New offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Mark Helfrich has preferred to wait until spring ball to evaluate his contingent of quarterbacks rather than spend the past several weeks pouring through tape of game appearances and practice sessions.
"That's always been my philosophy…I think it's just best. For them, it's a clean slate," Helfrich said. Then he added, "If a guy's a competitor, he's going to show up and make himself known regardless of what our preconceived notions were."
Those guys competing for the job include senior James Cox, juniors Bernard Jackson and Brian White, and redshirt-freshmen Mack Brown and Patrick Devenny. Cox is, by far, the most experienced with two career starts and more than a dozen appearances under his belt. But the quarterback from southern California was pulled in both of his starts — after halftime of the 2004 Iowa State game, and late in the Buffs' Champs Sports Bowl in December.
White took over for Cox in the bowl game and played extremely well. The tall drop-back style passer probably has the best arm of the fivesome, but is untested as a leader. Jackson gives the position another aspect — he can make plays with his feet. But the fourth-year junior was moved around the past two seasons — he played quarterback, wide receiver and running back — perhaps hampering his development as a signal-caller. Asked in January if ideally he wanted a drop-back passer or a dual-threat quarterback, Helfrich said he's open to either style of quarterback play. He's looking for the player that can best lead the team down the field and score points.
Brown and Devenny are long shots because of their experience level, but Helfrich maintains the starting job is open.
In some ways, the Colorado offense will likely look similar to the one the Buffs fielded the past three seasons. Helfrich, who was quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator at Arizona State the past several years, said the CU offense's strength will be its flexibility. Rather than playing in a strict scheme and forcing the personnel to conform to it, they'll fit the scheme to the strengths of the players.
"We just have to find out what those (strengths) are," Helfrich said.
That's a similar approach to what the Buffs took the past few years. However, one distinct difference between the previous CU offense and the new one promises to be the vertical game. Both Helfrich and head coach Dan Hawkins say they will throw the ball down the field, rather than rely solely on underneath receiver routes, like the previous staff did.
In terms of the three upperclassmen quarterbacks, White probably throws the best long ball.
Helfrich also said he isn't averse to developing a playmaker at quarterback. Asked about the trend of using quarterbacks that are good at managing an offense vs. ones that can make plays in or out of that system, Helfrich said it depends on the situation.
"Sometimes you have a guy and he has to be a playmaker," Helfrich said. "I think that depends on the people around him. If you're able to have a manager, then that means you're probably pretty talented (at the skill positions) and you don't have to rely on a (quarterback) to make a lot of plays.
"We've been in both those situations where we've had a guy that was the best player and he had to make a lot of plays. And we've had guys that were system guys, field general guys, whatever you want to call them, and their job was to play point guard and get it to (the skill players) and let the game develop."
Mack Brown, R-Fr., 6-3, 205*
@Career stats:Has not played
James Cox, Sr., 6-3, 210
Career stats:14 games (two starts), 42-79/423 yards, 3 INT, 2 TD
Patrick Devenny, R-Fr., 6-3, 220
Career stats:Has not played
Bernard Jackson, Jr., 6-0, 190
Career stats:KOR — 16-294 yards, 18.3 avg; RUSHING — 8-16 yards
Brian White, Jr., 6-5, 225
@Career stats:1 game, 1-1/10 yards
Players lost: Joel Klatt
*Vitals for all players are per CU SID as of Feb. 1.
@ Career stats do not include bowl game appearances.