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Chiaverini Vows Buffs Offense Will Continue To Improve

Sep 29, 2021

BOULDER — Colorado offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini clearly understands the public's frustrations with the Buffaloes' offensive struggles this season.

As Chiaverini noted Wednesday, CU coaches are frustrated as well. So are Colorado players.

But Chiaverini also said he continues to see progress with the offense — albeit not as rapid as some would like — and he expects that progress to continue as CU's season progresses.

"I see improvement week to week," Chiaverini said. "We'll get better. We're developing this offense. It is young in a lot of places, and even though we have some veteran pieces, when you have a young quarterback and some young pieces around him, it's going to take some time."

The Buffs are indeed a young offensive unit, beginning with freshman quarterback Brendon Lewis, who will make his fifth career start Saturday when CU (1-3 overall, 0-1 Pac-12) plays host to Southern California (2-2, 1-2) in a noon game at Folsom Field.

"With a young quarterback making his first college starts, there will be some growing pains," Chiaverini said. "Mix in some really good competition and some good defenses, and we've struggled. There's no question. But I think you see that around college football, around the NFL, when young quarterbacks are playing. There's a development process and steps that need to be made."

But Lewis is not the only Buff going through trial by fire. Six other starters on the offensive side are either freshmen or sophomores, including freshmen Jake Wiley (left tackle) and Brenden Rice (WR). 

Meanwhile, CU's offensive line has had four different starting combinations in four games because of injuries, with nine different players already starting at least one game on the line. 

Add it all up and it's a combination that is less than ideal when it comes to continuity.

Still, there were some signs of progress last weekend, even though the Buffs dropped their third straight decision, a 35-13 loss at Arizona State. Colorado regained its footing on the ground, rushing for 183 yards.

The downside, though, came in the air. CU finished with just 67 yards passing — Colorado's third straight game with under 100 yards passing. CU's leading receiver, Rice, has just seven catches on the year while the yardage leader is Daniel Arias with 45 yards. For the season, Colorado's longest completion is a mere 26 yards.

"There's no question we have to get it going," Chiaverini said. "We're working on it every day. Coach (Karl) Dorrell obviously is an offensive coach … We're developing these guys, but were young at receiver, too, and we're missing some pieces there."

The Buffs have been playing without receiver La'Vontae Shenault, who figured to be one of the team leaders, since the opening game.  Shenault is currently suspended.

Thus, while they do have some veteran contributors in Arias (a junior) and Dimitri Stanley (third-year sophomore), they have also been leaning on second-year freshmen Brenden Rice and Montana Lemonious-Craig and true freshmen Ty Robinson and Chase Penry.

"They're getting better," Chiaverini said. "You're seeing it in practice. They're making contested catches. They're taking the next step and that passing game will start to open up."

Still, Chiaverini knows that patience is seldom plentiful in any fan base.

"At the end of the day, we're all in this together," Chiaverini said. "When we're playing well, I'm going to get a lot of credit. When we're not playing well I'm going to get a lot of criticism. It's the same thing with Coach Dorrell. He's the head football coach. We're all in this together. Our job is to coach them hard and see development."

Now, Chiaverini said, he expects to see continued progress from the offense.

"We want to see us taking the next step because we're growing and building a program and building an offense," he said. "We will get there. But it's going to take some development … We have to understand where we're at and where we're trying to go. It's going to take week-to-week progression and having those growing pains and taking the next step."