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What To Watch In Saturday's Buffs Spring Showcase

Apr 22, 2022

BOULDER — Colorado's second spring ball session under head coach Karl Dorrell has been a good one for the Buffaloes.

After an offseason of significant transition — both from a player and coaching staff standpoint — the Buffs have had a productive, consistent spring session. They will wrap up the session Saturday with the annual Spring Showcase at Folsom Field, set to begin at 1 p.m. Pac-12 Mountain will televise the showcase and KHOW (630 AM) will carry the radio broadcast.

Dorrell's Buffs entered the spring with a long list of objectives and they made significant progress in just about every priority area.

One of the critical pieces was the installation of new offensive coordinator Mike Sanford's scheme, and the results were promising. The Buffs got a rapid-fire introduction to the playbook and a healthy amount of repetitions in a system that should maximize each players' skill sets.

Meanwhile, CU's defense also showed signs of taking a solid step forward, despite losing a number of starters from last year. Now in their second year of coordinator Chris Wilson's system, CU defenders appear to be comfortable and showing the ability to communicate and react quickly.

Five things to watch in the Spring Showcase:

1. Quarterback play. CU's coaches have liked the progress of incumbent starter Brendon Lewis this spring in the new offensive scheme. Watch Lewis' ability to react, make quick decisions and progress through his reads, as well as his ability to spread the ball around to a variety of receivers. Sanford's offense makes good use of the tight end and also utilizes running backs as primary receivers in certain situations. 

Meanwhile, keep an eye on the QBs vying for the backup spot. The No. 1 challenger, J.T. Shrout, won't be participating, but sophomore Drew Carter and transfer Maddox Kopp have both had nice moments thus far this spring.

2. Newcomers on defense. The Buffs lost several quality starters on the defensive side — but the players stepping into their shoes have not only performed well, but are showing signs of making this year's defense a better overall unit than the 2021 version.

Keep an eye on CU's linebackers, where returnees Robert Barnes, Quinn Perry, Marvin Ham II and Mister Williams have had solid springs. Also be on the lookout for true freshman Eoghan Kerry, who has made a big impression quickly with his instincts, nose for the ball and physical play.

In the secondary, where the Buffs must also find some new starters, a number of youngsters have shown playmaking ability. Watch for returning corners Nikko Reed, Kaylin Moore and Jason Oliver, as well as incoming freshman Joshua Wiggins.

On the back end, sophomore Trevor Woods has had a very solid spring, picking up where he left off last fall. Also "popping" have been Anthony Lyle, Tyrin Taylor and Jaylen Striker, and walkons Jordan Woolverton (former quarterback) and Ben Finneseth (former wide receiver) have quickly established themselves as two who could contribute next fall.

3. Offense skill positions. The Buffs lost starters at running back and wide receiver in the offseason, but both positions have had productive springs.

While returnee Alex Fontenot (CU's leading rusher in 2019) has been hampered by an injury, it has opened the door for returnees Deion Smith and Jayle Stacks, both of whom bring special skill sets to the table. Smith has big-play capability while Stacks' versatility makes him a threat in several ways.

At wideout, Daniel Arias seems ready to blossom under new WR coach Phil McGeoghan. Arias has had by far his most consistent spring, and his big (6-foot-4, 210 pounds) body makes him a great target, and he' shown the ability to go up and get the ball in traffic. Also having good springs have been returnees Montana Lemonious-Craig and Maurice Bell, and transfer R.J. Sneed.

Another to watch at wide receiver is walkon Jack Hestera, who has shown a knack for getting open and catching everything that comes his way.

4. Offensive line. Another position with a new coach, Kyle DeVan's squad has made good progress, despite being thin when it comes to depth.

Transfer Tommy Brown has quickly become an anchor in the interior, and has just as quickly become a team leader. His influence inside, along with veteran Casey Roddick at the other guard, gives the Buffs some heft at the point of attack. Meanwhile, tackles Frank Fillip and Jake Wiley appear to have upped their game under DeVan's direction. 

One battle to watch is at center, where Austin Johnson and Noah Fenske are engaged in a battle that might not be settled until well into fall camp.

5. Edge rushers. Improving the pass rush was a major point of emphasis this spring, and the edge rushers have responded. Alvin Williams, Terrance Lang, Guy Thomas, Jamar Montgomery and Devin Grant are among those who have had their moments — and the depth at this position is good.

If they can get some constant pressure on the pocket from the outside, it will be a good sign for the defense heading into the fall.