Spring football position preview: Kurt Roper helping Buffs’ QBs take next step

Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Buffs new assistant coaches (from left) Ashley Ambrose, Kwahn Drake and Kurt Roper talk to media at CU signing day earlier in the month.

By now, many pundits and fans have formed an opinion about Colorado quarterback Steven Montez.

Now a junior, Montez has 15 starts — including a full season — under his belt, flashing a strong arm, athleticism and moxie, but also some immaturity and inconsistency.

With spring practices set to begin on Friday, one person who hasn’t judged Montez — or CU’s other quarterbacks — yet is Kurt Roper. Colorado’s new quarterbacks coach is going into spring with an open mind about his position group.

“When a new coach comes in, it’s a fresh start for a quarterback,” Roper said. “I really don’t want a whole lot of somebody else’s opinion and preconceived ideas. I want to get out on the practice field, on the grass and learn. I want to see how they work before I develop any opinion; how they work in the meeting room, in the weight room, on the practice field.”

In addition to the 6-foot-5, 230-pound Montez, the Buffs will go into spring with sophomore Sam Noyer (6-4, 215) and redshirt freshman Tyler Lytle (6-5, 205).

Roper has met with all three and has seen all of them go through workouts, and his first impression of the group has been a good one.

“The first thing that jumped out at me was they are big,” Roper said. “They’re big guys. I do believe this is a big man’s game. That’s a positive, and they’re all eager, they’re all attentive, they’re all working at it.

“A quarterback is not a position; you’re taking on a lifestyle. The little I’ve been around them, they’re working at it the way you’re supposed to work at it.”

While all three of CU’s quarterbacks are blessed with talent, eyes will be on Montez, as he looks to improve upon last season and be a better all-around quarterback.

Last season, Montez completed 60.5 percent of his passes (228 of 377) for 2,975 yards, 18 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also ran for 338 yards and three touchdowns, but was sacked 35 times, losing 225 yards.

In watching film of Montez, Roper said, “The thing that jumps out at me on Steven on the tape is that he can throw the football. He’s been blessed with the ability to command a football and throw it.”

A main criticism of Montez is that he needs to develop as a leader and grow in maturity, but Roper said he hasn’t seen any of those concerns to this point.

“Everything he’s handled, he’s handled it in the right way,” Roper said. “I’ve enjoyed being around him and I’ve enjoyed being around all of them. They’re smart guys, they have good personalities. I believe quarterbacks have to have a personality.”

Much of that personality will come out, Roper said, as the group has shared experiences. For now, his top priority is help Montez, Noyer and Lytle get better during the 15 practices the Buffs have this spring.

Having worked for nearly 20 years with quarterbacks – most notably New York Giants star Eli Manning – Roper has a great deal of experience, and will take an approach to spring that’s work for him in the past.

“You train a quarterback two ways — you train him neck down and you train him neck up,” Roper said. “When we’re in the individual part of it, we’re building muscle memory, neck down and that’s every day. It might be repetitive through the days, but we’ve got to get where he doesn’t have to think about what his feet need to do; what his hands need to do.

“When we get to the group and the team portion, he has to be thinking schematically.”

Putting the neck-up and neck-down training together this spring is just the beginning for Roper and the quarterbacks. They won’t be ready to play when spring comes to a close, but Roper hopes those 15 practices set them up for success in the summer and fall.

“It’s always easy to be eager and hard working and all of that early, but this has got to be a marathon,” Roper said. “We’ve got to be who we are for the long haul.”

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