BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — Nate Landman’s days in a Colorado Buffaloes uniform looked like they were over when he ruptured his right Achilles in a snowy season finale against Utah last year.
The star linebacker put his NFL plans on hold, however, accepting a fifth season of eligibility the NCAA offered all student-athletes because of the pandemic.
Landman said he's already full-go and “I couldn't be happier with my decision.”
Nor could Karl Dorrell, the reigning conference Coach of the Year who called Landman “a great leader for us.”
"He’s a catalyst. He’s a guy that leads by not only what he says but also what he does,” Dorrell said. “You wish you had 120 Nate Landmans on your team to have that mentality.”
While Landman has been a steady presence on Colorado's defense since his freshman year in 2017, the Buffs’ offense is led by a quarterback who has played in just one game, a sparkling performance in the Alamo Bowl.
Brendon Lewis, a dual-threat QB from Melissa, Texas, won the starting job when sophomore J.T. Shrout, a transfer from Tennessee, blew out a knee in the Buffaloes’ first fall scrimmage, putting a premature end to a tight quarterback clash that was the talk of camp.
Lewis' backup is freshman Drew Carter, who enrolled in January and participated in spring ball, and the third QB is another freshman, Jordan Woolverton.
The Buffaloes caught a glimpse of Lewis against Texas in the Alamo Bowl when he engineered three touchdown drives in relief of Sam Noyer, who threw two first-quarter interceptions.
“He exceeded my expectations,” Dorrell said. “He had confidence and he moved the football and he made plays with his legs, he made plays with his arm. I was really impressed by that."
More importantly, it let Lewis know he indeed belonged at the Power 5 level.
“It gave me a lot more confidence going into spring ball and then coming into fall camp,” Lewis said. “That game really helped me. Now I don’t have to go into this season to get my very first snap. I know the feel and the speed of the game.”
RB Jarek Broussard burst onto the scene last year with 895 yards and five touchdowns in just six games. But don't expect the Pac-12's Offensive Player of the Year to average 26 carries a game like he did last year. CU's 2019 leading rusher, Alex Fontenot, is back healthy and freshman Ashaad Clayton turned heads this spring.
“We have more depth now,” Dorrell said. “He doesn’t have to carry everything on his shoulders.”
Dorrell isn't a big fan of the NCAA's relaxed transfer protocols, but he filled some big needs via the transfer portal in 2021. The list of newcomers with FBS experience include linebackers Robert Barnes (Oklahoma) and Jack Lamb (Notre Dame), offensive linemen Max Wray (Ohio State) and Noah Fenske (Iowa) and defensive lineman Blayne Toll (Arkansas).
Colorado's slate may begin with Northern Colorado and the McCaffrey family, but they play six teams ranked in The AP's preseason Top 25, beginning with No. 6 Texas A&M on Sept. 11. The rest are in the Pac-12. They visit 11th-ranked Oregon and host 15th-ranked USC in October and in November they host No. 20 Washington and end the season with a trip to 24th-ranked Utah. They also host Minnesota in Week 3 before hitting the road for the first time Sept. 25 at No. 25 Arizona State.
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