CU Buffs offense aiming to take “next step” – The Denver Post

CU Buffs offense aiming to take “next step” – The Denver Post

August 13, 2021

Throughout their decade in the Pac-12 Conference, the Colorado Buffaloes have never had a prolific offense.

At times, the Buffs have looked explosive, but always wind up among the bottom half of the league in scoring. In fact, the last time CU ranked among the top half of a conference in scoring was a full decade before joining the Pac-12, averaging 33.0 points en route to the 2001 Big 12 title.

Offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini is looking to change that.

“We’ve just got to take that next step,” Chiaverini said Thursday. “In my mind, in order for us to take the next step, we’ve got to go from scoring 28 or 29 to 35 (per game). … If we can be in that 35 range for points per game, then we’ll be a very productive offense, and we’ll help our defense be in positions to close out games. I feel strongly that we can take that next step this year.”

Reaching 35 points per game would be a significant jump for a team that posted 28.5 per game last year – matching the second-best scoring average by a CU team since 2001. CU has hit 30 per game just once in the last 19 seasons (31.1 in 2016) and hasn’t hit 35 per game since 1996 – when Chiaverini was a sophomore receiver.

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Part of Chiaverini’s optimism comes from watching the daily competition at quarterback. While the Buffs haven’t identified a starter, freshman Brendon Lewis and sophomore JT Shrout continue to battle every day.

“We’ve got some really good ones,” he said. “I think you guys will see when we do some live scrimmages. The way that B-Lew is playing, the way that JT is playing, it’s been impressive. They’re competing, they’re making throws, they’re getting the ball out of their hands, they’re limiting the turnovers. So I’m pleased with that as a play caller.

“It’s a competition for a reason because we’re still trying to sort it out. But I do think that they are taking ownership of their reps and how they’re playing out there.”

Although Lewis and Shrout have different skill sets – Lewis is more of a dual-threat and Shrout more of a pocket passer – Chiaverini said the offense can be productive with either one.

“They are two very competitive players and they’re both gifted,” he said. “JT can really, really throw the football; he’s got great touch. B-Lew’s throw …  he is leaps and bounds (from) where he was in the spring. He’s taken the next step in my opinion, and he’s got running ability and he’s a smart player.

“I truly believe that this competition has been good for the football team, has been good for them as players and whoever gets the nod, it’s still not over. You’ve got a 12-game season and there’s gonna be some ebbs and flows and they’re gonna play. I think it’s a really good situation to be in.”

The Buffs believe there is enough talent at other positions to help the quarterbacks in the quest to reach 35 points per game.

This might be the best collection of CU running backs since the 2001-02 seasons when Chris Brown and Bobby Purify were steamrolling the opposition. Last year, the Buffs ranked third in the Pac-12 in rushing yards per game (212.33), and that was with Jarek Broussard doing almost all of that work. Alex Fontenot, Ashaad Clayton, Deion Smith, Joe Davis and Jayle Stacks make the group even better.

“I love the way we ran the football (in 2020),” Chiaverini said. “We haven’t run the football like that since the early 2000s. If you can go over 200 a game in this conference consistently, you’re gonna win football games.”

The improvement of the passing game is critical for CU this year. That starts, of course, with the quarterback, but Chiaverini said it’s also important for the receivers, tight ends and offensive line to be on their game, too.

“They’ve all got to be together,” he said. “We have shown that so far in camp. I like where we’re at, but we’ll continue to apply the pressure on our receivers, apply the pressure to our offensive players, to have them take pride and ownership of what we’re doing. I like where we’re at right now.”

A week into preseason camp, Chiaverini said offseason work with new strength and conditioning coach Shannon Turley and in player-run practices has paid off.

“It’s showing up,” he said. “I’ve seen it as a coordinator and been pleased with their effort and their execution so far.”

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