending time with those guys? I've been in rooms where seasons get long, but these guys are a lot of fun to be around."