If Jon Embree was still leading the Colorado football program, quarterback Shane Dillon would probably simply need to maintain a pulse to win the starting job this year.
There were plenty of subtle and not-so-subtle indications from Embree and his staff last season that Dillon was the direction in which they were headed when it came to their long-term plans under center.
The reality is none of the CU quarterbacks who played in 2012 distinguished themselves during a 1-11 season, and it seemed appropriate that Embree would be looking to a younger option whom he recruited going into this season. But with new coaches in place and every quarterback on the roster learning a new offense at the same time this spring, Dillon starting is no longer a certainty.
That doesn't mean the 6-foot-5 product of El Cajon, Calif., can't win the job as a redshirt freshman. He has plenty of talent as a former Elite 11 quarterback. He is fully recovered from the shoulder surgery he underwent last year and after arriving in Boulder as a string bean in 2012, he has added about 25 pounds and now checks in at 208.
"I feel stronger than before it was hurt," Dillon said of the torn labrum he suffered in his throwing shoulder during his senior year of high school. "The doctors were telling me they think it was hurt before I really tore it just from all the throwing I've done in my life, just a little tear here and there. Now that it's repaired and fully healed it feels so much stronger than it was before. I feel like I can just throw the ball as hard as I can."
Coach Mike MacIntyre has no plans to name a starting quarterback this spring. The competition will extend into fall camp and will include 2013 signee Sefo Liufau when he arrives in the summer. But there is a sense of urgency among the six quarterbacks competing this spring because MacIntyre has promised to trim the list of candidates from six to three after the first eight practices. The three that are no longer candidates to start will see a reduced role for the remainder of spring practices.
That means Dillon has eight practices to make a big impression on his new coaches while competing against players such as Nick Hirschman, Jordan Webb and Connor Wood, all of whom have more experience and have at least tasted what it's like to be on a college field on a Saturday.
"There has been pressure all my life for me," Dillon said. "I came into high school at a program that was just like this where we didn't win many games at first. I was sort of thrown into the fire. So, pressure, I've been kind of dealing with that for a long time. Adversity is going to come wherever you go. You're just going to have to play. Whether you play through it or let it get to you, you've just got to play."
Every quarterback on the CU roster is excited to be in a new system being installed this spring. It's a system in which San Jose State, MacIntyre's former team, used to pass for more than 4,300 yards in 2012.
Colorado's quarterbacks combined to throw for 2,310 yards, 11 touchdown passes and 19 interceptions.
Dillon indicated that MacIntyre and his offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren have spent time talking with him about what he likes and doesn't like in an offense. So while it might not be foregone conclusion that Dillon becomes CU's next starter, his coaches are clearly interested in what he feels comfortable doing on the field.
"I feel like they just want to use as much of my athleticism as they can," Dillon said. "Coach Mac and coach Lindgren have been with me a lot and just getting with me and doing as much as we can in the playbook. Seeing what I like and what I don't like and all that stuff, which is good. I feel like they really are asking me what I feel like we would be good at and wouldn't be good at. I feel like they are taking a lot of consideration of what the players want, which is awesome for us."
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