Although the Colorado football team doesn’t have enough healthy players to conduct a complete scrimmage on Friday, it will still be somewhat of a milestone for the program.
The Buffaloes will hold their Spring Showcase on Friday at 9 a.m. at Folsom Field (TV: Pac-12 Networks). It will conclude the first set of spring practices under head coach Karl Dorrell, who was hired on Feb. 23, 2020, but had spring workouts canceled last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Getting through the 15 spring practices is one sign that some sense of normalcy is returning – even as the pandemic continues. It’s also a big step for a program hoping to build off a trip to the Valero Alamo Bowl last fall and find a way to experience sustained success for the first time in a while.
Several veteran players are out, but Dorrell will wrap up his first spring feeling good about the youth of the program.
“I want to come out of spring practice feeling that our young players and our players that have got a ton of reps this spring, that they feel like they’re very comfortable and confident that they can perform their role on offense and defense and special teams,” Dorrell said.
“There’s been a lot of really positive things with a lot of our young players that have been doing really well.”
Friday’s showcase won’t provide much of a preview of the 2021 Buffaloes, considering the number of players sidelined. Many young players will be in the spotlight, and Dorrell said the Buffs are so thin in some spots that they don’t have a full two-deep on either side of the ball.
While it won’t be a true Black vs. Gold type of scrimmage, there will be plenty to see for the 1,000 fans in attendance and those watching on TV. During the CU-produced spring showcase virtual event on Wednesday, Dorrell told Mark Johnson the Buffs will do some situational scrimmaging, as they’ve done on previous Fridays.
“We want to get some two-minute in, we want to get some red zone play in, we want to do some situational play in, but full speed and tackling,” Dorrell said.
Dorrell added that he would have mic on so he can narrate during the Pac-12 Networks broadcast and let viewers know what is going on with each period. CU hopes to get through 60-70 plays.
A preview of what to watch for during the showcase:
Positions to watch
1. Quarterback: Incumbent starter Sam Noyer is out with a shoulder injury, but returning freshman Brendon Lewis and sophomore JT Shrout, a transfer from Tennessee, have been competing throughout the spring. Both will hope to finish spring on a high note. There will also be a chance to get a first look at true freshman Drew Carter.
2. Running back: It’s unclear if Jarek Broussard, the Pac-12 offensive player of the year in 2020, will play because he’s been hobbled by an ankle injury. However, the Buffs are as talented here as they’ve been in a while. Junior Alex Fontenot and freshman Ashaad Clayton have both had a good spring, while Joe Davis and Jayle Stacks have had good moments, as well.
3. Inside linebacker: Another top player, Nate Landman, is out, but the competition has been solid here, as well. Junior Jonathan Van Diest has stepped into a leadership role and had a good spring. Oklahoma transfer Robert Barnes has been playing here, as well. He’s got a good chance to make an impact this season.
4. Defensive line: This group is missing Terrance Lang this spring, but has been solid in stopping the run. Janaz Jordan, Na’im Rodman and Jalen Sami have led the group, while Justin Jackson and Austin Williams and Lloyd Murray Jr. continue to improve.
5. Receiver: There is a lot of talent in this group, with La’Vontae Shenault and Dimitri Stanley as leaders. This spring, Daniel Arias and Montana Lemonious-Craig have stepped up, as well, while Keith Miller III is a big target who has improved.
Players to watch
1. QB Brendon Lewis: After a stellar debut at the Alamo Bowl in December, he’ll look to put on a show for the fans Friday.
2. RB Ashaad Clayton: The star of CU’s 2020 recruiting class, he didn’t get a lot of playing time last season, but by all accounts has taken his game up a couple of notches this spring.
3. DL Na’im Rodman: Few players have been praised this spring as much as Rodman, who has taken advantage of the extra reps and put himself in a position to play a key role in the fall.
4. OLB Joshka Gustav: A pleasant surprise to coaches last season, he’s continued to improve and has had a good spring, as he looks to become a complement to star Carson Wells.
5. TE Caleb Fauria: Still a true freshman, it’s unclear how big of a role he will have in the fall, but he has been healthy and flashed his skills and strength this spring.
Others to keep an eye on: WR Daniel Arias; ILB Robert Barnes; CB Nigel Bethel Jr.; OT Gerad Christian-Lichtenhan; CB Christian Gonzalez; WR Montana Lemonious-Craig; S Mark Perry; QB JT Shrout; RB Jayle Stacks; ILB Jonathan Van Diest.