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Dorrell Pleased With Competitiveness In Buffs' First Spring Scrimmage

Apr 9, 2022

BOULDER — Colorado's new offense made some plays Saturday but the defense was perhaps more consistent as the Buffaloes conducted their first scrimmage of spring ball at Folsom Field.

Granted, as head coach Karl Dorrell noted, the offense kept its play calling on the vanilla side of things.

"We didn't want to show too much given it was a public scrimmage," Dorrell said. "But we did what we wanted to do today in terms of seeing our base-level schemes and how well we can execute those on both sides of the ball. I thought we did a good job of give and take with good competitiveness on both sides."

CU's offense has also been hindered this spring by a lack of depth, particularly at the skill positions. Running back Alex Fontenot, a strong candidate for the starting spot next fall, did not participate because of a sore hamstring; and the wide receiver spot was limited to just a handful of players, including walk-ons.

"When you're thin in a lot of spots it's really strategic in terms of play count how long you want them out there, how long you want to sustain a drive, things like that," Dorrell said. "I tried to do the best thing I could to get out of this scrimmage."

The Buffs did come up with some big plays, getting a long pass from Brendon Lewis to Daniel Arias early, and Arias also had a touchdown catch late in the workout. His big catch early was a particularly pleasing moment for the offensive staff, as he went up and high-pointed the ball to come down with the catch.

The 6-4, 210-pound Arias has had some outstanding moments the past several seasons, but consistency has not been a strong point. This spring, he is showing that he may be ready to add that quality to his arsenal.

"When he gets a chance to get one-on-one coverage, we're expecting him to win those battles and he had a great battle down here with a jump ball," Dorrell said. "He's doing the things that we expect him to do."

Wide receiver Montana Lemonious-Craig — another player the Buffs need to take his game up a notch this year — also had a couple of nice catches, as did walkon Jack Hestera. 

Tight ends, expected to play a much bigger role in offensive coordinator Mike Sanford's new scheme, had multiple catches, led by Erik Olsen and Austin Smith.

"Erik had a nice little flat pass and made a big play down the sideline and got it close to the red zone," Dorrell noted. "I thought that was a big play, breaking a tackle and going down the sideline. So it was good progress."

CU's running game didn't produce any big gainers, but did get a short-yardage score from Deion Smith to complete the offense's longest scoring drive of the day while Jayle Stacks had the longest run.

Colorado's No. 1 offensive line continued to consist mainly of tackles Jake Wiley and Frank Fillip, guards Tommy Brown and Casey Roddick, and Noah Fenske and Austin Johnson rotating at center.

Quarterback Brendon Lewis had an efficient day, completing roughly 60 percent of his passes, including a touchdown toss, and no interceptions.

"B-Lew looked good," Dorrell said. "He looked like he was in control of what was going on. I thought he made good decisions today." 

Lewis said he felt much more comfortable than last year, even though he's operating a new scheme.

"I felt good going out there with the guys, completing some balls, just actually playing football without the coaches being behind us," Lewis said. "It felt good to move the ball a little bit, doing it by ourselves and trying to execute the offense the way our standard needs to be."

Defensively, the Buffs are looking to replace several key starters from last season. Saturday, linebackers Robert Barnes, Quinn Perry and Mister Williams showed they are ready to stake a claim to inside spots while sophomore Nikko Reed and true freshman Joshua Wiggins made plays at the corner. Both DBs came up with some nice pass breakups, as did safety Jordan Woolverton, a converted quarterback.

Also having a solid showing was safety Trevor Woods, who showed his big-play capability at the end of last season, along with defensive lineman Na'im Rodman and edge rushers Terrance Lang, Guy Thomas and Alvin Williams. CU showed a penchant for getting to the quarterback — a big focus this spring — while also keeping the offense's run game in check for most of the day.

"Defensively, they got the stops when they needed to," Dorrell said. "We had a couple scores offensively but I think for the most part they kept the relatively out of sustaining drives."

SCHEDULE: The Buffs will return to the practice field next Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, with another scrimmage (closed to the public) scheduled for Saturday. The Spring Showcase is set for April 23 at 1 p.m. at Folsom Field.