It's been nearly a month since the Colorado football team concluded its 2015 season.
That month has been a fairly busy one for the Buffaloes, head coach Mike MacIntyre and his staff.
Since that season-ending loss to Utah in Salt Lake City on Nov. 28, the Buffs have lost three coaches, replaced one of them, and spent a good chunk of time interviewing candidates for the other vacancies.
Coaches were busy on the recruiting trail until the dead period began on Dec. 14 (it runs through Jan. 13), and they've spent countless hours evaluating their current players and searching for ways to get better in 2016.
This next season figures to be pivotal one for MacIntyre and the CU program, as he enters his fourth season with a 10-27 record. As the new year approaches, here's a look at some of the pressing needs for the Buffs:
1. Finalize the coaching staff. MacIntyre was still busy interviewing coaching candidates early last week before heading to Nashville for the holidays. The Buffs are still in need of a strength and conditioning coach, and they have yet to replace special teams coordinator Toby Neinas, who departed earlier this month. There's also been talk of another change or two on the staff, but nothing official on that has come from CU. Regardless of how many changes are being made, MacIntyre has to get his staff finalized soon because, as crazy as it sounds, spring ball is only about six weeks away.
2. Figure out the quarterback situation. This will be an ongoing process that could carry into the fall. Three-year starter Sefo Liufau will be a senior, but he will miss the spring with a foot injury and there's no guarantee he'll be ready to go when the Buffs open the season in September. While Liufau is out, the Buffs need somebody to emerge as a legitimate Pac-12 starter. Redshirt sophomore Cade Apsay, who took over for Liufau and started the last two games, redshirt freshman Steven Montez and fifth-year senior Jordan Gehrke will battle throughout the spring. The best thing for CU would be for at least one of them to play so well that Liufau has to fight to win his job back. True freshman Sam Noyer is expected to sign a letter of intent in February and join the mix in the summer.
3. Land a stellar class. National signing day is on Feb. 3, and the Buffs need that to be a good day. They currently have 12 players who are verbally committed to sign. It's certainly not a star-studded class, but it's an intriguing group that includes four-star defensive back Craig Watts from St. Petersburg, Fla. When the recruiting dead period ends, the coaches need a great three weeks to keep the verbal commits and possibly land another big fish or two. The talent is steadily improving in Boulder, and this is a crucial class in CU's development.
4. Find a line. Throughout this past season, the offensive line struggled. Injuries and inexperience were key factors, but CU can't afford another season like that up front. This is an important year for an offensive line that got pushed around too much. That puts pressure on MacIntyre to find a great strength and conditioning coach. It also puts pressure on line coach Gary Bernardi. Left tackle Stephane Nembot is the only player from this past season's group that won't return, so inexperience won't be an excuse. Finding a stout group of five — and sticking with that group — is important for CU this offseason. In addition to the starters, CU needs to get another two or three linemen game-ready, just in case injuries pile up again.
5. Solve the kicking woes. CU has had a penchant for playing in — and losing — close games the past two seasons. The Buffs aren't likely to go from 4-9 to dominating the Pac-12, so they figure to be in more close games this next fall. Because of that, they can't afford another season where they rank dead last in the conference in field-goal percentage. Diego Gonzalez has a strong leg, and he had some great moments this past season. Now, he needs to become more reliable. If the Buffs can figure out how to boom kickoffs into the end zone, that would help, too.
Brian Howell: firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.