Following the first practice of preseason camp on Thursday, Colorado head coach Karl Dorrell was in a great mood.
Football is back, his team practiced well and the first post-practice in-person media session of the Dorrell era signaled somewhat of a return to normalcy after a 2020 season heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Oh, and his quarterbacks looked good, too.
“I would say that is why I’m smiling,” Dorrell said when asked about the quarterback competition. “I thought both Brendon (Lewis) and JT (Shrout) really performed well today.”
Lewis, a freshman, and Shrout, a sophomore transfer from Tennessee, split reps with the first-team offense in spring and will continue to do so in the early going of camp. Dorrell said CU will announce its starter at some point before the Sept. 3 opener against Northern Colorado.
“You can tell they’re smooth in their transition going through progressions,” Dorrell said. “They were authoritative with what their roles are on the offense and I didn’t think they made any mistakes. They might have missed a throw here and there but I would say overall I thought they showed great command and great presence.”
While there is much work to be done before settling on a starter, Dorrell was pleased with the start by Lewis and Shrout.
“We scrutinize every rep and whether it’s a mental mistake or a missed throw or missed read,” Dorrell said. “We’re tabulating every aspect for both of those guys. They both have embraced the competition, which I like. They both add different qualities to the offense, and both of them can be very dynamic players. First and foremost, they’re great teammates; that’s what I like. They’re into it, they’re into this football team, they want to lead.”
The performance of the quarterbacks was a microcosm of the entire team in the opening practice. After a disjointed 2020, when the Buffs didn’t get spring ball or a full summer of workouts and had to rush through a late fall camp, Dorrell said a full, normal offseason was evident on Thursday.
“It proved to me that they were doing some work over the summer, and I was really, really pleased with our effort,” he said. “I thought our execution was night and day different than where it was when we first started last year in October.
“It is definitely a better football team than we had a year ago. We’re gonna build off today. It was really, really positive.”
Dorrell said “it was crickets” on Day 1 of camp last year because players were reluctant to speak up as leaders following an unusual offseason that left many players unsure of what they were doing in the first sessions on the field with a new staff.
Now going into Dorrell’s second year, that uncertainty has been replaced by confidence among the players and coaches.
“There was a great deal of leadership in our practice from guys talking and communicating on both sides of the ball,” he said. “It should be a really smooth progression as we go. I think these guys have put their time into it, and we’re going to build off of that and get these guys ready to be tuned up for that first game.
“You can see that there’s confidence right from the start. There’s a good knowledge base within each one of our veteran players. They have a good feel of what our expectations are in their play and in their execution. I was very pleased that way, and it should get better. I know they felt good coming off the fields thinking that was a really good practice.”
So did Dorrell.