Walking off the field Saturday, Colorado head coach Karl Dorrell breathed a sigh of relief.
“Whew, we got through it,” he said after the Buffaloes’ annual spring showcase in front of about 1,950 fans at Folsom Field.
With about a third of the scholarship players nursing injuries and not participating Saturday, Dorrell was happy CU didn’t add to the list. The Buffs were nowhere near a complete product this spring because of the injuries, but Dorrell still felt good about the work his team accomplished during the 15 practices.
“I like how our team has matured at this point,” Dorrell said. “They’re learning how to be a team. They’re learning how to compete against each other and encourage each other. So those steps of progress are really important to me. I think we can build off those things in the summer.”
CU purposely didn’t put much of its offensive or defensive schemes on display Saturday, but still had some good moments.
“I thought it was pretty good,” said sophomore quarterback Brendon Lewis, who completed 12-of-18 passes for 81 yards and a touchdown. “We had a few hiccups, a few holding calls, but I felt like when we got settled in it was pretty good. We were doing vanilla stuff, day one stuff. We probably executed good enough, moved the ball a couple times. It was nice seeing some completions out there to multiple guys, so that was fun just getting out there playing ball with the guys.”
As is often the case with a spring game, many of the highlights were produced by unheralded players.
Walk-on running back Charlie Offerdahl ran for a team-high 55 yards and a touchdown and also caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Maddox Kopp. Walk-on receiver Jack Hestera caught three passes for a team-high 50 yards.
Two walk-ons from Durango High School, Ben Finneseth and Jordan Woolverton, had a nice day on defense. Finneseth had a team-high six tackles, while Woolverton picked off a Kopp pass in the end zone.
Lewis said it’s always good for the morale of the locker room to see everyone contribute.
“Watching those guys make plays, it brings heart to the whole team,” Lewis said. “We love seeing that. Especially a guy like Charlie, amazing guy, biggest heart on the team I think. It’s just fun watching him run through guys and seeing Jack make plays. Those are our guys for sure.”
Saturday didn’t offer much of a glimpse into the future of the 2022 Buffaloes, but in the big picture, this spring was productive.
Dorrell came into spring with a goal of closing the gap between the starters and backups and believes that was accomplished.
“Even though we were limping across the finish line, we finished pretty well with what we had,” Dorrell said. “A lot of guys got reps, a lot of guys that are key in terms of our depth got a lot of reps. So when we get some of those veterans, experienced players back from their injuries and stuff like that in the summer, I feel like we’ve closed the gap with some of those younger players that had to have a lot of reps this spring. We should be able to have two solid units.”
That is particularly true on defense, as Dorrell and his staff were pleased with how many young players improved this spring. CU lost six starters on defense to graduation or the transfer portal. Two returning starters (defensive end Terrance Lang and safety Isaiah Lewis) didn’t participate on Saturday.
Young players in all levels of the defense, especially the secondary and inside linebacker, stepped up Saturday and throughout the spring.
“I’m encouraged with where our defense is,” Dorrell said. “Defensively we’ve got good depth. Some good experience and some young talent that’s really going to help us play at a sustained high level.”
Although Lewis is a returning starter at quarterback, the Buffs had only eight healthy offensive linemen and played without some key weapons on offense. Dorrell admitted he let a few holding penalties go, which helped the group.
“Believe me, if I would have marked off those penalties, the offense may not have had much production at all,” Dorrell said. “So that tells you a little bit about our defense is (right now).”
Perhaps more than anything, the Buffs set a tone of competitiveness this spring and Lewis said that will help the team as they go forward.
“Oh yeah, the competitiveness is amazing,” he said. “The way practice is, we’re getting into it. But we know we’re all one team. So we’ll get into it and right after, we know we’re one team and we’ve all got the same goal and that’s to win the Pac-12. I love the competition and it’s definitely making us better and better every day, competing with the guys, getting into a little bit. I think that’s good.”