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Dorrell Pleased With Buffs' Opening Spring Practice

Mar 30, 2022
Coach Karl Dorrell said QB Brendon Lewis is a "completely different player" this spring.

BOULDER — New offense, new faces and a renewed determination set the tone for Colorado's opening spring football practice Wednesday.

Buffaloes coach Karl Dorrell called the workout "seamless" in some respects, noting that "the efficiency of practice was the best it's been since I've been here."

But what may have been most impressive in Dorrell's eyes was his players' attitude, the result of seeds that began sprouting in early January, when the Buffs' roster underwent a significant transition via the transfer portal.

Wednesday's practice, he said, showed that the 2022 Buffs are ready to move forward.

"They came together as a team given the transition in the offseason," Dorrell said. "I felt this team really decided to dig in and invest in each other. It shows in the progress they made in practice today."

The roughly two-hour workout in shorts and helmets included some 7-on-7 work, a healthy dose of individual position-group drills and some 11-on-11 team sessions. 

One top priority of spring will be the continued installation of new offensive coordinator Mike Sanford's scheme. What was quickly apparent is that the Buffs hope to reinstate some offensive balance, be more efficient in the passing game from multiple sets and utilize the tight end on a more regular basis than in past years.

One big focus will be more efficient quarterback play. Dorrell was effusive with his praise of quarterback Brendon Lewis' first spring practice. Lewis, who endured a difficult 2021 season as a starting freshman in CU's 4-8 season, appeared comfortable in the new offensive scheme reading defenses and finding open receivers.

"He's not anything from what you saw in 2021," Dorrell said. "I saw a completely different player. All that experience he gained over the course of last season has really paid off for his composure. His confidence, how he exudes himself in the huddle, how he's commanding everything in terms of the information he's given. He's definitely a much different player."

Lewis threw for 1,540 yards and 10 touchdowns last year with just three interceptions. 

But now, he's working with an offensive coordinator who is also the quarterbacks coach — an added benefit when it comes to discussing play calls, reading defenses and making adjustments at the line of scrimmage.

"It's a good thing," Lewis said. "You know exactly what he wants to do."

Lewis said he learned from last season and still watches film from last year to continue the process of correcting his mistakes. Another key lesson, he said, is knowing not to listen to what he referred to as "Twitter quarterbacks."

"I know what I'm doing," he said. "I don't let it get to me. I use it as motivation."

As the incumbent starter, Lewis took the majority of snaps Wednesday. His main competition from last year's fall camp, J.T. Shrout, is still relegated to working individual drills and 7-on-7 work as he is still rehabbing the knee injury that ended his season last August.

"It was good to get back out with the guys," said Shrout. "It was really tough last year not being able to be out there."

"I'm really pleased," Dorrell said. "It was a really good start to spring. If we can continue to stack up these practices with progress and fix the things that need to be addressed, keep digesting new information and keep performing it, it's a chance for us to be a pretty good football team about the time fall rolls around."

BUFFS BITS: The Buffs must replace a number of starters on both sides of the ball, beginning with the offensive line, where just three mainstays from last year — tackles Jake Wiley and Frank Fillip and guard Casey Roddick — return. The Buffs quickly worked newcomer Tommy Brown (a transfer from Alabama) into the rotation at guard and returnee Noah Fenske at center … Second-year freshman Mister Williams got some snaps alongside Robert Barnes at inside linebacker, another place the Buffs must replace some starters, and Devin Grant took some work at OLB.

Dorrell singled out a number of players for making plays on the first day. Tight end Erik Olsen had "seven or eight" catches and wide receiver Ty Robinson made a nice play on a deep ball ... Running back Deion Smith broke a couple of nice runs in team drills … Dorrell also mentioned freshman linebacker Eoghan Kerry, freshman DB Jason Oliver, transfer OLB Chance Main, sophomore DB Nikko Reed and junior defensive lineman Na'im Rodman on the defensive side.

"There's a number of really good players that are doing some good things for us," Dorrell said. "There's a lot of really good positive things that I've seen from a lot of players. They aren't perfect, but they're working hard, flying around and that's something a coach always relishes, effort and attitude." ...

Dorrell also confirmed that linebacker Jack Lamb, who transferred to CU last year from Notre Dame, has medically retired after an injury-plagued career. Also, Joshua Jynes has ended his playing career and has become a coaching intern.

SCHEDULE: The Buffs will return to the field Friday in shorts and helmets, then add "upper" pads to the mix Saturday. Their first practice in pads is scheduled for next Tuesday with the first scrimmage set for Saturday, April 9.

The Spring Showcase at Folsom Field is slated for April 23 at 1 p.m.