Sam Noyer is coming back to the Buffaloes.

Colorado’s starting quarterback last season will return in 2021, coach Karl Dorrell told reporters Friday during a year-in-review news conference, with Noyer opting in to an NCAA-gifted year of eligibility for senior athletes amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Noyer threw for 1,101 yards with 11 total touchdowns over six starts last season, but his place on the depth chart moving forward is far from secured. Noyer is expected to miss the entire spring while recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, and freshman Brendon Lewis played well in relief of Noyer during the Buffs’ Alamo Bowl loss to Texas.

“He’ll be really into locking down his knowledge about our offense, our passing game, and trying to take a bunch of mental reps,” Dorrell said. “He knows he has a huge challenge of really trying to take the next steps as a quarterback, but not being able to physically do that this spring. But he is up for it. He’ll be ready.”

Noyer’s development in his first college season as a full-time starting QB is remarkable as a converted safety playing under former coach Mel Tucker. But Noyer’s performance notably declined over his final two games, completing 24-of-57 passes (42%) for 359 yards with three interceptions and two touchdowns.

In the Alamo Bowl loss to Texas, Lewis entered the game in place of Noyer and gave the Buffs life with 73 yards rushing on nine carries (8.1 yards per carry) while completing 60% of his passes for 95 yards. He quarterbacked the Buffs offense to 20 points. The Noyer-led Buffs scored 3 points.

Lewis, Noyer and a pair of QB newcomers — transfer JT Shrout (Tennessee) and freshman Drew Carter — will all compete for the starting job in 2021. It begins with spring practices anticipated to start at the end of March.

“I was really encouraged by Brendon Lewis. I thought he played really well and that was fun to see him get in there and play for his first time,” Dorrell said. “He came out with a positive grade, for sure. I’m really encouraged by that. I am hoping he uses that experience and kind of rides that momentum going into this spring.

“This spring is going to be all about competition. … They better make sure if they are returning starters that they are better than who is underneath them.”

D-Coordinator opening. The first major offseason shakeup for CU was the surprise dismissal this week of defensive coordinator Tyson Summers earlier this week. In 2020, the Buffs defense ranked seventh nationally in tackles for loss per game (8.2) and No. 13 in opponent third-down defense conversion rate (31%).

Summers, 40, joined CU’s staff as defensive coordinator in 2019 and stayed with the program after former coach Mel Tucker’s departure. The search for Summers’ replacement is now underway with Dorrell considering in-house and external candidates.

“Was there a point in the season that led me to this decision (to dismiss Summers)? No, not necessarily. I reflected on a lot of stuff after the season ended and flying back from Texas,” Dorrell said. “I went through about 10 days of evaluation. Just me going through a lot of different things that I saw this year … that is going to help us in 2021. There is no time frame in terms of what I’m feeling right now. I just want to make sure when we come out and line up in 2021, I want us to be different than we were in 2020.”

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