In three seasons at Tennessee, JT Shrout never really felt there was a chance for him to start.
Last year, Brendon Lewis was the only one among the three scholarship quarterbacks at Colorado that wasn’t truly in competition for a starting job.
This year is much different for both, as they continue their battle to be the man leading the Buffaloes’ offense.
“I’ve been really pleased with both,” CU quarterbacks coach Danny Langsdorf said Sunday after the Buffs completed their fourth practice of the preseason. “The preparation through the summer is obvious. … We’ve been accurate with the ball; know where to go with the ball; managing the run game; getting us in the right plays and protections. I’ve been pleased so far to this point in day four.”
After 2020 starter Sam Noyer and top backup Tyler Lytle both transferred – to Oregon State and Massachusetts, respectively – the Buffs are starting fresh at quarterback.
Lewis and Shrout are embracing the opportunity.
A second-year freshman from Melissa, Texas, Lewis didn’t play during the five-game regular season in 2020 but made his debut at the Alamo Bowl after Lytle decided to transfer.
“I’m going to be honest; I would say it was hard (not being part of the competition in 2020), but I’d say the biggest thing I got out of that is watching Sam and Tyler in there and getting mental reps,” Lewis said. “That’s the biggest thing is getting mental reps so when you go in there you’re not confused and don’t know what to do.”
During his three seasons at Tennessee, Shrout saw action in eight games, with one start – although he was replaced early in that start. Jarrett Guarantano was the Vols’ primary starter during those years, with Keller Chryst, Brian Maurer and Harrison Bailey all getting more playing time. (Guarantano transferred to Washington State this season.)
“I think this is the first time I’ve really been given a legitimate chance,” Shrout said. “Being at UT the last few years, we kind of had a starter every year, so you’re kind of going in and competing for a backup job. This is kind of the first year you’re getting to go out there and, ‘Alright, let’s go try to do everything to be the guy.’”
CU head coach Karl Dorrell said the Buffs hope to name “the guy” late this month before the Sept. 3 opener against Northern Colorado.
To this point, Shrout and Lewis have split time with the first-team offense the entire offseason, which includes 15 spring practices and the first four sessions of preseason camp.
“They get graded on every play, and then we have statistics on the throws and the grades on the run plays too,” Langsdorf said. “It takes some time because we really want to look at it fairly and make sure we get them the same situations.”
Lewis, who is 6-foot-2, 225 pounds, is a “dual-threat” with exceptional running ability, but he’s also got a good arm, Langsdorf said. The 6-3, 215-pound Shrout, meanwhile, would likely be labeled as a pocket passer, but he’s got some ability to make plays with his feet, as well.
“I don’t want to pin those guys into those labels too much,” Langsdorf said. “They’re a little different style and they’ve got strengths and weaknesses, but they can manage all of what we’re doing. We’re not going to have a different offense when one guy goes in and when the other guy goes in.”
They have different leadership styles, as well, with Shrout being more vocal and Lewis leading through action in the weight room, etc.
For both of them, the focus is on their own game.
Lewis said he has “grown tremendously” since arriving at CU as an early enrollee in January of 2020 and continues to study the playbook and learn from Langsdorf.
“Coach Langs has helped me tremendously,” Lewis said. “He’s really taught me. He’s really the reason why I’ve grown so much because he’s so smart and knows a lot about the game.”
Shrout is on his third different coordinator and position coach during his college career and said he continues to absorb anything he can from coaches and teammates.
While their paths and styles may be different, both are energized by the opportunity.
“I think it definitely gives you a boost of confidence because you know you legitimately have a shot out there,” Shrout said.
As for the status of the competition, Langsdorf said it’s close and added, “We’re so much further along” than last year because of a full offseason.
Lewis said, “That’s a coach Langs question” when asked how close the competition is at this point, but added, “He posts a new sheet every day with our percentages, completions, reps and all that, so we know; we can see how we’re doing.”
It’s a battle that will continue deep into camp, and Shrout said the best course of action is to keep working.
“You compete until they tell you,” he said. “That’s the coach’s decision. … I can only control what I can control, so you go out there each day and do the best I can, and then, whatever happens, happens.”