Throughout his first three years on the Colorado football team, Tyler Lytle didn’t get a lot of playing time, but he learned some valuable lessons.
The main takeaway: There’s always something to work on in an effort to get better.
“When you think you’re getting better at something, something else falls apart,” the Buffs’ junior quarterback said. “It’s kind of like a golf game. It’s like finally figuring out the short game and then your driving goes out the window. It’s always constant improvement in all aspects.”
Eager to finally get a true shot at the quarterback starting job, Lytle has more time on his hands to work on his game than he imagined.
After the Pac-12 made the decision on Aug. 11 to postpone the fall sports season until after Dec. 31 because of the coronavirus pandemic, Lytle had to shift gears mentally. Instead of battling senior Sam Noyer and true freshman Brendon Lewis for the starting job in preseason camp this month, Lytle will spend the next several months – at least – perfecting his craft even more.
“I had three years to really adjust to college football and figure out what I needed to work on,” said Lytle, who has been a backup to Steven Montez, now in the NFL, since coming to CU. “You never stop that, really.
“Through these past three years, size and strength was kind of a big thing for me I’m at a good weight right now. I’ve gotten a lot faster, so I’m continuing to improve my body, improve the mental aspects of the game.”
The 6-foot-5 Lytle is now a legitimate 220 pounds and has combined strength and speed. Never known for his speed, Lytle was asked if that aspect was overlooked by others early in his career.
“No,” he said with a laugh, “it was probably overestimated in my freshman year. I was definitely one of the slower guys when I got here.”
Lytle credits the Buffs’ strength and conditioning staff for changing that, however.
“I’ve been working with them pretty hard and it’s been a big focus since I’ve been here,” he said. “My speed is definitely one of the areas that I’ve grown the most in the past couple years and especially this offseason.
“I’m just going to keep working on that and become more well-rounded as a player and a quarterback as I can possible be.”
Helping Lytle, Noyer and Lewis is yet another quarterbacks coach. The Buffs hired Karl Dorrell as head coach – the third of Lytle’s career – in February. Dorrell then hired Danny Langsdorf as CU’s fourth quarterbacks coach in four years.
“Coach Langsdorf has been awesome so far,” Lytle said. “Obviously our time with the entire coaching staff has been limited, but the interaction we’ve had I’ve learned a lot already – kind of nailing down new footwork and a little bit of a new offense. It’s kind of a twist on (offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini’s) offense in 2018 with some new aspects, but I’ve really enjoyed working with him in the short time we’ve had. I’m excited to get back to it whenever we can.”
If there’s a silver lining to the season being postponed, it’s that coaches get more time to evaluate the quarterbacks.
Dorrell and Langsdorf have yet to go through an official practice with the team. That makes it difficult to find a starter at the most important position on the field, but Dorrell said some progress has been made this offseason.
“We’re getting a better feel (for the quarterbacks),” Dorrell said. “I don’t have a great feel yet. We haven’t done anything full speed yet, so that’s when we’ll get the greatest assessment, when they’re playing to compete. But, all of them have shown that they have the ability to learn the system.
“In our walk-throughs, they were able to manage the offense and make the right calls and adjustments and go through progressions. All of those things I would say they’ve done pretty well. But again, there’s nobody in their face and there’s no rush and the timing aspect, those are the things that are really the telltale signs of the position.”
None of the CU quarterbacks have much experience in that regard. According to CU sports information director David Plati, the Buffs are one of only 17 FBS teams in the country without a quarterback who has at least one career FBS start.
Noyer, back at quarterback after playing safety last year, is the most experienced, going 21-for-41 for 179 yards and two interceptions in his career. Lewis was racking up big numbers at Melissa (Tex.) High School last year. And, Lytle is just 4-for-6 for 55 yards and an interception in his career. He injured his shoulder on his only throw of the 2019 season.
What Lytle lacks in experience, he’s trying to make up for it with preparation – and he’s got plenty of time for that in the next few months.
“Without a season, it can get tedious, but you just have to have that goal at the end of the day that I am still working towards something,” he said. “As soon as it comes back, I want to be as ready as possible.”