The first hour of Colorado's “spring game” consisted of drills, and then during the situational scrimmage, the players were not split into two teams like the Buffs have done in the past.
There were some highlights, though. In fact, on the first play of the scrimmage, safety Nick Fisher picked off a Steven Montez pass and returned it 39 yards to the 12-yard line. Montez, the front-runner to replace Sefo Liufau as Colorado's starting quarterback, later bounced back with a short touchdown run and a 22-yard scoring strike to Shay Fields.
“Steven did well,” Buffs head coach Mike MacIntyre said. “The first play he got a little greedy and Nick made a great play. That is what you want to see. As a head coach, you don't want to see one side completely dominate the other.”
MacIntyre was most encouraged by the energy his team showed on Saturday in front of an estimated crowd of 6,250.
“You want to see your players compete and learn from different situations and we did that,” he said. “We got out of here without any injuries, which was good. And the crowd was great. I think everybody has caught the fever of what we're doing and what we're trying to do. We're really excited about our future.”
Lynott Shows Off His Receiver Skills
Just prior to the scrimmage, MacIntyre called out offensive lineman Tim Lynott Jr. to go one-on-one against nose tackle Lyle Tuiloma in a goal-line passing situation. Lynott shook Tuiloma and hauled in a pass from Montez in the end zone.
Lynott's grab drew mass celebration from the offense, and then nose tackle Javier Edwards got the defense fired up when he recorded a pass break-up while trying to cover offensive guard Brett Tonz in the end zone.
“I had never done that before,” said Lynott. “It was awesome to get that catch. I was really pumped up, adrenaline rush.”
Lynott will likely transition to center during his college career at some point, as it is the position he will be most marketable at for the NFL. And while the sophomore-to-be did spend time practicing at center this spring, it looks like he will man the right guard role again in 2017. Senior Jonathan Huckins is the leader in the clubhouse to start at center following spring ball.
After earning Freshman All-America honors in 2016, Lynott said he improved on his hand punch this spring. He is not resting on his laurels.
“I can work on everything,” Lynott said. “I need to keep working on perfecting the craft, like [offensive line] coach [Klayton] Adams says.”
Noyer Gains Confidence
Redshirt freshman quarterback Sam Noyer threw a two interceptions during 7-on-7s Saturday, but he threw the ball with precision during goal-line 1-on-1s. And during the scrimmage, he was a perfect 6-for-6 passing. Noyer threw a four-yard touchdown pass to Kabion Ento on the second series of the scrum.
“I am learning the whole offense and feeling more comfortable back in the pocket,” said the Oregon native, who helped signal in plays to the offense last fall. “Obviously the first spring practice things were coming at me fast. As the spring progressed, things slowed down and just really, really started to make sense. The offense starting clicking in my head.”
Tyler Lytle, who could have been preparing for prom rather than the spring game this weekend, also had an impressive showing on Saturday. During his first spring game with the Buffs, Lytle completed six of his nine pass attempts for 70 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown pass to Johnny Huntley.
“All of us are close,” Noyer said when asked the arm talent and competition in the quarterback room. “We're a tight knit group. We all have talent and we're just out there trying to get better every day and pushing each other. In case one of us goes down, whatever happens, we have the mindset that we have to be ready for that first game.”
Blackmon Could Make an Impact in 2017
Like seemingly every freshman, defensive back Ronnie Blackmon was convinced he would play during his first season on campus. But the Buffaloes' secondary was stacked with talent in 2016 so he had to wait his turn.
“I finally accepted [redshirting] and it did give me a chance to watch Chido[be Awuzie] and Ahkello [Witherspoon] and just see how they play,” said Blackmon, an Atlanta native that loves Boulder but does miss food from his home-state of Georgia. “It is coming in handy now that I can think back to how they played and I can critic my own game.”
Blackmon worked with the ones at nickel back “pretty much all spring” and he worked with the second-string defense at cornerback. He believes his quickness in the nickel back role is his best attribute, as it allows him to get around blockers near the line of scrimmage.
“I am starting to know my assignment better,” Blackmon said. “Toward the beginning of the spring, I didn't always know my assignment. I am still getting used to nickel.”
Blackmon is also a top candidate to serve as a punt and kicker returner for the Buffs in 2017. He accounted for 751 punt return yards and 456 kick return yards as an upperclassman at Westlake High School.
Annual Spring Awards
Eddie Crowder Award for Outstanding Leadership: Rick Gamboa and Phillip Lindsay (Co-winners)
Fred Casotti Award for Most Improve Offensive Back: Kabion Ento
Joe Romig Award for Most Improved Offensive Lineman: Josh Kaiser
Hale Irwin Award for Most Improved Defensive Back: Trey Udoffia
Greg Biekert Award for Most Improved Linebacker: Drew Lewis
Dan Stavely Award for Most Improved Defensive Lineman: Lyle Tuiloma and Frank Umu (Co-winners)
Bill McCartney Award for Most Improved Special Teams Player: Chris Graham and Lee Walker (Co-winners)
Dick Anderson Award for Outstanding Toughness: Jeromy Irwin
Jim Hansen Award for Outstanding Academics: George Frazier
*** During a two-stage process on Thursday night, George Frazier, Jeromy Irwin, Phillip Lindsay, Derek McCartney, Afolabi Laguda and Rick Gamboa were selected by their teammates as the Buffaloes' 2017 captains. The voting is limited to those players who have been in the program at least 18 months, or one-year if they were a Junior College transfer. Frazier, Irwin and McCartney become the 11th, 12th and 13th players in school history to be named a captain twice.
*** Phillip Lindsay is healthy, but after leading the Pac-12 in rushing touchdowns and accounting for 1,579 yards of offense as a junior, the Buffs' coaches did not want him to take any live hits on Saturday. So Lindsay, never one to shy away from contact, begrudgingly watched the scrimmage from the offensive sideline. In his absence, senior running back Michael Adkins had a scrimmage-high 53 yards on 10 carries.
“It was the first time he has gone that many practices in a row and not gotten injured and kept pushing,” MacIntyre said of Adkins. “That is the key. If Michael stays healthy, Michael is really good. So we just have to make sure he stays healthy.”
*** Donovan Lee is set to undergo surgery to repair his fractured fibula. The senior athlete suffered the injury late during spring ball, shortly after moving from cornerback back to running back.
*** The Buffaloes are scheduled to report to preseason camp on August 4 with the first practice set to take place the following morning. Their season opener against Colorado State in Denver is 166 days from today.