A quarterback battle that started with six in the mix five weeks ago has been trimmed to two.
Connor Wood and Nick Hirschman are the last men standing following the spring game at Colorado on Saturday, and coach Mike MacIntyre and his staff might even feel confident enough to move one of them to the top of the heap next week after the final practice of spring Tuesday.
If not, those two will continue to compete for the starting job when fall camp begins Aug. 6 and it will be up to redshirt freshman Shane Dillon and true freshman Sefo Liufau to prove they belong in the conversation. Coaches might also add a wild card over the summer if they decide to bring in junior college quarterback Nelson Fishback.
At least for the time being there is a little more clarity about who will and won't have a chance to lead the program out of its morass of the past seven years.
"I thought Nick and Connor did some good things," MacIntyre said after his first spring game in Boulder. "I thought Shane did a couple good things there and he messed up on a handoff and that hurt him. So we'll go back and watch the tape, but on the naked eye I thought Connor and Nick made some plays and moved around and looked pretty comfortable to me."
Both Wood and Hirschman produced solid overall passing numbers this spring making it hard to say either has an edge in the coaches' minds. However, coaches awarded Wood with the Eddie Crowder Award before the spring game. The award goes to the player who shows outstanding leadership.
Hirschman and Wood both understandably feel good about how they have played this spring game after each struggled to move the team and be effective in the playing time they earned in the 2012 season in a different offense.
"It's good. I think that it gives us a clear picture going into the summer," Wood said. "So Nick and I will be leading the charge with the guys in 7-on-7 and the weight room and all that stuff. It's good to get the guys on the team to know the leaders as the quarterbacks."
Wood completed 36 of 56 passes in four main spring scrimmages for 601 yards and five touchdowns. He also ran for a 33-yard touchdown in the third scrimmage and didn't throw and interception all spring.
Hirschman completed 32 of 50 passes for 460 yards and seven touchdowns with one interception. He also led the Black team to a pair of late scores and a victory in the spring game over Wood and the Gold team.
"I'm really pleased with the development of Connor Wood," offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Brian Lindgren said. "I thought the last three weeks of spring he did a lot of the things we were asking. He made good decisions. He saw the field. He was able to throw the ball with some accuracy.
"I don't think he's anywhere near where he needs to be for the first game yet. I still really like Nick Hirschman's competitiveness and the way he handles himself and carries himself on the field. Guys respond to it."
It will be fun to see where this goes in August.
Lindgren said coaches are concerned about the center position heading into the summer because of repeated problems throughout the spring making accurate snaps to quarterbacks in the shotgun.
Lindgren said coaches were disappointed when Daniel Munyer suffered a broken leg midway through spring because they would have liked to see him compete more at center with returning starter Gus Handler and backup Brad Cotner.
Those three will likely battle for the job in August, but Munyer can count on playing at either guard or center. Lindgren said coaches are also concerned about making sure they have a center with enough strength to battle some of the big defensive tackles in the Pac-12.
"We've had some troubles with the snaps throughout camp," Lindgren said. "We had one or two today and it's gotten better, but we can't have any issues with it as much as we're in the gun."
MacIntyre offered this brief assessment of spring when asked for his biggest concerns on both sides of the ball.
He said his biggest concern offensively is making sure the Buffs can sustain drives and don't shoot themselves in the foot with penalties and missed assignments. Sound familiar?
MacIntyre said his biggest concern defensively is players leveraging the ball better, knowing where help is and tackling correctly by turning it in to other defenders.
MacIntyre said the biggest areas of improvement he saw this spring were accuracy from quarterbacks, attention to detail and finishing blocks by the offensive line, better effort to the football from defense and improved gap responsibility.
MacIntyre was asked how he is doing when it comes to repairing the team's psyche after a 1-11 season and a coaching change.
"I think we're on the way," he said. "We're not where we want to be, but I think we're definitely on the way."
In need of work
Aside from the punting of Darragh O'Neill, special teams units struggled for the most part in the spring game. Even O'Neill had a punt blocked, a mistake that MacIntyre said was a miscommunication in blocking assignments.
"That was good to see," MacIntyre said, taking his usual positive approach to correcting the problem. "Now we know that kid didn't understand what we were teaching him as coaches."
Josh Moten was listed first on the depth chart at boundary safety earlier in camp but wasn't even listed at the position on the depth chart released Saturday. Moten is not the second-team cornerback behind Kenneth Crawley and the second-team nickle back.
Josh Ford entered his final spring game at CU with quite a history at this time of year. In the 10 spring scrimmages he had participated in prior to Saturday, he had carried the ball 68 times for 677 yards and five touchdowns, a 9.9 yard average per carry.
In two previous spring games, he had 25 carries for 305 yards and three touchdowns. Ford carried the ball eight times for 13 yards Saturday, but he also caught two passes for 42 yards.
"I told them the pencil depth chart will go to a little bit more erasable pen now." -- Mike MacIntyre
Coaches were hoping walk-on linebacker Tommy Papilion didn't suffer a serious injury during the spring game but they suspected Papilion tore an ACL in his knee. They will know more Sunday. The only other significant injury reported was guard Jeromy Irwin suffering a sprained ankle. ...Wide receiver Gerald Thomas did not participate Saturday and is listed as inactive on the depth chart. MacIntyre continues to say Thomas has unspecified issues he must take care of to be re-instated to the team.
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