Quarterback Shedeur Sanders threw precision passes. Receivers Jimmy Horn Jr. and Travis Hunter flashed their speed and athleticism.
And, throughout a nearly two-hour practice at Colorado’s indoor facility on Wednesday morning, the Buffaloes were flying from drill to drill and maximizing their time on the field.
It’s the type of tempo that first-year offensive coordinator Sean Lewis loves.
“Yeah, I like going fast. Me and Ricky Bobby got that in common,” Lewis said. “I want to go fast. I’ve been playing this way for over a decade now. I like the intensity, the energy and the pace of play. We can get a lot done, our kids can work really efficient and we get a lot of volume, which is good.”
Wednesday marked the third of CU’s 15 spring practices, and while there is a lot of work to be done, Lewis is pleased with the early progress.
“We’re starting,” he said. “There’s some good, there’s some bad, there’s some ugly, but we’re learning about one another. We’re testing the guys. Today was a good test with the pads on for the first time to see who we can trust and see where we’re at, create that adversity and see who responds the right way. But I liked the attitude. I liked the approach and the way guys are going about it.”
Lewis, who turns 37 next month, is used to this offense and this style. Although he was a tight end in a run-oriented offense at Wisconsin, he learned about up-tempo offense when he got hired by Dino Babers at Eastern Illinois in 2012. They also worked together at Bowling Green and Syracuse.
“He taught me to play this way and being with him for six years,” said Lewis, who spent the previous five seasons as the head coach at Kent State. “This style of play comes from him and then some of the schematics are taken from all over. But the style of play and what you guys see is directly related to coach Babers. I wouldn’t be standing here in front of you guys if it wasn’t for him.”
For the players, however, this is all new, and Lewis is balancing the desire to go fast with not rushing the players’ development.
“Yeah, you want to be quick, but you don’t want to hurry and we’ve got to slow their mind down right now,” Lewis said. “It starts with the quarterbacks in particular. When you’re operating this offense, it’s like riding a bike down a volcano that’s erupting. You can’t be thinking about the bike. You’ve got to know the bike and that’s what our offense is and that’s what we’re doing right now.
“We’re teaching them to be elite problem solvers so that no matter what problems present themselves, the guys have the tools, the techniques and the fundamentals to be able to apply it and then think fast, know fast do fast. To everyone else, it looks like chaos, or it looks like it’s just wild. But to our kids, it’s the reality that they know and they have confidence playing that way.”
Getting to that point will take some time, but at quarterback, Sanders is already displaying his talent, intelligence and leadership.
“He’s doing a really good job,” Lewis said. “He’s done a really nice job with all those previous offenses that he’s been a part of, to be able to clear that terminology, learn this new terminology fresh so that he can process quickly. I think he’s doing a really nice job.”
Sanders closed Wednesday’s practice with a deep touchdown pass to Hunter, proving that there is some progress being made. Just three practices in, however, the Buffs have plenty of work to do.
“The biggest thing right now is as we go I want to see the number of missed assignments and the mental errors go down,” Lewis said. “That’s the thing that I’m constantly tracking. Right now, they’re way too high for us to be successful and that needs to continue to go down.”