Offense Makes Strides In Buffs' Second Camp Scrimmage
BOULDER — What could have been a solid scrimmage for both sides of the ball Saturday ended up with some problems down the stretch for the Colorado Buffaloes' defense.
The good news is that the issues — penalties — aren't the kind that can't be fixed.
But the timeline now becomes critical, as the Sept. 2 season opener against TCU at Folsom Field (8 p.m., ESPN) is now less than two weeks away.
"Offensively, we were able to engineer some plays and get some points on the board, which is what we need to do," CU head coach Karl Dorrell said. "Defensively, they shot themselves in the foot … they played really well until the penalties started to show up. That's what we can't do. We have some work to do in understanding that penalties is how you can lose games."
The defense did come up with some big moments in the scrimmage, which covered roughly 70 offensive plays, plus a handful of special teams snaps. Buffs defenders produced a couple of quarterback sacks, some key third down stops and some nice pass breakups.
But they also committed some costly penalties that kept drives alive, ranging from offsides calls to pass interference — and the offense was able to capitalize on those mistakes and push the ball into the end zone when given second life.
"We have some work to do," Dorrell said. "It's fixable … there's no five-alarm deal in terms of panic, but we have some things we need to fix, for sure."
But overall, Dorrell likes the progress he's seeing from his team, especially from his offense. Still in the "new" stages of coordinator Mike Sanford's scheme, the Buffs are quickly getting a grasp of the opportunities the offense affords and the multiple ways it can attack a defense.
"Our offense is in better shape than any offense we've had over the last two years, and it hasn't even been here a year yet," Dorrell said. "That tells you it's great work and commitment by not only our offensive staff, but the players spending the time to really get it down. They're very confident they can do what you saw today."
Some takeaways from Saturday's workout at Folsom Field:
— Improved short yardage and goal line offense. The Buffs pounded it into the end zone a couple of times on short-yardage calls — something that was sorely lacking a year ago. Big back Jayle Stacks no doubt gives the Buffs a new dimension in that area, and he delivered Saturday with a couple of scoring runs. But Kyle DeVan's offensive line also gets some credit with improvement here, along with the play calling. Nothing fancy, but it has the appearance of being much more solid in terms of establishing a physical run game, then producing.
— Explosive plays. This appears to be another area of improvement for the offense. Colorado was sorely lacking last fall in those game-changing moments from the offense. Saturday's workout saw the offense produce at least four catches in the 20-yard-plus area, with four different receivers delivering big plays.
— Receiver depth. Is it possible to lose a couple of your top receivers and be an improved overall group? The Buffs are threatening to make a case for being able to do just that. Five different receivers had at least two catches in the workout, including true freshman Jordyn Tyson. Others with two or more included Jack Hestera, Maurice Bell, Ty Robinson and Daniel Arias, while Montana Lemonious-Craig dialed up the longest reception of the day. Every one of these players could be a difference maker in a game or two this season — and CU's depth could be a plus.
— Quarterback execution. J.T. Shrout looks more and more comfortable in the Buffs' offense, as he had another efficient, productive day, leading a couple of nice scoring drives. Meanwhile, true freshman Owen McCown looks like anything but a newcomer. He is displaying a veteran's presence, a keen eye for reading defenses and an overall instinct for the game that can't be taught. Aside from being a lefty, he reminds some observers of another slender young Texas high school prep product from years ago who also came to Boulder with strong QB bloodlines, Koy Detmer. (Who, by the way, arrived at CU in 1992, the same year Colorado hired a young wide receivers coach by the name of Dorrell).
— Pass rush improving. It wasn't all bad news for the defense Saturday. The Buffs continue to show an improved ability to put pressure on the quarterback, another big priority of camp. The defense produced four sacks in the scrimmage from four different players. It's a sign Chris Wilson's defense is going to throw a variety of looks at offenses and make sure the pressure is coming from different directions, something no quarterback likes to see.
— Steady D-line play. Another priority for camp has been building defensive line depth, which would allow Colorado to rotate fresh legs into the game with regularity. The Buffs appear to be establishing that depth. Na'im Rodman continues to be a consistent force in the interior, Jalen Sami can still clog the middle, Justin Jackson is active and the edge rushers are productive.
— Linebackers again solid. Colorado's linebackers could be a surprise around the conference this year. Josh Chandler-Semedo, Robert Barnes and Quinn Perry all made nice plays Saturday and continue to be an anchor for CU's defense. Also sticking his nose into business was Mister Williams. CU has talent and depth at this spot.
— O-line depth. With Jake Wiley back at tackle this week — but on the right side — the Buffs continue to build much-needed depth up front. They have several players who can play multiple positions, including Austin Johnson, who can play center and guard.
BUFFS BITS: Josh Chandler-Semedo, Quinn Perry and Mister Williams all came up with some stops in goal-to-go situations … Shrout's "hard count" cadence caused the defense some of its problems … Dorrell said he hopes to have O-lineman Tommy Brown and wide receiver R.J. Sneed II back in practice Monday … Deion Smith looked sharp in brief work at halfback, notching the longest run of the day ... The Buffs awarded senior safety Anthony Lyle a scholarship earlier this week.