Buffs Passing Game Coordinator Langsdorf Eager To Start QB Competition
BOULDER — It has been roughly four months since Danny Langsdorf became the quarterbacks coach/passing game coordinator at the University of Colorado — and he has yet to see any of his quarterbacks throw in anything resembling a real practice.
Such are the complications and issues produced by the Covid-19 pandemic shutdown, which eliminated spring football for all but a handful of programs across America.
But along with missing spring ball, an issue most programs had to deal with, Langsdorf is also facing some other circumstances that make his task even more difficult — issues that very few programs are facing.
For starters, he's one of six new assistants on new CU head coach Karl Dorrell's staff, meaning he hasn't had the opportunity to be on the field with any of his quarterbacks. Meanwhile, he doesn't even have the benefit of an incumbent in the group. Rather, his quarterback room consists of two "veterans" with minimal experience — a combined 47 pass attempts between them over the last three years in relief duty — and a true freshman.
It means Langsdorf, if he's lucky, will have barely six weeks of walkthroughs and fall camp to determine a starter virtually from scratch in time for Colorado's Sept. 5 season opener in Fort Collins against Colorado State. (That is, of course, assuming the season begins as currently scheduled, something that is by no means a guarantee at this point.)
Quite simply, the entire situation lends a whole new meaning to the term "sense of urgency" for Langsdorf, offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini and Dorrell.
"It's a big disadvantage," Langsdorf said in a Wednesday afternoon conference call with the media. "You'd like to be able to go through 15 practices in the spring and have a pretty good idea of your depth chart and how you're going to rep guys. We're already in a shortened situation and then not knowing what's coming ahead … it makes it very difficult. We're going to have to, in a short amount of time, figure it out."
Langsdorf's situation has actually markedly improved since the day he took the job in late February. Then, he had just two scholarship quarterbacks in his room, junior Tyler Lytle and true freshman Brendon Lewis.
But soon after accepting the position, Langsdorf had a conversation with Sam Noyer and convinced him to return for his senior season in Boulder.
Noyer played two years as a backup behind Steven Montez in 2017 and '18, but then switched to safety last season. After the 2019 year was completed, he put his name in the transfer portal.
Langsdorf, however, had a previous relationship with Noyer, having recruited him in 2015 when Noyer was a high school star in Beaverton, Ore., and Langsdorf was a Nebraska assistant.
"We had a good conversation," Langsdorf said. "I said, 'Why don't you give this thing a whirl? We don't have any set depth. We've got a wide-open competition.' The grass isn't always greener (at another school). I do think he wanted to stay and wanted to compete."
But even Noyer's return doesn't leave the Buffs with a wealth of experience at the position.
Noyer has the most playing time of the three, appearing in eight games in 2017 and '18 in a relief role, with 21 completions in 41 attempts for 179 yards and two interceptions. Lytle has appeared in four games with a 4-for-6 for 55 yards and one interception line.
Lewis, of course, has never even practiced as a collegian, let alone played in a game.
It will mean a fierce competition from the day fall camp begins.
Langsdorf did say he was impressed with his players' mental acuity after spending the spring in regular Zoom meetings with the group. They studied the playbook, talked fundamentals and philosophy and watched film.
"I've been really impressed with the questions and the interaction that we've had as a group," he said. "Having an opportunity to show them a lot of different stuff, it's spurred some good conversation."
But all the conversation in the world doesn't take the place of executing the playbook on the field. When the Buffs finally do get that opportunity, Langsdorf said he will have to speed up the process as much as possible to sort out a starter.
That may mean putting a little more pressure on the quarterbacks from the get-go.
"We're going to have to stress them," he said. "We're going to have to test them and see who can handle it. It might be a deal where we have to rotate a little bit and just kind of figure out day by day by putting guys in different situations, putting a guy as a one and a two and a three and switching it up and see how they respond. It will be very important on our offense to figure out the starter and make sure he's going to be ready to play in the opener."
Langsdorf also said he and Chiaverini will tailor the offense to fit the particular skill set of whoever earns the starting job.
"I think that's a key," Langsdorf said. "If you're trying to put a square peg in a round hole, you're going to have issues. There's going to be some things schematically system-wise that we'll want to do with all of them. But we don't want to get into a situation where we're trying to do something and a guy is really struggling. That's not fair to him or our team. We will definitely tailor it and cater to the starter."
CU student-athletes, including football players, will be allowed to resume in-person, voluntary workouts next Monday. Those workouts, though, will be strictly strength and conditioning, with strength coaches the only coaches allowed to attend.
But if all goes well with the return of student-athletes across the nation, the NCAA is expected to approve a plan that would allow coaches to begin working with their teams as early as July 13 for programs that open the season on Labor Day weekend (CU is scheduled to open Sept. 5 at Colorado State). Under the legislation, those teams could then begin to use a football in drills starting July 24 for walkthroughs and meetings (20 hours per week total).
Finally, preseason practices could begin Aug. 7, 29 days before the first game.
"Physically we've got a little ways to go," Langsdorf said. "I don't know what to think yet because I haven't seen them work out much. We've been so limited that way with them being gone. That will be interesting to get up to speed with. I'm anxious for that."