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What to watch for as Colorado spring practice begins

The Buffaloes begin spring practice Wednesday as they start the long road to the 2022 season.

NCAA Football: Washington at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

After an unforgiving offseason Colorado football is finally ready to hit the ground running and start the path to the 2022 season with spring practices beginning Wednesday. The last few months have seen the roster undergo some massive changes that will create a significantly redesigned team compared to last season.

The Buffaloes struggled with offensive production during the 2021 season as they went 4-8 overall and 3-6 in Pac-12 play. The inefficiency on that side of the ball led to OC Darrin Chiaverini being pushed out, he’s now an offensive analyst at UCLA, and necessitated the arrival of Mike Sanford, the former offensive coordinator at Minnesota.

Head Coach Karl Dorrell has been forced to grapple with the loss of multiple star players from all over the field. Some key transfers include running back Jarek Broussard, who followed Mel Tucker to Michigan State, cornerback Mekhi Blackmon to USC, cornerback Christian Gonzalez to Oregon, and wide receiver Brenden Rice to USC.

Sophomore quarterback Brendan Lewis and redshirt sophomore quarterback JT Shrout will battle for the starting position throughout the spring. Shrout joined the Buffaloes in the spring 2021 semester from Tennessee but was injured during the first fall scrimmage.

In preparation of the beginning of spring ball, we asked our writers here at Ralphie Report to give us their insight on what they’ll be keeping an eye out for throughout spring practices and heading into next season.

Anthony

After arguably one of the worst offensive seasons in school history, I’m interested to get a first look at this offense under Mike Sanford, one of five new offensive assistants for Karl Dorrell this fall. I’m also intrigued to see who steps up in the secondary with Mekhi Blackmon, Christian Gonzalez and Mark Perry all gone via the transfer portal, and I’m keeping an eye on some of the Buffaloes new additions like wide receiver RJ Sneed (Baylor) and tackle Tommy Brown (Alabama).”

Sam

Like Anthony said, I’m mostly looking at Sanford’s offense and how he uses Brendon Lewis (or JT Shrout!) to his strengths. The Buffs have to replace a ton of skill players, especially at WR, where Montana Lemonious-Craig, Chase Penry, Daniel Arias and transfer RJ Sneed compete for snaps. On the other side of the ball, we need an unknown to breakout, at whatever position. Trevor Woods is a popular breakout pick. Maybe an edge rusher emerges, Jamar Montgomery or Guy Thomas, or a cornerback like Nikko Reed.

Jack

I am definitely focused on the defensive side of the ball, where there is a TON of production to be replaced. Carson Wells and Nate Landman are gone. How is that insane amount of production going to be replaced? Who is ready to step up at MLB? Can CU finally develop a consistent edge rush with new coach Gerald Chatman? The linebacking corps is going to have the biggest change from one year to the next, I’m excited to see how it pans out. The other area on defense that I’m focused on is the cornerbacks. New DB coach, two starters transferred, and plenty of young talent in the wings. We’ve seen a lot of Nikko Reed and Tyrin Taylor already, can they be consistent Pac-12 CBs in their sophomore? Can Kaylin Moore continue to grow? Will a freshman earn immediate playing time? Shoring up LB and CB will go a long way for this team.

Jon

We’ve already talked about offense plenty but it’s hard not to focus on that side of the ball after what happened last season. More than just improvement, I’m looking for a discernible plan with players that look clearly capable of executing that plan. I don’t expect perfection, faaaar from it, but I do hope to see that this staff, and new offensive coordinator Mike Sanford, have a strategy to score points in a rapidly improving Pac-12.