On a frigid, snowy November day in Boulder, the only thing melting was Colorado's bowl hopes.

CU trailed by 20 points in the fourth quarter and, after starting quarterback Steven Montez was knocked out of the game by an avalanche of Utah defenders, coaches picked that moment to give redshirt freshman Tyler Lytle his first opportunity to throw passes in a college game.

Talented, yet inexperienced, Lytle learned a few things that day.

"Humility, for one," Lytle said recently, with a smile. "It was a tough environment. It's how strong you are mentally. That's one thing (former quarterbacks coach Kurt) Roper always harped on and asked us, 'How strong are you mentally?' That was a tough situation to go in, but I felt like I went in there and did my best and stepped up. I made redshirt freshman mistakes, but nothing I'm worried about and I know I can go in there and make plays and take the good with the bad."

On March 18, the Buffs begin spring football and Lytle, now a sophomore, feels better prepared than ever to lead the team on the field if called upon.

Montez is returning for his senior year and, presumably, his third season as the starter. Lytle, however, is ready to compete. Entering his third spring with the Buffs, he has very little game experience, but plenty of education.

Highly recruited out of Servite High School in Anaheim, Calif., Lytle has had almost as many position coaches (three) as passes thrown (five, all against Utah) at CU, yet is grateful for each of them.

Brian Lindgren was his position coach in 2017, followed by Roper last year. Head coach Mike MacIntyre was fired the day after the Utah game, and new head coach Mel Tucker hired Jay Johnson as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for this season.


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"I've been extremely blessed to have some really good quarterback coaches, now three in a row," Lytle said. "It's really good mentorship on and off the field. It's just adjusting and getting used to a new personality in the room. Coach Johnson has been great so far. I've learned a ton and things have been going really well.

"I've had three different coaches, but I've also had three different perspectives and teaching styles, so I think that just makes me a better player."

One of the greatest lessons Lytle has learned at CU is patience. He's hardly played since his senior year at Servite, in 2016.

"It's tough transitioning from high school to college and, 'Ok I'm not the guy anymore. I have to prove myself all over again,'" he said. "It definitely challenges you mentally and is something that's a part of growing up, understanding why I wasn't ready as a true freshman. I didn't understand it then, but I understand it now. Seeing how far I've come has been pretty fun and I'm going to continue to keep getting better."

Darrin Chiaverini is one of the few coaches that have seen Lytle from the beginning. Co-offensive coordinator the past three years, Chiaverini was retained by Tucker as receivers coach and has watched Lytle mature.

"He looks really good," Chiaverini said. "He's put a lot of work in and I'm excited to see him this spring. I think you're going to see his growth. It usually takes quarterbacks a little bit of time to take that next step and I think he's ready to do that. We're looking forward to it."

Last season, Chiaverini said, Lytle had developed his throwing motion "to where the ball comes out clean," while also processing the game faster than ever. That should only improve.

Although Montez has, by far, the most game experience among the quarterbacks — a group that also includes junior Sam Noyer and redshirt freshman Blake Stenstrom — they're all on a similar level in terms of the new offense.

"It's a similar offense as we did the past few years, it's just learning a bit of new language and learning new terminology — what we're calling defenses, what we're calling the offense, in terms of blocks, routes and passing concepts," Lytle said. "It's been fun so far.

"It's starting to click a little bit, so I'm excited to get out there and actually play some football."

Physically, the 6-foot-5 Lytle is up to 220 pounds (he ended last season around 205) and said he's never been stronger or faster.

"I've been moving a lot better than I was last season, the past two seasons and even in high school," he said. "I'm excited to get on the field and show it."

Whether it's pushing Montez for a starting job or winning the top backup position, Lytle said he's better prepared than in the past.

"I really think I took the next step maturity-wise in understanding what I need to do and what it's going to take to be where I want to go," he said. "This offseason is a big growing up year. I'm going to continue to do so and keep working."

Ideally, that work pays off with a better experience than the one he had against Utah last November — but he'll never forget that game.

"That was a great experience," he said. "It was good to get on the field and get my feet wet a little bit. It's out of the way now. I've stepped foot on the field and I just take that into next season. I know I'm capable and I can go out there and make plays."

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at howellb@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.