Losing a potential starter at quarterback is certainly not ideal for the Colorado football team, but with the season opener quickly approaching, head coach Karl Dorrell is pleased with the progress at the position.
A week after losing sophomore JT Shrout to a “significant” knee injury, second-year freshman Brendon Lewis continues to prepare for his starting debut, while true freshman Drew Carter is preparing for his new role as the top backup.
“You’ve seen that heightened awareness by both of those guys,” Dorrell said after the Buffs’ conducted a scrimmage on Saturday. “They’re trying to kind of lock in.”
Shrout and Lewis spent all offseason battling for the starting job, but Shrout was injured during a scrimmage on Aug. 14. It’s unclear how long he will be out, but he is scheduled to have surgery this week.
In the week since that injury, Lewis has settled into the lead role.
“You can tell that his focus is sharper,” Dorrell said.
Nevertheless, Lewis is still just 19 years old with zero college starts under his belt.
“We keep forgetting he’s still a freshman,” Dorrell said. “He’s going to make mistakes, and we know that and we tell him that you’re not going to be perfect, but it’s okay to strive for perfection. It’s like that old Vince Lombardi quote – strive for perfection, you just might attain excellence. That’s kind of what we’re hoping that we can get him to.”
To get there, Dorrell said the coaching staff has to be patient and when Lewis does make a mistake the key is “getting past it and keep going. Then we’ll review the tape the night after and clean it up.”
The original plan for Carter was to have him take the year to develop, while Lewis and/or Shrout played. Now, Carter has to be ready, as he’s a play away from leading the offense.
“I think at first it hit him in the face where, ‘Wow, am I ready?’” Dorrell said. “Then obviously, the reality is that no he’s not; he’s got to get ready and I think he’s really working hard on doing that.
“I like where they’re both at. Their awareness is starting to pick up.”
As for Shrout, Dorrell is not ready to rule him out for the season until after his surgery, but the transfer from Tennessee is already preparing for a different type of role for now.
“He’s in pretty good spirits,” Dorrell said. “He’s now over the trauma of the disappointment of it. I told him, ‘I’m putting you in a coaching role this fall.’ It’ll help him stay locked in and it’ll help him continue to progress. Even though he’s not getting those physical reps, I think he can continue to learn and grow with the mental side of it.”
Becker seizing opportunity
True freshman Cole Becker came into camp ready to battle incumbent Evan Price for place-kicking duties and he appears to have won that job.
“Cole Becker, he’s ice,” Dorrell said. “He’s got ice in his veins.”
During practices, the team has tried to rattle Becker, but Dorrell said, “He just does his job. He’s had a fabulous camp. I think he’s missed one field goal and he was (upset). He’s expecting perfection. He’s one of those guys that we targeted to come in here and be that next great kicker that we’ve had a lineage of having, and we think he’s on the right track for that.”
Dorrell said coaches haven’t really tested Becker’s range, but they believe he would be comfortable from about the 35 or 37-yard line – which is a kick in the 52-55-yard area.
“All indications right now, he’s like The Iceman,” Dorrell said.
Dorrell said Becker is slated to handle kickoff duties, as well.
Dorrell said the Buffs had a good day of situational football during Saturday’s scrimmage and got out of the practice without any serious injuries.
Dorrell had the referees “nitpick” on things, which led to some misalignment and illegal procedure issues, but he felt the quarterbacks operated well with the play clock. Both sides of the ball had their good moments.
“It was kind of a give and take scrimmage,” Dorrell said. “The offense had some good plays and good runs and passes and the defense stepped up and had a few plays.”
Overall, the Buffs ran about 80 plays, which was more than Dorrell expected.
“We needed that work, and it’s kind of like the end of camp,” he said. “They start school on Monday and we’re back to 20-hour rules and all that stuff, but we feel we’re in good position. Now we get to clean things up and get some fresh in our legs and come out ready to go on September 3 (against Northern Colorado).”