Sam Noyer thought he was done with his career as a Colorado Buffalo.
A new coaching staff lured him back, with the promise that he could compete for the starting job at quarterback.
He competed, and he won the job.
On Friday, the fifth-year senior was named CU’s starter for the Nov. 7 opener against UCLA (5 p.m., TV: ESPN2).
Head coach Karl Dorrell, quarterbacks coach Danny Langsdorf and offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini chose Noyer over fourth-year junior Tyler Lytle.
“Very, very, very close competition, as you guys can imagine,” Dorrell said after Friday’s practice. “Sam got the nod, but we’re really, really impressed with what Tyler has done this camp and we’re going to continue to bring Tyler along. He’s going to get a chance to play some.”
When Noyer hits the field against UCLA, it will be his first start at quarterback since his senior year at Beaverton (Ore.) High School in 2015. He hasn’t thrown a pass in a game since the 2018 finale against Utah.
“Obviously I’m excited,” said Noyer, who is 21-for-41 for 179 yards and two interceptions in his career at CU. “My mindset kind of shifts towards UCLA now. We’ve been going in camp mode, going against our (starters) and now we’re getting into scouts. My mind is shifting toward UCLA. Definitely high emotions. When I found out, I celebrated for a couple hours and then back to work.”
Although the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Noyer has won the job for now, the competition appears to be going into the season. With no spring football and only three weeks of camp, coaches haven’t had much time to evaluable the veteran quarterbacks and both are likely to see the field.
“That was the challenge was we had three weeks to make a decision without any spring practice … but the season’s upon us,” Dorrell said. “We play in about a week’s time and Sam, we felt that he just operationally is just a little bit better at this point in time, but just barely – just barely – better than what Tyler is.
“We want to get Tyler some time. We haven’t determined how much that is yet. If the competition’s that close then, yes, we will want to continue those guys developing and getting some game experience. I want Tyler to get some time in the games. He’s deserving.”
This was CU’s first true quarterback competition since 2013, when senior Connor Wood won the job over true freshman Sefo Liufau – who became the starter by midseason. Liufau was a four-year starter before handing the reins to Steven Montez.
Noyer and Lytle went into preseason camp battling for the job vacated by Montez, CU’s all-time leading passer who is now with the NFL’s Washington Football Team.
Montez started every game of the past three seasons, so Noyer and Lytle have each waited several years for the opportunity to play.
Noyer expected that chance to come in a different uniform.
A member of CU’s 2016 recruiting class, Noyer spent his first three seasons at CU as a backup to Liufau and then Montez . Last year, former head coach Mel Tucker moved Noyer to safety because of a pressing need at that position. Lytle and Blake Stenstrom (who has since transferred to Princeton) were Montez’s backups.
After the 2019 season, Noyer entered the NCAA transfer portal. It wasn’t until after Dorrell was hired Feb. 23 that Noyer decided to come back. It took phone calls from Chiaverini and Langsdorf – who recruited Noyer out of high school – to convince him to return.
“I didn’t know I was going to be a Buff again, so there was a time where I didn’t think this was possible,” said Noyer, who threw for 2,801 yards and 28 touchdowns as a senior in high school. “I’m just glad I made the decision to come back here and things worked out. Now I’ve got to go prove it.”
Lytle appeared to be the favorite going into camp, as he spent the 2019 season as Montez’s top backup. Despite coming into this year at No. 2, Lytle is sure to see the field at some point. Lytle has thrown just six career passes (4-for-6, 55 yards, one interception).
“We feel the competition is that close that those guys are going to continue to grow as we move forward during the course of the season, and we want to bring them both along,” Dorrell said. “You have to make a decision. You’ve gotta get the first guy that you think that gives you the best chance, but I say that cautiously because I think Tyler has proven that he can move the offense, too, and he’s doing very well, as well.”
CU’s third scholarship quarterback is Brendon Lewis, a talented dual-threat from Melissa (Texas) High School. Lewis has already set some weight room records at CU but has been the clear No. 3 throughout camp.
“We’re really, really excited about his future,” Dorrell said. “We’re going to continue to bring him along – not in a fashion that we’re going to do with both Tyler and Sam, but we’re really pleased with what he’s shown us in his first year of college. He’s got a great arm, he’s an athlete, he’s strong and he’s got a number of attributes that are really going to be critical factors for his success.”