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CU Buffs race to get QB Drew Carter up to speed

True freshman now in top backup role after injury to JT Shrout

Colorado quarterback Drew Carter, left, hands the ball to running back Deion Smith during a scrimmage at Folsom Field in Boulder on Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)
Colorado quarterback Drew Carter, left, hands the ball to running back Deion Smith during a scrimmage at Folsom Field in Boulder on Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)

All along, Colorado’s plan with Drew Carter has been to let him work out of the spotlight and spend this season getting acclimated to college football.

The Buffaloes now have a sense of urgency to get Carter up to speed.

On Saturday, sophomore JT Shrout suffered what Dorrell called a “significant injury” to his knee, which means returning freshman Brendon Lewis is the starter. That duo has battled for the starting job all offseason.

Carter, a true freshman from Tigard (Oregon) High School, is the only other scholarship quarterback on the roster.

“Drew’s now our No. 2, so he gets the (second-team) reps,” head coach Karl Dorrell said Monday. “That’s usually very difficult to get a guy ready in your first year at that position, but it can be done. I’ve done it before.”

Although this is only Dorrell’s second season at CU, he’s already shown a preference to let true freshman quarterbacks sit their first year. Lewis was never really a part of the competition to start in 2020 and didn’t play until the Alamo Bowl — after backup Tyler Lytle transferred.

Carter was never really in CU’s competition this year, either, but his chances of playing dramatically increased with Shrout’s injury.

“He understands the scope of him needing to bring up his game as fast as we can bring it up,” Dorrell said. “He’s a play away from being in the game if something happens to B-Lew.”

Even if Lewis doesn’t miss a start this season, Carter is sure to be called upon at some point. CU hasn’t lost a starting quarterback to injury in the last four years but has used its backup (or multiple backups) in every season for which statistics are available, back to 1946.

Dorrell hopes that being elevated to No. 2 can expedite Carter’s growth over the next few weeks.

“I just told him today, he did some good plays today,” Dorrell said. “He made a great play (in a two-minute drill) where he got us down in field goal range — an excellent throw over the top of a defender and he dropped it between the safety and the linebacker.

“He has really good qualities, but that’s what I told him in front of the team is that, ‘You’re a play away from being the guy, so your urgency about what you’re doing every day, it’s important. You’ve got to start preparing and thinking like you’re the starter.’”

Colorado quarterback Jordan Woolverton passes the ball during a scrimmage at Folsom Field in Boulder on Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)

The only other quarterback on the roster is true freshman walk-on Jordan Woolverton, from Durango High School. He now becomes the third-team quarterback.

Should the Buffs need an emergency quarterback at some point, tight end Matt Lynch — a former UCLA quarterback — or others could be options.

“We don’t have many answers,” Dorrell said. “I know we have some backup plans as to what we do if we end up having a quarterback issue somewhere down the line. We’re in that discussion. We’re actually talking with a couple guys on our team about some possible solutions for that, but we’re gonna ride with what we have right now until that happens.”

Practice update

Dorrell has been upbeat about the Buffs’ work throughout camp but was particularly pleased with Monday’s practice.

“I thought that was one of our best practices and it’s 11 days into camp,” he said. “That’s showing some maturity and some growth and not letting the physical outweigh the mental part of it. I was really encouraged by that. We spent a good time talking about that at the end of practice. We’re definitely headed in the right direction and I feel really good about that. … I’m as pleased as I can be.”

Dorrell said the Buffs had a lot of give-and-take between the offense and defense as the team worked through two-minute, red zone and third-down situations.

Scrimmage review

In reviewing Saturday’s scrimmage, Dorrell saw some good and bad out of the Buffs.

“The thing that stuck out from a negative standpoint, because of their tired legs, I thought the operation on both offense and defense was slow,” he said. “But when I went up and watched the tape and saw the formations lining up and playing and the competition, I had a better feeling of what was going on.

“The big talk and discussion after the scrimmage with the team was cleaning up our operation: have a better level of efficiency, getting in and out of the huddle, get lined up properly, get in the right stance, those types of things to start plays. Those guys have already addressed those things.”