In the 2021 off-season, my sense was that the Buffs QB room had two viable but perhaps competing identities in QB style. Half of the 4 scholarships in the room leaned toward RPO types (Noyer, Lewis), the other half leaned toward drop-back (Shrout, Carter) although mobile. Walk-ons included Mike Chandler (RPO) who quickly transferred, and Woolverton (hybrid) who joined in the spring.
Transfers: Chandler transfers, Noyer transfers after spring practice, JT Shrout has season ending knee injury late in training camp, leaving Buffs with only two freshman scholarship QBs, one RPO (Brenden) and one pro-style (Carter)
Poor Depth in the Tackle room: To compound matters, the tackle room lacked depth. Frank Filip was out all off-season with injury until game 4. Freshman tackle Gerad C-L was running with first and second team at LT… Freshman Jake Wiley was at RT, Valentine Senn T transferred following spring. Transfer Max Wray (LT) joined in the fall and had season ending injury by game 4.
Schematic Dilemma: Coaches knew their predicament at QB/T. QB run schemes may have been able to mitigate weaknesses at QB/T. Poor depth of the QB room likely made staff risk-averse on run heavy play designs featuring Lewis.
Alternate Reality: Had the QBs with higher running skills (Noyer, Lewis, Chandler) stuck around in 21, a run-heavy RPO scheme could very well have been a dominant strategy.
In reality, staff were risk averse to run-heavy QB run schemes - inexperienced QB and T rooms are not a winning hand. By the second half of the second game (TAM) opposing defenses figured to loaded the box to stop the run, and challenge Buffs to throw. Poor pass protection meant defenses did not need to blitz and could still pressure on Lewis, resulting in historically poor offense (129/130 in FBS yrds per game)
QB Performance/Results: Brenden Lewis metrics in Time to Throw (3.19) and Average Depth of Target were (6.8) not ideal. Although he did show improvement in these areas as the season progressed. His Adjusted Accuracy (73.7), and Interception rate (1.8%) are good and exceptional in a clean pocket (NFL clean: 101 Under Pressure (47.9). Lewis offense also broke team record in red-zone scoring percentage, Buffs offense was the lowest P-5 team in turnovers (7), which is also the new school record
Re-evaluation QB: I now tend to look at Brenden Lewis through lens as a drop back and RPO style. Brenden needs to accelerate his progress, e.g. play faster, throw people open, pocket presence, perform better under pressure, throw deeper down field, and improve on intangibles, like defensive check-offs to move up the charts…I certainly believe he has the potential.
Tackle performance: After the Buffs moved to Vlechos as interim OL coach, the results were impressive, then regressive. Buffs allowed zero sacks against Oregon (PBLK 73) the 20th ranked team in Pass Rush, Oregon State (PBLK: 74), and regressed against UCLA (PBLK: 40), UW (PBLK: 52) and UT (PBLK: 22.3)
[Accuracy %: 73.7(55/170)] [ADOT: 6.8 (164/170)] [TTT: 3.18 (160/170)] [Grade Run | (69.7 (56/170)] [Grade Pass: 64.8 (114/170)] [QB Rating: 83.2 (118/170)] [Sack %: 9.8 (157/170)] [TWP:6 (Tie 6/170)] [YPA: 6 tied 148/170)]
Young QB and Tackle rooms had to go through it to grow through it in 2021. Looking ahead…
- Owen McOwen (son of former pro Cade) will join as incoming freshman, 6-2, 175 drop-back, drop-back passer with mobility.
- New OC should probably align the skills of QB room to match the scheme and the identity of the offense
- Brenden Lewis needs to accelerate his development, but has the skill set to perform in pro-style offense in my view
- Transfer priorities should include one QB and two Tackles
- OL hire will also be key