Paul Aiken / Staff Photographer
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
As a former player with the Colorado Buffaloes and now an administrator in the athletic department, Lance Carl shared every frustration that fans felt in watching the football team last fall.
“When you’re standing at 5-7 knowing you should be better than that, I think (head coach Mike MacIntyre) had some restless nights around that, just like (athletic director Rick George) and I did, as well,” said Carl, CU’s associate athletic director for business development who also oversees the football program.
Those restless nights led to a busy offseason that included some changes to the coaching staff. Coming out of spring football last month, however, Carl is feeling good about the direction of the program.
“You come out of spring ball healthy, which is the No. 1 thing you want to see,” said Carl, who lettered for the Buffs as a receiver in 1986 and 1987. “You also want to see progress with not only your players, but your staff because you have new coaches on your staff.”
This offseason, CU hired three new assistant coaches – Kurt Roper (quarterbacks), Kwahn Drake (defensive line) and Ashley Ambrose (cornerbacks) – and Carl is encouraged by what he’s seen from all three to this point.
Carl referred to Drake as “energy personified,” and said the young coach is going to be a great asset for the Buffs’ defensive line.
“Personality plus great energy; passion for teaching, passion for being hands on, passion for player development,” Carl said.
Ambrose brings experience from 13 years as a player in the NFL, as well as a previous stint as a CU assistant (2008-10).
“Great teacher, and I think instructionally he’ll help our cornerbacks quite a bit,” Carl said.
The most impactful hire might be Roper, who has spent much of the past decade not only working with quarterbacks, but calling plays as an offensive coordinator at Duke, Florida and South Carolina.
At CU, Roper will focus solely on the quarterbacks, and Carl believes that’s big for the Buffs.
“The addition of Kurt Roper will be tremendous for all of our quarterbacks,” Carl said. “I think his ability to communicate, to share his knowledge of the position and not have to worry about calling plays is a great step for Kurt in his career, as well.”
Roper’s experience is expected to be beneficial for co-offensive coordinators Darrin Chiaverini and Klayton Adams, as well as the quarterbacks. During spring drills, Carl said he was pleased with the work done by the quarterbacks, especially incumbent starter Steven Montez.
“Coming out of spring, I’m very impressed with Steven,” Carl said. “What people have to understand about Steven Montez is this: Did he play when Sefo (Liufau) was here (in 2016)? Yes, but he played very limited time when Sefo was here. Last year was his first year as a starter.”
Statistically, it was a good year, as Montez completed 60.5 percent of his passes for 2,975 yards, 18 touchdowns and nine interceptions, while rushing for 338 yards and three scores.
It wasn’t perfect, of course, and Carl has heard the criticism, but he believes Montez is on a good path
“He’s learning the position still,” Carl said. “We have to have a little more patience as fans and alums for what our student athletes do on the field. It’s a learning curve for him just as well as other people who don’t have the spotlight on them as much as he does.”
So far, Montez has done well in the spotlight, but Carl sees even better things ahead for him.
“When you become a Pac-12 quarterback, a Power 5 quarterback, it’s attention to detail,” Carl said. “For every position, but more so for quarterback. He’s learning to be a self-corrector.”
The bonus for the Buffs is that there’s plenty of talent behind Montez. Sophomore Sam Noyer and redshirt freshman Tyler Lytle also played well in the spring.
“I think we have three dynamic young quarterbacks here that Kurt is excited to work with,” Carl said.
That trio of quarterbacks is part of what Carl hopes will be a better year that won’t lead to as many restless nights next offseason.