This certainly wasn’t how Colorado head coach Karl Dorrell wanted to settle on a starting quarterback.
On Monday, Dorrell announced that sophomore JT Shrout has a “significant injury” to his knee, sustained during the Buffaloes’ scrimmage at Folsom Field on Saturday.
“They did the MRI and he does a significant injury and he will be out for a period of time,” Dorrell said.
Returning freshman Brendon Lewis is now slated to start the season opener Sept. 3 at Folsom Field against Northern Colorado.
Asked if there was a chance Shrout could return this year, Dorrell said, “I don’t know. We’ll see after the surgery. I know that sometimes when they get in there, they find out, ‘Oh it wasn’t as bad.’ It’s hard to tell.”
Regardless, it’s a tough break for Shrout and the Buffs. Lewis and Shrout had battled all offseason for the starting job and Dorrell had planned to settle on a starter later in camp. On Friday, he said Shrout and Lewis have been “literally 1A and 1B. They both are playing really well.”
During Saturday’s scrimmage, Shrout played in four series, including three with the first-team offense. On a third-down read-option play to the left, Shrout made a cut to his right and wasn’t hit, but his knee buckled and he fell to the ground in obvious pain.
“It’s unfortunate for (Shrout),” Dorrell said. “As you can imagine he’s devastated, but he’s the type of kid he’ll bounce back from it and we’re going to keep him involved in what we’re doing. Hopefully, we’re going to travel him and he’ll be with us until he gets back on the road to recovery and seeing how that process goes.
“He’ll respond. He feels like he’s let down his teammates and that’s the kind of guy he is. He doesn’t think about himself. He thinks more about the team. That tells you the character, the mindset of this program is changing. They’re not thinking about themselves so much; they’re thinking about what’s best for the team, and he’s one of those guys.”
Shrout transferred to CU in January after three seasons at Tennessee. He was a backup with the Volunteers, appearing in eight games, with one start, and completing 37-of-69 passes for 494 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions.
With 2020 starter Sam Noyer transferring to Oregon State over the summer, Shrout had been CU’s most experienced quarterback and he was eager to get a shot to start for the Buffs.
“I think this is the first time I’ve really been given a legitimate chance,” Shrout said last week. “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.’”
Shrout was on his way to doing just that, as coaches have praised both quarterbacks for the work they’ve done this offseason.
With Shrout sidelined, the Buffs’ already thin depth at quarterback takes a major hit. Lewis and true freshmen Drew Carter and Jordan Woolverton — a walk-on — are the only other quarterbacks on the roster.
A true freshman last year, Lewis made his collegiate debut on Dec. 29 against Texas in the Valero Alamo Bowl. Coming off the bench in relief of Noyer, Lewis led the Buffs to three touchdowns during the 55-23 loss. He completed 6-of-10 passes for 95 yards and ran nine times for 73 yards and a touchdown.
Dorrell said he didn’t need to have a conversation with Lewis to let him know he’s now the starter.
“The situation was between he and JT to begin with and now that JT has this injury, he knows what the issue is by default,” Dorrell said. “In his mind, he was thinking he was the starter anyway. Both of those guys, if you interview both of them individually, they will both tell you that, ‘Well, I’m ready to lead this team.’”
Lewis will now lead the Buffs and is slated to become the first freshman to start at quarterback for the Buffs since Sefo Liufau in 2013.
“He’s just being the same guy that he was, whether JT was here or not,” Dorrell said of Lewis’ response in practice Monday. “So I didn’t need to talk to him. It was more of just him working on his game, keep improving, keep stacking great practices, keep getting the ball to your skill (players), keep making good decisions. Those are the things that he’s been focusing on and he’s been doing really well doing that.”