Given all the turnover at receiver in the offseason, Colorado offensive coordinator Mike Sanford wasn’t sure what the Buffaloes had to work with at the position.
As CU nears the end of spring football practices, however, Sanford isn’t too worried.
“I think the area that I’m really, really pleased with has been the receiver growth,” Sanford, CU’s first-year coordinator and quarterbacks coach, said this week. “That was a big question mark with everything that happened in the offseason and today I looked over and you see Maurice (Bell) and Daniel Arias and Montana (Lemonious-Craig) and RJ Sneed, Chase Penry. I looked over after a big play and I was like, ‘We’ve got a wideout group here and they’re being coached.’”
Most of CU’s receiver talent will be on display Saturday at the spring showcase at Folsom Field (1 p.m., TV: Pac-12 Mountain).
After last season, starting receivers Brenden Rice and Dimitri Stanley transferred to Southern California and Iowa State, respectively. CU also lost receivers Chris Carpenter (UTSA), Keith Miller (Texas A&M Commerce) and La’Vontae Shenault (Alabama State) to the transfer portal.
The receiver room has a much different look this year, led by Sneed, a transfer from Baylor with 133 career catches. He is, by far, the most experienced receiver on the team, as the rest of the group has a combined 78 career catches, led by Arias, a fifth-year senior with 28.
Under the direction of new receivers coach Phil McGeoghan and head coach Karl Dorrell — who has coached receivers for much of his career — the group has elevated its game.
“They’re being coached by two of the best in coach McGeoghan and what he brings to the table; I’ve seen development,” Sanford said. “Then also with coach Dorrell. The tips that these two can offer, I don’t think there’s a better receiving/coaching combination out there that I’ve been around, and I’ve been around it now for quite some time.”
CU began spring with 14 offensive linemen, including three walk-ons, but only nine are healthy as practices wind down.
The lack of depth has led to starting guards Tommy Brown and Casey Roddick rotating in with the second team. While the lack of depth isn’t ideal, Brown and Roddick have helped the second unit improve.
“That’s usually the biggest drop-off is when the twos don’t have as much knowledge and experience as the ones but now that we have (Brown and Roddick) … with the second group, they’re able to help those guys identify what they’re looking at, create communication,” Dorrell said. “It allows the twos to actually play pretty well. But that’s the reason why I think there isn’t really that much of a drop-off with our twos and our ones.”
Raising the bar
Defensive coordinator Chris Wilson said outside linebacker Guy Thomas is “pretty close” to being the productive player he was last season before a foot injury.
Thomas missed the last five games of 2021 with an injury, but this spring, Wilson said, “He’s really competing at a high level and I think he understands the significance of this offseason and how big it is for him. So his standard and his levels have been raised also.”
Sanford said he has been “really pleased” with how sophomore quarterback Brendon Lewis has played this spring.
“Brendon Lewis is playing at a really high level right now,” Sanford said. “He’s operating what I would call a complex system, and he’s doing it well. He’s spending extra time, he’s taking charge of the offense. He’s making really good, fast decisions, which was clearly a growth area for him coming off the 2021 season.”
Sanford said he’s also been excited about the growth of junior JT Shrout, who has been limited this spring because he’s recovering from a knee injury. Shrout has been “taking the lion’s share of the seven-on-seven reps,” Sanford said.
Walk-on running back Charlie Offerdahl “just keeps making plays,” Sanford said. “I’m excited about his growth and development.” … Ralphie VI will be at the spring showcase on Saturday. … Following the spring showcase, at about 3 p.m., CU will host “Healthy Kids Field Day,” allowing younger fans to participate in several activities on Folsom Field. The activities will be hosted by CU student-athletes from several teams.