A 55-23 loss to Texas in the Valero Alamo Bowl on Dec. 29 didn’t produce many highlights for the Colorado football team.
Head coach Karl Dorrell was upset and disappointed during his postgame press conference but recognized one potential positive: the debut of true freshman quarterback Brendon Lewis.
“To be honest, he probably was the bright note of tonight,” Dorrell said at the time. “Hopefully that will be something that’s good for him to carry into the off-season and keep building on going into spring practice.”
CU opened spring practice on Monday – exactly three months after the loss to Texas – and Lewis’ confidence is still there. After both practices so far this week, Dorrell has said Lewis looks different than he did last season.
“He’s playing really well right now, very confident,” Dorrell said Wednesday. “He looks like a completely different player than what we saw prior to that experience in the Alamo Bowl, so he’s really doing well.”
Senior Sam Noyer started all six games for the Buffs (4-2, 3-1 Pac-12) last season, but was replaced by Lewis in the bowl game. CU trailed 14-0 when Lewis came in and led the Buffs on a touchdown drive. Noyer returned after that, but Lewis came in for good late in the third quarter, with the Buffs trailing 34-10.
A 6-foot-2, 225-pound freshman from Melissa, Texas, Lewis led the Buffs to three touchdowns against Texas. He completed 6-of-10 passes for 95 yards and ran for 73 yards and a touchdown on nine carries.
Noyer is returning for one more season, taking advantage of the NCAA granting all players an extra year of eligibility, but is not participating in spring practices because of offseason shoulder surgery.
With Noyer sidelined, Lewis and junior JT Shrout, a transfer from Tennessee who arrived in January, are splitting reps with the first-team offense. True freshman Drew Carter and walk-on Grant Ciccarone are also getting reps.
“Really the job in the spring is to try to get everybody a chance to showcase what their skill set is and then, as we continue to move forward in spring and being more competitive in these drills, you start to build your depth chart that way,” Dorrell said. “We want to get them all a chance to feel like they get a chance to compete.”
For the second year in a row, the quarterback competition is wide open. While Noyer is not a part of it now, the spring is allowing Dorrell and other coaches to get a good look at Lewis, Shrout, and Carter.
Asked if the job is Noyer’s to lose, Dorrell said, “I guess you could say that,” but added the competition will be ongoing.
“Nothing really gets ironed out until the end of training camp when you’re getting ready to play that first game,” he said. “There’s still some work to be done within that.
“Someone’s gonna have to come and beat (Noyer) out. Hopefully, he’s fully healthy and ready to go (in preseason camp). We’re hoping that he’s full go and ready to do some positive things this fall. The best thing I know is that we have some capable guys from what I see so far right now that, in case Sam isn’t completely healthy or there is an issue with Sam, we do have the people in the program that can help us win.”
Noyer was voted by Pac-12 coaches as second-team all-conference after a regular season in which he went 4-1 as a starter and completed 80-of-137 passes for 1,000 yards, six touchdowns, and five interceptions while rushing for 191 yards and five touchdowns.
Dorrell said Noyer is highly respected among the players and coaches and has shown some leadership in the early going of spring practices. He added that Noyer’s recovery from surgery is going well.
“He told me a couple of weeks ago that he’s ahead of schedule and he’s actually going to start some light throwing,” Dorrell said. “Nothing this spring with us, but I think he’s going to start some throwing, maybe some light throwing, in May. So he’s progressing well.”