Colorado fans don't have to look far for reasons not to overreact to Shane Dillon's inconsistent spring.
Junior Connor Wood is a good example of where Dillon could be in a year, if not sooner.
Dillon rode a wave of expectations into spring football last month as the new guy in a quarterback competition with older players who didn't have much success last year. In fact, while his teammates struggled throughout the 2012 season, Dillon was often seen as the bright light at the end of the tunnel by fans. They looked forward to the day his redshirt season would end and he'd be able to compete for the starting job.
Dillon had some good days and some not so good during his 15 spring practices as he tried to live up to the expectations.
"I felt I did a good job," Dillon said. "I've tried to stay out of the media. Always, my whole entire life, I've tried to stay out of the media, stay off the boards and all that stuff just because my whole life people have told me that I was too skinny, too tall, too lanky, not athletic enough. So I've tried to really stay away from it, but you hear about stuff. I feel like I've handled it good. I've just gone out there and done what I can, played my game and really just handled it well I feel like."
That competition is far from over. Coach Mike MacIntyre says he might refrain from naming a starting quarterback until deep into fall camp in August. That should give Dillon time to make up the ground between him and Wood, who is unquestionably alone atop the depth chart now that Nick Hirschman has announced he will transfer this summer.
Wood's resurgence became one of the biggest developments of spring practice this year. Late last fall, he looked confused and unsure of himself when he got into games, often when the Buffs were losing by big margins in the second half. Wood's 2012 performance was so underwhelming at times, some called him a bust.
Wood once was one of the highest rated pro-style prep quarterbacks in the nation. He signed with Texas in 2010 and ended up transferring to CU in 2011. His debut last spring was every bit as anticipated as Dillon's was this year and it went just about as well.
Wood had most of the spring repetitions to himself a year ago because of a lack of depth and injuries at the position, but he didn't make enough plays in spring 2011 and that led former coach Jon Embree and his assistants to go looking for an insurance policy. They found that in Jordan Webb, who transferred from Kansas after graduating and earned the starting job last fall. Webb suffered a torn ACL in practice this spring.
There is no reason to believe Dillon won't develop more confidence and begin to make more plays just as Wood has as he continues to develop. Dillon, 6-foot-5 and now 200 pounds, definitely didn't walk away from spring ball hanging his head about being third on the depth chart behind Wood and Hirschman.
"I feel like it went great," he said. "I can't say enough about this staff and how they have brought so much more confidence to our team, just playing freer and not having to worry about so much stuff at a time. It's really nice just to be able to get out there and we're just going. We're not thinking first, we're just playing."
If there is a major difference between the challenge Wood faced at this point last year and where Dillon finds himself, it is that Dillon also has some residual health and mechanics issues to address.
Dillon underwent surgery on his throwing shoulder a year ago when he was still in high school. He had screws inserted and had to keep his arm in sling for two months after doctors repaired labrum damage. Dillon said he couldn't move the shoulder normally for five months after surgery, which led to him redshirting last fall.
At times this spring, Dillon was throwing sidearm or with a 3/4 arm angle. He said he has talked with MacIntyre and offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren about getting back to throwing more over the top.
"It just dropped down because it was easier to get the ball out and to try to get back quicker," Dillon said. "Now coming up in the summer I'll have time to work that thing back up and get some of the scar tissue broken down. That will be nice to get back to my normal arm motion and be more accurate with the ball."
Dillon believes he still has something to say about who starts at quarterback this fall for the Buffs. He's undeterred and "fully committed" to being a Buff. When he was asked this week if he has had any doubts about Colorado being right for him, he said he plans to spend his entire college career in Boulder.
"I love this place," he said.
So what has to happen for Dillon to put the pressure on Wood in August and maybe even steal the starting job from him and anyone else involved?
"Know your playbook," Dillon said. "I've got to get in my playbook so I know it and I go out there and I'm not thinking at all. I see the safeties rotate and I'm playing. Second, I think over the summer I have to gain 10 or 15 more pounds at least. And then I need to go into fall camp and be a leader and play with some energy and some confidence and just get back to how I used to play in high school."
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