As a freshman in 2018, Colby Pursell became a fixture in the Colorado Buffaloes’ lineup and seemed poised to anchor the offensive line for several years.
Injuries and illness have limited him to 10 games the past two years, but the 6-foot-4, 305-pound junior is feeling good this spring.
“It was kind of a weird little trip I’ve been on since I’ve been here, as far as injuries, but right now I’m feeling pretty good,” Pursell said Monday after the Buffs’ fourth practice of spring.
In 2018, Pursell became just the third freshman to start a season opener at center at CU. He wound up starting all 12 games and played more snaps (830) than anyone on the line.
In 2019, he moved to right guard but was limited to seven games (five starts) after having his gallbladder removed in the middle of the season.
Last season, Pursell was back at center and started three of the Buffs’ six games, but missed three games in the middle of the season because of an injury.
This spring, Pursell is working at center – but said he could shift to guard if needed – and is feeling good physically. He gives some of the credit to new director of strength and conditioning Shannon Turley, who was hired on Jan. 29.
“I’ve been working a lot with coach Turley and he’s great,” Pursell said. “I think he’s awesome for us. I think he’s helped a lot.
“He’s different than (former strength coach Drew Wilson). I’m not going to say who’s better or who’s worse … but it’s different, and I can learn from that. There’s some things that maybe Drew did that I like and I could do that and some things that coach Turley does and I like that and can incorporate that. I’m gonna try and learn from these guys as much as I can because I know they’re smarter than me.”
In addition to two strength and conditioning coaches, Pursell’s career at CU has included three different head coaches and three position coaches. This spring, Pursell and the rest of the Buffs’ linemen are starting their second season with offensive line coach Mitch Rodrigue.
“It is kind of nice to have that continuity,” Pursell said. “I get to learn from three different coaches and see three different ways of doing things. The way it’s been described to me in the past and the way I look at it is I can add more tools to my toolbox. A certain coach might teach something a certain way; a certain technique that could be applied in certain situations. I’m going to try and add that to my toolbox. Maybe I could use that to try to make myself a more well-rounded player.
“(Having so many coaches) was a bit different, a unique experience for sure, but I’m going to try and make that work to my advantage, and try and learn as much as I can from those three individuals.”
Last fall, CU coaches described freshman quarterback Brendon Lewis as having “raw” talent. That would no longer be accurate, head coach Karl Dorrell said.
“He’s graduated from that developmental state,” Dorrell said. “We all were excited about the type of production he was able to do (in the Alamo Bowl against Texas on Dec. 29). Just imagine that, but he’s even better than that from the Texas game.
“I think he has a better understanding of the concepts and the offense. There’s no panic in his game anymore about being shortchanged with the movements and the things that we’ve asked him to do. He’s reading through progressions really well. He looks very, very confident; very, very poised in the pocket. He’s made a couple of big jumps of improvement and growth since the fall.”
Receiver Dimitri Stanley said it’s not just Lewis playing well. He complimented junior transfer JT Shrout and true freshman Drew Carter, as well.
“I’m extremely excited to see who comes out on top,” Stanley said. “It’s gonna be a good competition. It’s already a good competition. They’ve all shown that they can provide some things that we need on offense.”
The Buffs were off Tuesday and return to the practice field Wednesday afternoon. … Because of injuries, the Buffs have just nine healthy scholarship offensive linemen this spring, but Pursell said several inexperienced players are stepping up. In particular, Pursell said sophomore center Josh Jynes “has had a really good spring ball, so far,” and added, “We’ve got guys who are ready to step up. We have guys who want to play.”