Through the first two months of the offseason, the main headlines around the Colorado football team centered around the players leaving the program through the transfer portal or the significant changes on the coaching staff.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes, there is another significant change taking place.
CU is about a month into the offseason workout program. Shannon Turley, the director of football sports performance, is entering his second season with the Buffs and that comfort is making a difference. So is the comfort of the players as they are now familiar with Turley’s program.
“You get to see new leaders emerge and have those guys drive the process,” Turley said. “You can enlist players on the rise that maybe proved themselves in a developmental role during the fall, where they didn’t get a chance to shine on Saturdays on the field, but they were working in the shadows in the weight room. Now they’re here to compete and they want to prove themselves in the offseason and in preparation for spring ball. So it’s really exciting and we’ve laid a great foundation so far.”
Hired in late January of 2021, Turley spent a large chunk of last year teaching his program. Now, many returning players are not only familiar with the program but leading it.
“It’s paramount to our success,” Turley said of players stepping up as leaders. “It’s one thing when coach Turley says it. It’s received differently when Terrence Lang says it.”
Asked about the players stepping up, Turley said, “It’s too many guys to name right now, which is really exciting.” But, he did mention several who are leading, including Lang, a senior defensive end; tight end Brady Russell; quarterback Brendon Lewis; receivers Daniel Arias, Montana Lemonious-Craig and Chase Penry; linebacker Robert Barnes; cornerback Nikko Reed; and offensive lineman Casey Roddick.
Turley added that newcomers Tommy Brown and RJ Sneed are leading, as well. Brown is an offensive line transfer from Alabama and Sneed is a receiver transfer from Baylor.
A rising sophomore, Lewis was the starting quarterback for all 12 games last season. From the time he got to CU two years ago, he has been widely praised for his work in the weight room, but he’s now adding some leadership.
“(Lewis) is evolving. He’s growing,” Turley said. “He’s becoming a more willing leader.
“He starts wanting to execute by example. That’s within his personality. I’m not asking him to be somebody different than he is, but he loves to work, he loves to get coached and those are the guys you can really build a program on and rally behind. For me, it’s about trying to help him tap into bringing other guys along and elevating them, and making it a priority for them when we’re going to get out here and do the extra work. It’s great that you’re doing this extra work, but who can you enlist with you?”
That’s something Roddick has tried to do with his fellow linemen this offseason.
“He has really done a good job on the offensive line of trying to elevate that group which, frankly, struggled (during the 2021 season),” Turley said. “You see him want to take responsibility for their performance and the work that they’re going to do in the offseason with us.
“He knows that he has weaknesses that he wants to improve, and he’s willing to do the work.”
After a 4-8 season, there are a lot of areas in which the Buffs need to improve and they are currently in the midst of a nine-week program leading up to spring practices, which are slated to begin in late March. Having players assist with leading the program will make it more effective.
“As those guys impose their will on their teammates and, more importantly, elevate the standard, and they drive the expectations and they hold each other accountable for the attention to detail in the effort and all of those intangible process traits that we’re teaching our players, it’s at a whole different level,” Turley said. “That’s really where you can start to see your team climb and the transformation takes place.
“At this point we’re, again, laying the foundation, and we’re preparing for more intense challenges to come. Those are the guys that are driving the standards and the expectations. They’re ensuring that the other guys are rising to meet the challenge.”