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CU Buffs’ KD Nixon helping QBs prepare for competition

For the first time since 2013, Colorado has true competition at quarterback

Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer
Colorado’s KD Nixon, right, is the only senior among the Buffaloes’ receivers. He’s eager to see who will start at quarterback this season.

It’s been a long time since the Colorado Buffaloes had a true competition at quarterback.

Sefo Liufau was the man throughout the 2014-16 seasons and there was little question that Steven Montez would be the man after him. From 2017-19, Montez started all 36 games for the Buffaloes.

With Montez now in the NFL, the Buffaloes go into the 2020 season – if there is a season, that is – with a major question mark at the most important position on the field.

Senior Sam Noyer, junior Tyler Lytle and true freshman Brendon Lewis are set to compete for the job when fall camp opens this month, and senior receiver KD Nixon is eager to see the battle unfold.

“Whoever is going to be the quarterback is the main man,” Nixon said. “Whoever wins the battle it’s going to be a blessing because now we for sure can work on timing. I just feel like we’re kind of slow right now by not just knowing, because of no spring ball and no fall camp right now.”

The last time CU went into a season with such uncertainly at quarterback was 2013. That year, Connor Wood won the job coming out of camp, but Liufau, then a true freshman, took over the starting role in Week 5.

The last time somebody other than Liufau or Montez started a game at quarterback for the Buffs was in the 2015 season finale, when Cade Apsay filled in for the injured Liufau.

Although the coronavirus pandemic has prevented the Buffaloes and other teams from having a traditional offseason, Nixon has made sure build chemistry with all three quarterbacks.

“Tyler is the quarterback of my (recruiting) class, so I’ve been throwing with him since my freshman year,” Nixon said. “Sam, we did daily nights since I’ve been on campus. B-Lew, he’s been in Boulder with me since prior to the time we had to report back (in June), so we had a week early of throwing.

“It’s been a blessing with all three of them. It’ll be great to know who is starting, but at the same time I can only control what I can control.”

What Nixon and the rest of the receivers can control is building chemistry with each of the quarterbacks. While the players haven’t been in pads or going through game-like situations, Nixon said routes vs. air (RVAs) have been valuable.

“Most of the routes are routes vs. air, even when you’re pressed in the game or even in a zone in the game, because you gotta know defenses,” Nixon said.

Nixon said running RVAs at this time of year is allowing the quarterbacks to get a feel for how Nixon and other receivers will execute a particular route and how the quarterback has to throw the ball to get it to him.

“He’ll know routes versus air; how fast I will run it what spot to throw it to,” Nixon said. “That’s the basic chemistry. That’s (what) I’m teaching with B-Lew, outside of throwing a football. It’s a process. Quarterback is the hardest job in the game. No matter who wins the battle, they still will have the hardest job in the game.”

Part of that process includes practicing different ways to run the same route. On some “go” routes, Nixon might run full speed untouched down the field; on others, he might give a move or two off the line to shake the defender and create space before his sprint down field.

Practicing those nuances now will help the quarterback on game day, Nixon said.

“(In a game), he knows, ‘OK, in practice I was throwing it with touch at this yard mark and he was running under it,’” Nixon said. “That’s how you’re going to get it in the game. Practice makes perfect.”

While Nixon has more history with Lytle and Noyer, he’s quickly built a rapport with Lewis, as the two Dallas-area natives have bonded.

“He’s catching on so fast and so beautiful,” Nixon said. “I never had a chance to teach a quarterback. … Just being able to be in practice and see those guys (at quarterback) compete, you notice they have the hardest job, so why not help them?”

With preseason camp around the corner, Nixon is eager to find out who will start.

“Just like y’all I’m ready to see who will start because once we know, the work is getting turned up another notch because now I can work on chemistry, chemistry, chemistry, instead of just working with three quarterbacks,” he said.

Notable

Nixon comes into this season with 89 career catches, with 84 of those thrown by Montez. The other five were thrown by Noyer. … Noyer has 21 career completions to 11 different receivers, but Nixon is the only one still on the roster. … Lytle has four career completions, but none to players on the current roster. … Nixon is the only player on the roster to have thrown a touchdown pass – a 38-yarder to fellow receiver Dimitri Stanley last season.