It was almost dark and a good 30 minutes after football practice had ended one night last week in front of the Dal Ward Center when freshman quarterback Shane Dillon walked by coach Jon Embree having a conversation.
Dillon and Embree made eye contact. The quarterback said to his coach, "Two more weeks."
Embree smiled and returned to his previous conversation.
It's unclear exactly what Dillon meant in that exchange, but with two games remaining on the schedule at that point, it might as well have been a reference to the time when all eyes of Buffs fans will turn to him with hope and desperation, praying he is a big part of the massive rebuilding project that is still in its infancy.
The Buffs will wrap up their worst season of football in three decades on Friday when they host Utah. CU will be trying to break a seven-game losing streak and win its first home game of the season.
It's a guessing game at this point who will start the season finale at quarterback. Three players have made starts this season.
Dillon is just one of six quarterbacks on the current roster and all of them are eligible to return in 2013 along with at least one freshman expected to be added in the 2013 recruiting class. Whether all of them actually do end up on the roster next fall remains to be seen.
This much is clear, junior Jordan Webb and sophomores Nick Hirschman and Connor Webb all have been in position through this season to stake their claim for the starting quarterback job in Boulder and none of them have looked like the long-term solution.
When asked after the Buffs' seventh consecutive loss Saturday against Washington whether the quarterback competition in the spring will be wide open, Embree said, "Like the Grand Canyon."
A true freshman has never started the season opener at quarterback for Colorado. So unless a young gun makes history next August or one of the others suddenly takes his game to another level, it appears Embree has all his eggs in one basket, so to speak, with Dillon.
The thing is, Dillon relishes the idea.
Dillon wanted to be that freshman to make history and win the job this year, but he suffered a throwing shoulder injury during his final high school game and underwent surgery last spring, leading to a redshirt season.
"I was pretty bummed cause I had thoughts of coming in here and sort of trying to take over and win the team and do all that," Dillon said. "Being in a sling for two months is not going to really help that. That was difficult to handle. I've never really been injured before. Just not being able to do anything with my whole right side and my arm was really tough, especially emotionally.
"I got used to it after awhile, but having to come out here day after day and watch guys throw was hard, but I got through it."
Dillon has been the primary scout team quarterback for CU this fall and by all accounts he has handled the responsibility well. He said it has been a challenge each week learning two offenses, the one the Buffs run and what coaches believe the CU defense will see from opponents.
In recent weeks, CU coaches have ended practices early for veteran players and have spent 20-30 minutes several days a week working with younger players and players who are redshirting this year. During those sessions, Dillon and redshirt freshman quarterback Stevie Joe Dorman are able to get meaningful practice repetitions in the Buffs' offense.
Lately they've been able to throw passes to wide receiver Paul Richardson, who is nearly fully recovered from a torn knee ligament last spring.
"I love it," Dillon said. "During regular practice I get to work with (quarterbacks coach) Rip (Scherer), but not like as much as I get to right now. I get to throw the ball and come back and have him coach me up and tell me what I'm doing wrong and what I'm doing right. It's helped me a lot."
How much it helps in the long run also remains to be seen because Embree has made it no secret he is considering making significant changes to the Buffs' pro-style offense in the offseason.
Embree has watched numerous opponents torch his defense with read-option looks from the quarterback and creative spread offenses and he has come to the conclusion that it's probably best to use some of that in the CU offense.
The Buffs have tried to implement some elements of spread offense and read-option this season, without much success.
All of that begs this question: Can any of the CU quarterbacks all of whom were recruited to play in the Buffs' pro-style scheme, run a spread offense effectively?
"I've actually done a lot of thinking about that," Dillon said. "In all of high school, I took maybe two or three snaps out of a shotgun. I never really ran a zone read, never saw if I could do it or not. I came out here and I had to do that for Sac State and I actually loved it.
"I was just trying to run as much as I could, just running all over the place. I found out I could actually do a little bit of it. I talked to Embree and he said I could have a nice future in it if I get bigger and stuff and also do the pro-style which would add a lot more to my game."
Embree has said he believes Dillon could excel in a spread offense that requires the quarterback to make plays with his feet. Dillon is 6-foot-6, 190 pounds and more of a prototypical pocket passer. But Embree says Dillon has gained valuable experience running spread offenses on scout team all season and he has been effective against the CU defense.
No surprise there.
"He is doing well," Embree said. "We have to get him going in some live action and all that. He gives our defense a really good look. He is athletic he can run."
Regardless of what offense CU is using in 2013 or who is coaching it, one of the biggest priorities for he Buffs in the next 10 months is finding one quarterback in the group who can own the position and move the program forward from the merry-go-round under center this season.
"I think that's going to be huge," Dillon said. "Starting in the spring that is going to be my biggest concern. I want to try and get to the point where I have the whole team behind me and come out and attack and win the job and get these guys to really buy in to what we're doing and not have some guys here and some guys here. Just have everyone fully bought in. That's what I'm going to try to do in the spring."
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