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CU Buffs QB battle to be fierce, even without Sam Noyer

Brendon Lewis, JT Shrout go into fall camp competing for starting job

Brendon Lewis during the University of ...
Brendon Lewis during the University of Colorado Football Spring Showcase on April 30, 2021.

In April, Colorado quarterbacks coach Danny Langsdorf looked ahead to preseason camp with excitement about his group.

The Buffaloes didn’t know – and still don’t – who will start at quarterback this fall, but Langsdorf liked the options.

“It’s a great problem to have because I think we have three really capable guys of playing, maybe four,” Langsdorf said at the time.

Now, make that two really capable guys, maybe three.

On Monday, senior Sam Noyer, the starter for all six games in 2020, put his name into the NCAA transfer portal, officially ending his career with the Buffaloes.

Noyer wasn’t guaranteed to be the starter – perhaps part of why he is transferring – but now the Buffs know they’ll start fresh at the position for the second year in a row under second-year head coach Karl Dorrell.

During his one season as a starter, Noyer engineered a memorable campaign. He won his first four starts, led the Buffs (4-2, 3-1 Pac-12) to the Valero Alamo Bowl and was voted second-team All-Pac-12 by league coaches.

A shoulder injury in the season opener left Noyer playing hurt all season, though, and offseason surgery put him on the sidelines during CU’s 15 spring practices.

Those 15 practices were vital for Brendon Lewis and  JT Shrout, and even more so now that Noyer won’t be joining them in the competition this fall.

Lewis and Shrout will now go into August camp as the top candidates to become the starter. Langsdorf may not feel as good about the position without Noyer, but there is no question he and the Buffs still like the remaining options.

“I just love how those two (Lewis and Shrout) have progressed,” Langsdorf said in April. “Top to bottom it’s a really good group to work with. They’re smart, they’re into it, they ask good questions and they’ve really been fun to work with so far.”

Noyer played a big role in that. Offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini and other coaches have a lot of respect for Noyer as a leader and what he did for the Buffs in 2020. But, with Noyer no longer in the mix, the Buffs still believe they’re in good shape at quarterback.

Here’s a look at the quarterbacks CU will bring into preseason camp.

JT Shrout, So., 6-foot-3, 215 pounds

A transfer from Tennessee, he enrolled at CU in January. During his three seasons with the Volunteers, Shrout played in eight games, including one as a starter. The most experienced quarterback on the CU roster, Shrout completed 37-of-69 passes for 494 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions during his career with the Vols. Last year, he was 24-of-42 for 315 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions. In his last game at Tennessee, he played against Texas A&M – CU’s opponent in Week 2 this year.

Shrout has a big arm, and is more of a pocket passer than others on the roster.

“JT Shrout flashed some really good things in spring ball,” Chiaverini said. “He’s got a strong arm; he’s got really good touch; throws a really good deep ball; has good presence.”

Brendon Lewis, Fr., 6-2, 225

Technically still a true freshman since last year did not count toward eligibility. It did count toward Lewis’ development, however, and he has taken a big leap from last fall. He made his collegiate debut in relief of Noyer in the Alamo Bowl and provided perhaps the only bright spot of the 55-23 loss to Texas. That day he went 6-for-10 for 95 yards, ran for 73 yards and a touchdown and led CU to all three of its touchdowns.

A fan favorite to be the starter because of his potential and his dual-threat ability, Lewis had a good spring and began looking like a young player who can lead the offense.

“You saw flashes in the bowl game with Brendon Lewis of being a really dynamic quarterback, being able to run the ball as well as throw the ball and get yourself out of trouble,” Chiaverini said.

Drew Carter, Fr., 6-3, 195

A true freshman who graduated high school early and enrolled in January, Carter is an exceptional athlete. He was a dual-sport star at Tigard (Ore.) High School and even had scholarship offers to play basketball in college (he hopes to suit up for CU’s basketball team next winter).

Being a newcomer, Carter was clearly behind Lewis and Shrout throughout the spring. But, he is a dual-threat with a strong arm who played well in a couple of open scrimmages.

“I’m excited about Drew Carter and his development,” Langsdorf said in April. “He’s doing a good job of getting with … the veteran guys and learning just through asking questions and talking through plays, kind of in the background.”

Although not projected to be in the mix for a starting role this fall, Noyer’s departure might mean that Carter has to get up to speed quicker in case he’s needed.

Grant Ciccarone, Fr., 6-2, 205 (walk-on)

A local product from Cherokee Trail High School, Ciccarone has been with the Buffs for two years. With three scholarship quarterbacks on the roster, Ciccarone likely won’t be in the mix as a starter, but his performance this spring may have earned him some trust with the coaching staff if they need to put him on the field. It’s possible he goes in as the No. 3 quarterback, which would allow Carter to redshirt.

Langsdorf praised Ciccarone’s accuracy and decision-making during spring.

“He’s a guy that’s just put in the time,” Langsdorf said. “He’s pretty quiet. But he just every day comes to work and makes good decisions for us. I think he’s just done a really good job with his command with the group. Probably his accuracy is the most improved (from last year); that’s what I like about him is he’s really throwing strikes, throwing it to the right guys and throwing on time. I love that about him.”

Jordan Woolverton, Fr., 6-2, 195 (walk-on)

Like Carter, he’s a true freshman who graduated high school early and enrolled in January. The former Durango High School star is raw, but has dual-threat ability. Woolverton isn’t likely to get on the field this year, but he’s a talented player who provides some much-needed depth at quarterback.

Langsdorf was excited about a competition that included Noyer, but his comments in April about the competition are still valid without Noyer.

“I think we have awesome competition,” he said. “Every rep is going to be very important to each of them. I think it’s going to be quite a battle.”