For the Colorado Buffaloes to have a chance to exceed the outside expectations this season, they’ll need a lot of things to come together and go their way.
There may not be a bigger key to their success, however, than the working relationship between offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Sean Lewis and junior quarterback Shedeur Sanders.
When head coach Deion Sanders was hired in December, he immediately announced that his son would be the Buffs’ starting quarterback. Then, he hired Lewis, the former head coach at Kent State, to run the offense that will be steered by Shedeur this season.
After a spring and summer together, Lewis and Shedeur are getting on the same page.
“I’m learning from him because I would say in the spring I looked at the offense a certain way,” Shedeur said Thursday after the Buffs’ second practice of preseason camp. “Then coming back, going back over it, it’s like, ‘OK, cool, I see it in a different eye.’ So I’m happy that we were able to spend the spring together and now I’m able to experience it on a different level.”
Lewis is running the same up-tempo offense he has utilized for years. It’s an offense he learned from current Syracuse head coach Dino Babers when they worked together at Eastern Illinois (2012-13), Bowling Green (2014-15) and then Syracuse (2016-17).
From 2018-2022, Lewis had one of the nation’s fastest offenses at Kent State and the Golden Flashes put up a lot of points.
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Coming off a 1-11 season – albeit with a totally different staff and roster – CU is again projected to be at or near the bottom of the Pac-12. To be better than that, the Buffs will not only go fast, but aim to control the game with the offense.
“I want to make sure that when our fans, and us as an organization, turn on that tape, it speaks for itself to where we’re controlling the controllables; we’re owning the line of scrimmage and we’re maximizing our calculated shots,” Lewis said. “Those are things that we can control and those are things that when we do it, we’re gonna really like the outcome and the results of what it’s going to be.”
Much of that will depend on how well Shedeur plays within the offense. A star at Jackson State for the past two years, Shedeur is learning his third offensive scheme in three seasons, but said the process is going well.
“I’d say right now I’m 80%. I’d say I’m almost there,” he said. “(Lewis) has 11, 12 years in the offense. I had the spring.
“Coming back to it (for preseason camp), meeting with him and stuff like that, we were able to spend more time together. It means a lot. I’m starting to understand what he thinks and how he’s thinking, why he’s calling certain stuff, his thought process and what you do in each situation that presents itself. He’s given us all the answers to the problems; we’ve just got to solve it. If we don’t, then it’s on us.”
CU’s 15 practices in spring, as well as the summer workouts, helped Shedeur get acclimated to the offense. But the Buffs are now less than a month away from the Sept. 2 season opener at TCU, so the urgency to learn the offense is heightened.
Lewis said his objective for Shedeur this month is, “For him to have a conceptual understanding at a mastery level of what we’re doing so that he can be an elite problem solver. It’s a matter of knowing where the answers are to the problems that the defenses present to us. And, he can have the answers to the test so when he sees the problems that show up, he can solve them in a very, very rapid manner.”
A year ago, Shedeur picked up a new offense at Jackson State and threw for 3,732 yards, 40 touchdowns and six interceptions.
In many ways, he said, Lewis’ offense is similar because “passing is passing” and a lot of the concepts are the same. But, he understands the urgency.
“I just know I’ve got a short time to be comfortable with it and knowing that challenge ahead, it just drives me a little more to understand each and every thing,” he said.
Shedeur understands more than most players because he grew up with a father who is a Pro Football Hall of Famer, and he’s built relationships with elite players all of his life. Among his mentors is seven-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Tom Brady.
Through those lessons, Shedeur has developed a strong work ethic and no-nonsense approach to the game.
“I think he does an unbelievable job in editing his life,” Lewis said. “He knows what’s important to him. … That’s a pretty mature and grown mindset that he has.”
Much of that life editing, Shedeur said, came from his two seasons at JSU and he now takes those lessons learned into this season with the Buffs.
“I learned how to do that by the last two years of my life, by experience,” he said. “I understand, OK, this is good, this works; this is bad, this don’t work. So, this is the big year. I’m not gonna let anything get in the way of it, anybody.”
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