At the conclusion of the 2021 season, Brendon Lewis gave himself some homework.
As a redshirt freshman, Lewis started every game at quarterback for the Colorado Buffaloes, experiencing more growing pains than success.
BOULDER, CO-April 9, 2022: Quarterback, JT Shrout, during the University of Colorado Boulder football scrimmage on April 9, 2022. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff photographer)
“After the season, he went back and watched all of the games just by himself and made notes and critiques about what he could have done better, what he did well, what he needs to improve on,” head coach Karl Dorrell said. “So he went through that process for himself at the end of the season.
“To his credit, he’s invested a lot of time and – I would say sweat equity – this last offseason to develop into being a better quarterback than where he was last fall.”
This summer, BuffZone.com is previewing each position group for CU and in this final installment, we look at the quarterbacks.
As the Buffs open preseason camp on Tuesday, there will be a battle for the starting job between Lewis and junior JT Shrout. Going in, Lewis is the man to beat.
Although Lewis and the offense struggled in 2021, the Buffs can at least lean on the experience they have at quarterback. It is the only position group on the team in which every scholarship player is back and it’s the first time in his tenure at CU that Dorrell has returning experience at quarterback.
“The best part is that (Lewis) played for 12 games for us last year,” Dorrell said. “He can use that as a year of being the starter, gaining so much experience about playing in the Pac-12, particularly some of the non-conference games we had.
“Whether it’s good or bad, you learn from that experience. That’s what Brendon was able to do. I’m excited to watch him when we go into training camp next week.”
In addition to experience, Lewis has earned respect in the CU locker room.
“Brendon is a leader. He’s a mentor for younger guys,” junior guard Casey Roddick said. “He’s also one of the mentors that we look up to. He’s on our leadership council. He is one of our prominent captains, as well.”
Linebacker Robert Barnes doesn’t sit in meetings with Lewis, but sees him on the field every day.
“What I love about B-Lew is every single day, he’s trying to improve something in his game,” Barnes said. “He knows that there was a lot of areas that he could develop and improve and he’s focused every single day on those improvements, spending countless hours, extra work, film, study – whatever he can do – to truly be the best quarterback that he’s capable of being, so I commend him for that.”
Lewis’ main objective has been to improve as a player, but he’s also got to win the starting job again.
A year ago, Lewis and Shrout, a 2021 transfer from Tennessee, competed until Shrout went down with a season-ending knee injury in August.
In addition to missing the season, Shrout was limited during spring practices in April. He’s now ready to compete.
“He’s completely 100% right now,” Dorrell said. “He does everything that everybody does in terms of their summer training, so he’s ready to go.”
Shrout hasn’t played a game since Dec. 19, 2020, when he was at Tennessee and Dorrell said Shrout needs to stay patient as he goes through camp.
“I would say with JT, his challenge is JT,” Dorrell said. “I would say that just because he hasn’t played the game in a year. It’s him getting antsy, understanding the competition of it all, stuff like that. He just needs to come out here and perform and really do the things that are comfortable for him to do, kind of get back into the rhythm of being sore and being beat up, stuff like that, that he’s been missing for the last year and a half. Those are things that he’s going to have to kind of take it day by day.
“I’m excited about the competition. It’s going to help us be a better offense.”
Also exciting for Dorrell is the depth at quarterback.
Colorado quarterback Drew Carter, left, hands the ball to running back Deion Smith during a scrimmage at Folsom Field in Boulder on Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)
CU had just three scholarship quarterbacks in 2020. The Buffs also had three last year, but Shrout’s injury left them with only two healthy scholarship quarterbacks: Lewis and then-true freshman Drew Carter.
Now, there are five, including Carter, Houston transfer Maddox Kopp and true freshman Owen McCown, giving the Buffs options if Lewis and Shrout struggle or get injured.
“The development of the quarterback position I think was very critical, too, for us to have more competition and more suitors for that position,” Dorrell said. “It’s good to have more numbers there and more competition in that room, which is going to push the envelope for that position to play better, as well.”
Returners (2021 statistics)
Drew Carter, So., 6-foot-3, 195 pounds (5-for-12, 35 yards; 3 rush att., minus-1 yard)
Brendon Lewis, So., 6-2, 215 (12 starts; 149-for-257, 1,540 yards, 10 TD, 3 INT; 98 att., 188 yards, 2 TD)
JT Shrout, Jr., 6-3, 220 (injured in 2021)
James Mott III, So., 6-0, 200 (walk-on)
Maddox Kopp, R-Fr., 6-5, 220 (transfer from Houston)
Owen McCown, Fr., 6-2, 175
Colton Allen, Fr., 6-3, 195 (walk-on)
George “Pres” Juarez, Fr., 6-3, 200 (walk-on)