After a few scoreless possessions to start Saturday’s scrimmage at Folsom Field, quarterback Brendon Lewis dropped back to pass late in the scrimmage and fired a deep pass down the field.
Senior receiver Daniel Arias leaped and snagged the ball out of the air for a 44-yard gain to the 1-yard line. That set up the first score of the day and it was the highlight of a decent day for Lewis.
Looking to build off his first season as the starter, Lewis didn’t look dramatically different from last season, but avoided big mistakes and provided some highlights in the public’s first look at the revamped Buffs.
“He looked like he was in control of what was going on,” head coach Karl Dorrell said. “I thought he made good decisions today.”
CU doesn’t provide scrimmage stats, but unofficially Lewis completed 10-of-17 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown.
Rotating through personnel groups, CU ran 60 offensive plays in 13 possessions. Those possessions started in various spots on the field, including a red-zone period late in the practice.
Lewis, who engineered seven possessions, led the Buffs to their only two touchdowns — a 1-yard Deion Smith run after the long pass to Arias and then a 16-yard scoring strike to Arias.
“It felt good going out there with the guys, completing some balls, just actually playing football without the coaches being behind us,” Lewis said. “It just feels so much better knowing where to go with the ball, getting the ball out to where guys are gonna be. Our timing and repetition is getting better. So as the spring goes on, I just hope the guys continue to get better and stay healthy.”
Saturday was just the seventh practice CU has had with its new offense, led by coordinator Mike Sanford. And, with several players out because of injuries, Saturday’s showcase was simply a glimpse of the offense and nowhere near a finished product.
Taking everything into consideration, Lewis felt it was a positive day.
“We didn’t run a lot of stuff,” he said. “Basic stuff, day one stuff, but it felt good going out there with the guys and executing it, completing some balls and watching the guys run the offense. So it was pretty fun going out there.”
Dorrell agreed, highlighting some individuals on offense and defense.
“We did what we wanted to do today in terms of seeing our base level schemes and how well we can execute those, both sides of the ball,” he said. “I thought we did a good job of give and take with good competitiveness on both sides.”
Senior running Alex Fontenot (hamstring) was one of several key players who didn’t participate in the scrimmage. Dorrell said the Buffs won’t push Fontenot back but hope he can return next week. With Fontenot out, the Buffs had only four running backs, only two of which are on scholarship.
Of the eight receivers on scholarship this spring, only three — Arias, Montana Lemonious-Craig and RJ Sneed — participated, and Sneed was limited. Two of the five tight ends — Brady Russell and Caleb Fauria — were in non-contact jerseys and didn’t participate in the scrimmage.
The Buffs had several players out on defense, too, including safety Isaiah Lewis.
“When you’re thin in a lot of spots, it’s really strategic in terms of play count, how long you want them out there, how long you want to sustain a drive, things like that,” Dorrell said. “But it was good to just see a lot of our guys get work. Everybody got work today, all the way down to our guys that are walk-ons that usually don’t get many reps. They got some reps today, so it was really good to see them function and make some plays.”
Unofficially, Arias had three catches for 69 yards and might have been the offensive MVP.
“A guy with his size and speed, you would hope that when he gets a chance to get one-on-one coverage we’re expecting him to win those battles,” Dorrell said. “He had a great battle down here with a jump ball the early part of the scrimmage, so he’s doing the things that we expect him to do.”
Walk-ons Michael Harrison and Jack Hestera each caught three passes, while Lemonious-Craig had two catches for 35 yards. Tight ends Austin Smith and Erik Olsen also had impressive plays on catches.
On the ground, CU unofficially had 59 yards on 29 rushing attempts, including a 9-yard loss on a sack. Walk-on Charlie Offerdahl led the Buffs with 26 yards on eight attempts, while Jayle Stacks had 18 yards on five carries.
Outside linebacker Alvin Williams was credited with a sack and he also had a tipped pass at the line of scrimmage. Edge rushers Terrance Lang and Devin Grant also made some big plays. … Noah Fenske and Austin Johnson rotated at center with the first-team offense. … Walk-on safety Jordan Woolverton, a converted quarterback, made one of the plays of the day defensively, breaking up a pass intended for Arias in the end zone. … Former CU running back Phillip Lindsay, currently a free agent after finishing last season with the Miami Dolphins, was in attendance.