Takeaways From Buffs' First Fall Camp Scrimmage
BOULDER — Karl Dorrell's Colorado Buffaloes put training camp practice No. 10 into the books Saturday with a scrimmage that covered roughly 90 plays and included some solid performances on both sides of the ball.
— Colorado's depth is clearly better at a number of positions. The Buffs' two-deep this season should be a significant improvement over the last few years. CU can rotate fresh legs in at a number of positions, and the level of play shouldn't drop. That will be critical in several spots, especially the defensive line — and it looks as if Colorado has definitely improved its depth there.
— If you're looking for an answer to the quarterback question, odds are you'll be waiting at least another week or so.
Incumbent starter Brendon Lewis was the first to take the field in Saturday's workout and he looked comfortable in coordinator Mike Sanford's new offense. He utilized the short passing game, had a high completion percentage, took the offense across the goal line in red zone drills and was efficient overall.
J.T. Shrout, meanwhile, had a long scoring pass to tight end Brady Russell to cap a seven-play scoring march. He showed the ability to keep plays alive in the pocket, made plays with his feet and — perhaps most importantly — escaped the first scrimmage of camp unscathed. It was just a year ago that he saw his season come to a premature end with a knee injury in the opening scrimmage.
"Both of those guys are battling, doing some really good things," Dorrell said. "It's really been nip and tuck, which is what I thought it would be. They're both really good players, both different, but they both have great leadership and the team likes both of them … It's a good problem to have."
— Colorado could have a productive backfield without one workhorse. Alex Fontenot and Deion Smith both had solid days, and both are still the clear favorites to be the one-two punch on opening night against TCU.
But Jayle Stacks once again showed that he can bring a different dimension to the backfield, walkon Charlie Offerdahl followed up a solid spring with another impressive performance, and true freshman Victor Venn showed receiving ability out of the backfield, hauling in a scoring pass from Drew Carter.
"That group is starting to create the mystique of toughness that I like to see," Dorrell said. "They're running hard."
— Defense has some playmakers. Linebacker Robert Barnes appears to have picked up where he left off last season, when he closed with four solid games down the stretch. Barnes led the No. 1 and No. 2 units in tackles Saturday, showing the ability to move from sideline to sideline in a hurry while also displaying the physicality necessary to play the run up the middle.
Other players on the No. 1 and 2 units who were in the midst of the action regularly included safeties Isaiah Lewis, Jaylen Striker and Anthony Lyle; linebackers Eoghan Kerry, Mister Williams and Josh Chandler-Semedo; and defensive linemen Na'im Rodman, Janaz Jordan and Tyas Martin. The defense did manage to get pressure on the quarterback, and while they did give up two long passes, they didn't yield any long gainers on the ground.
But perhaps the most important part of the scrimmage is what it revealed to Dorrell and his staff in terms of what's next — and atop his list will be getting his team in "game shape" over the next two weeks.
"This team needs this kind of work because getting out there and playing 8-10 plays in a row is different than playing two or three in a row in a normal practice," Dorrell said. "When they were out there four or five plays in a row, you can tell they weren't used to that … Just getting back into game shape is going to be their biggest challenge and we'll do that this week with more situational work … We won't scrimmage full speed, but we'll start getting consecutive series of work, where they're on the field doing assignments and executing."
SCRIMMAGE SHORTS: The Buffs are developing depth on the offensive line in part by making sure some players can line up at multiple positions. Tackle Frank Fillip, a right tackle last year, has been working on the left side while guard Casey Roddick has also been lining up on the left side. The Buffs are still waiting for the return of transfer Tommy Brown, who could add even more to the equation when he's healthy … WR Maurice Bell, coming back from an Achilles injury, has been having a solid camp and was among the leading receivers Saturday … True freshman Owen McCown continues to show a quick grasp of the offense … Overall, six different receivers caught at least two passes, including true freshman Chase Sowell … Overall, the Buffs offense hit the end zone six times, including red zone and short-yardage goal line drills.