Down two touchdowns in the first half of a bowl game may not be the easiest time to make a college debut, but it proved to be a pivotal night for Brendon Lewis.
More than three months after playing in the Valero Alamo Bowl, the Colorado freshman is still riding off the confidence gained from that night.
With senior Sam Noyer out because of offseason shoulder surgery, Lewis has spent this spring running with the first-team offense as he competes to be the starting quarterback in the fall.
“Brendon Lewis is so much further ahead at this point,” CU quarterbacks coach Danny Langsdorf said Wednesday. “I think a lot more confidence; he had a little game experience.”
A 6-foot-2, 225-pound freshman from Melissa, Texas, Lewis was the third-string quarterback during the Buffs’ abbreviated 2020 season. After the five-game regular season, however, backup Tyler Lytle entered the transfer portal – and eventually transferred to Massachusetts – and Lewis was elevated to second string for the Alamo Bowl.
Although the Buffs lost to Texas, 55-23, in that game on Dec. 29 in San Antonio, Lewis came off the bench to lead them to three touchdowns.
“Going in (to the season), it was definitely hard coming in and getting adjusted to everything,” Lewis said. “I just had to get adjusted to the speed of the game, and I think that whole half-season that we had really helped me, like going through practice, learning from coach Langsdorf and (head coach Karl) Dorrell, (offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini). Then, when I got in that game, I felt like I was ready.”
He certainly looked ready, as he completed a 26-yard pass to Dimitri Stanley on his first throw and finished the game going 6-for-10 for 95 yards and rushing for 73 yards and a touchdown on nine carries.
“I went in there with a little bit of confidence and after that first completion, I was like, ‘Oh this feels like high school,’” he said. “After that game, I knew I had a lot of stuff to work on in (the offseason) and that’s what I did. I knew I would be ready to come here in the spring and I feel like I did a pretty good job with that.
“Now everything just comes fast and easy. It feels like feels more and more like high school and I can just do my thing.”
Several of Lewis’ teammates have said they see a change in him and Dorrell has commented Lewis looks like a completely different player now than he was in the fall.
Lewis, who graduated high school early and enrolled in January of 2020, said he felt homesick at times last year, especially because of the impact from the COVID-19 pandemic, but that he’s settling in now.
“I just got to the mindset like I’m here for a reason,” he said. “I’m here to succeed. … I love the chance to go home but when I’m here, I’m here to work.”
Through that work, Lewis said his leadership has “skyrocketed” from last year, and he’s developing better chemistry with all of CU’s receivers.
“I feel like our chemistry is not perfect yet, obviously, but it’s up there,” he said. “Our chemistry is boosted from last year and gotten a lot better.”
Lewis is also benefitting from Noyer being on the sidelines. Noyer, who started all six games last year, is expected to ready to go for fall camp, but for now, is providing mentorship to Lewis.
“It helps so much having Sam out there, helping me out and giving me tips,” Lewis said.
With Noyer out, Lewis and Tennessee transfer JT Shrout are getting the reps with the first-team offense.
“Last year I didn’t get any reps, so I couldn’t go out there and get a feel for the game,” Lewis said. “Getting these first-team reps (this spring) really boosted my confidence and boosted my game, so now I can just go out there comfortably and command the offense and move the ball around the field.”
Being in a lead role now doesn’t guarantee Lewis will be the starter in the fall. Noyer is expected to be healthy and compete for the job, while Shrout will be very much in the mix, as well. The Buffs also have true freshman Drew Carter and walk-ons Grant Ciccarone and Jordan Woolverton.
Lewis knows he has a lot of work ahead of him to win the job, but said he’s enjoying the competition this spring.
“We definitely all make each other better, everybody in the QB room,” Lewis said. “Sam can’t throw, so Sam’s out there helping everybody. He really helps me a lot. Me and JT, we work off each other, Drew Jordan, Grant, we all learn off each other’s reps and fix our mistakes and go from there.”