Colorado head football coach Karl Dorrell is glad the Buffaloes have another four months to get ready to play games, but he walked away from Folsom Field on Friday feeling good about the latest phase of the program’s development.
“I was encouraged by the whole body of work this spring,” Dorrell said after the Buffaloes’ spring showcase on Friday morning. “I thought they worked hard. I think our young guys have a good feel, or better feel, of what we’re doing on offense and defense. Then, we need a lot of summer work to kind of put all the icing on the cake.”
CU opens its season Sept. 3 at Folsom Field against Northern Colorado and Friday’s showcase, in front of about 1,000 socially distanced fans, was the completion of the second phase of the offseason. After winter workouts, the Buffs got through the 15 practices of spring and felt they got better – even with a roster depleted by injuries.
“I thought the team did really well throughout the spring,” freshman quarterback Brendon Lewis said. “You could tell we were getting better and better each day. I feel really confident going into summer.”
About 25 scholarship players were unavailable on Friday and there weren’t a lot of highlight-reel plays during the showcase, which included 56 snaps from scrimmage, but Lewis was one of the standouts.
Battling for the starting job, Lewis completed 8-of-9 passes for 62 yards and added a 10-yard run, flashing his mobility.
“I thought I did pretty well,” Lewis said. “I thought I really progressed from last year with accuracy and getting the offense down.
“My ability to run, I feel like that gives me an edge. … I feel like that’s gonna be a big part of my game. I feel like I just keep getting faster and my run game just keeps getting better and better. If you ask anybody on offense, I probably have to the best jukes on the team, besides (running back Jarek Broussard).”
Shrout completed 9-of-13 passes for 77 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown to tight end Alec Pell in a goal-to-go situation.
Dorrell scripted the scrimmage to be situationally based. In the first two possessions, Lewis and Shrout both took turns trying to lead the offense out from its own 5-yard line. Both quarterbacks moved the offense across midfield, but Dorrell stopped the drives at that point.
Quarterbacks also led possessions starting at the offensive 30-yard line; at midfield; at the defensive 35-yard line; and then first-and-goal from the 10.
“Obviously it was in controlled fashion,” Dorrell said. “I didn’t want let drives extend to 12 plays or more than that, just because I don’t want to wear any of our guys out.
“But I liked it. I thought the offense looked like they could get some rhythm going and I stopped a few of those drives right in the middle of it and started over. I thought the defense rose up and did some positive things in the two-minute drill, where the offense didn’t really get a chance to convert on some of those third downs.”
In addition to Pell, touchdowns were scored by running backs Jayle Stacks (on a 3-yard run) and walk-on Charlie Offerdahl (on a 2-yard run). Kickers Evan Price and Mac Willis each hit field goals for the other scores.
Running back Ashaad Clayton had a good performance, with 40 yards on five carries, including a 24-yard run.
Veteran receivers La’Vontae Shenault and Dimitri Stanley both finished with three catches, as did freshmen Montana Lemonious-Craig and Keith Miller III. Lemonious-Craig had the longest play of the day, a 27-yard catch from Shrout.
Defensively, inside linebackers Jonathan Van Diest and Robert Barnes were each credited with five tackles, while outside linebacker Joshka Gustav was credited with two sacks. Defensive lineman Justin Jackson was also credited with a sack.
Quarterbacks weren’t actually hit on the sacks and Lewis smiled when he said, “Some of those sacks were not sacks. The defensive player admitted to me they weren’t sacks.”
Nevertheless, both sides of the ball came away feeling encouraged after the showcase.
“I felt we played pretty good,” Van Diest said. “I think it was a good back-and-forth kind of day. Most of the spring ball the defense has been on top. Today, good for the fans that they got to see some touchdowns from the offense, which we don’t like (on defense), but it was a good back-and-forth day.”
It was the type of day that left Dorrell feeling good as he sends his players out for a month off before summer workouts.
“It’s been that way this spring where it’s been a give-and-take situation both offensively and defensively,” he said. “We’ve still got a lot of work to go. We know that summer is going to be critically important, but we think (this spring) is a good first step leading into the break.”
CU Spring Showcase statistics
Jayle Stacks 3 run (no PAT attempted)
Evan Price 43 field goal
Charlie Offerdahl 2 run (Price kick)
Alec Pell 3 pass from JT Shrout (Mac Willis kick)
Willis 25 field goal
Rushing (att-yards) – Ashaad Clayton 5-40; Joe Davis 6-25; Alex Fontenot 5-21; Charlie Offerdahl 5-20; Brendon Lewis 1-10; Jayle Stacks 2-5; Jordan Woolverton 1-1.
Passing (comp-att-int-yards) – JT Shrout 9-13-0-77, Lewis 8-9-0-62, Grant Ciccarone 3-3-0-22, Drew Carter 1-1-0-15, Woolverton 1-2-0-5.
Receiving (rec-yards) – La’Vontae Shenault 3-38, Montana Lemonious-Craig 3-37, Keith Miller 3-30, Dimitri Stanley 3-26, Caleb Fauria 2-26, Stacks 2-3, Alec Pell 1-10, Daniel Arias 1-8, Jake Groth 1-6, Clayton 1-1, Davis 1-(minus 1), Fontenot 1-(minus 3).
Tackle leaders – Jonathan Van Diest 5, Robert Barnes 5, Joshka Gustav 3, Steele Dubar 3, Justin Jackson 3, Geno Macias 3, Trustin Oliver 3, Devin Grant 3.
Sacks – Gustav 2, Jackson 1.