With no spring ball, a delayed fall camp and season, and new starters at several key positions – including quarterback – the Colorado Buffaloes didn’t have a lot of time to get their offense ready for the 2020 football season.
This year, the Buffaloes have that time and offensive coordinator/receivers coach Darrin Chiaverini is eager to see what they can do with a full offseason.
“What we’ve been able to do as an offensive staff is do a lot of self-scout evaluation,” Chiaverini said Wednesday after the Buffs’ fifth practice of spring. “That’s what’s good about having spring ball. We have a chance to truly evaluate and last year we didn’t really get that.”
Now entering his sixth season on the CU coaching staff, Chiaverini knows the personnel, and recruited many of the players on offense, but said the limitations of the 2020 season, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, made it tougher for first-year head coach Karl Dorrell and other new staff members to get a feel for the roster.
Going through the 2020 season, although it was short, gave Dorrell and the staff an opportunity to get better prepared.
“We’ve had a lot of time since going through that six-game schedule to kind of self-scout evaluate and see how we can improve the offense,” Chiaverini said. “At the end of the day, it’s about scoring points and winning football games. I like where we’re going with this thing.”
The goal, Chiaverini said, is to maximize the potential of the personnel and he’s encouraged by their growth to this point in spring.
At quarterback, senior Sam Noyer, who started all six games in 2020, is not participating this spring because of offseason shoulder surgery, but returning freshman Brendon Lewis, Tennessee transfer JT Shrout and true freshman Drew Carter have been competing.
“I feel really good about that room with JT, B-Lew, Sam Noyer, Drew Carter,” Chiaverini said. “I think we’ve done a really good job of upgrading and getting better there, so I feel confident. … The thing about playing quarterback, you don’t know until live scrimmages, until live spring games, fall camp, scrimmages, but I’m excited about it.”
Lewis made his collegiate debut in CU’s 55-23 loss to Texas in the Valero Alamo Bowl on Dec. 29 and led the Buffs to three touchdowns. Dorrell has said that game provided Lewis with confidence that he’s brought into spring.
Shrout, meanwhile, is new to the team, but not to college football. He played in eight games, including one start, at Tennessee.
“When I listen to him in the huddle, when I watch his presence on the field, he has a natural savviness to him about playing the quarterback position,” Chiaverini said. “Really accurate, very strong arm. I think he and B-Lew going back and forth each and every day, it’s been really good. Watching them compete on the field, they’re really good teammates to each other.”
CU has some veteran talent at receiver, especially with Dimitri Stanley and La’Vontae Shenault, both back, but it’s the young group impressing Chiaverini. The Buffs added four receivers in the 2020 class: Chris Carpenter, Montana Lemonious-Craig, Keith Miller III, and Brenden Rice.
“With Brenden Rice, you saw glimpses of, really, greatness last year with him in certain games,” Chiaverini said. “I think he’s going to be a guy that continues to improve. Chris Carpenter has dynamic speed, really good short-area quickness; I think he’s really kind of taken the next step. So has Montana Lemonious-Craig. His growth has been really, really good from year one to year two. Keith Miller is a 6-4, 215-pound young man who has gotten faster, he’s gotten stronger. I’m really pleased with that 2020 receiving corps.”
The Buffs are also talented at running back, have a veteran leader at tight end in Brady Russell, and return four of five starters on the offensive line. While injuries are limiting the Buffs a bit this spring, Chiaverini said the first handful of practices have been positive for an offense looking to improve upon the 28.5 points per game of a year ago.
“I’ve been really pleased with the progress we’re making,” said Chiaverini, who is looking forward to the first scrimmage of spring on Friday. “It’s been good work so far.
“The whole thing about spring is you want to install your systems, you want to obviously execute in these live scrimmages, and then see them play. Let’s see who can play football. That’s really where you get a true evaluation.”