The spring QB race

Senior quarterbacks Sefo Liufau and Davis Webb won't be available to the Colorado football team in the spring. Because of that, three others have a great opportunity to separate themselves from the pack. The candidates:

Cade Apsay, R-So., 6-foot-1, 190 pounds — Apsay rose to No. 2 on the depth chart last fall, and he started the last two games of the season after Liufau injured his left foot. Those two starts make Apsay the most experienced healthy QB on the roster this spring. Apsay has displayed good accuracy during his limited time, but struggled under pressure. He was sacked once every 6.6 throws and tossed five interceptions. Career stats at CU: 59 of 92 (64.1 percent), 582 yards, 3 TD, 5 INT.

Jordan Gehrke, R-Sr., 6-foot-1, 200 pounds — Entering his fourth season at CU, Gehrke was sensational as a freshman at Scottsdale Community College. At CU, he's had very limited time as a backup. He started one game in 2014 (but didn't finish it) and played in three games this past year. While he hasn't ever seriously pushed for the starting job, he is very athletic, knows the offense well and is a leader in the locker room. This is his last chance to make an impression. Career stats at CU: 32 of 68 (47.1 percent), 286 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT.


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Steven Montez, R-Fr., 6-foot-5, 230 pounds — By far the most impressive physically among the three, Montez is said to have the most talent of the group. He has yet to play a snap in a game at the college level, but has impressed his teammates and coaches to this point. He has a lot of zip on the ball, has worked on his touch passes, and is considered to be a great athlete who can make some plays with his feet. Lack of experience is the biggest thing holding him back at this point. Career stats at CU: None.

Notable: Linebacker Jaleel Awini, who served as an emergency QB late this past season, could also get some work at QB. ... In addition to the three scholarship QBs, the Buffs are expected to have walk-ons T.J. Patterson (junior) and Tyler McGarry (freshman) on board this spring.

After finishing up a recent workout, Colorado quarterback Steven Montez beamed as he talked about the opportunity in front of him this spring.

During the past month, the three most talked about CU quarterbacks are either injured, no longer in Boulder, or not yet on campus.

Meanwhile, Montez keeps going about his work with an eye on the first practice of spring ball, on March 4.

"I'm counting the days until spring ball," the 6-foot-5, 230-pound redshirt freshman said. "I can't wait. That's going to be real fun."

Lately, much of the attention has gone to Sefo Liufau, Davis Webb and Sheriron Jones.

Liufau, a senior, is a three-year starter for the Buffs, with 7,397 career passing yards and 49 touchdowns to his credit. He's 13 yards shy of the school's all-time passing record. Yet the biggest question around him is health. Liufau suffered a Lisfranc injury to his left foot on Nov. 13 and will be out until the summer, at least. There's no guarantee he'll even play this year.

Because of that, the Buffs went out and recruited Webb, a graduate transfer from Texas Tech. Webb has 5,557 yards and 46 touchdowns under his belt and many believe he'll waltz onto campus this summer and take hold of the starting job - regardless of Liufau's health.

Jones was in the spotlight for a brief moment, too. A four-star dual threat quarterback, he transferred from Tennessee last month but changed his mind two weeks later and rejoined the Volunteers. Some saw Jones as the quarterback of the future.

Through it all, Montez, who very well could be the quarterback of the future, has soaked it in and remained focused on his job.

"I'm more excited than anything," he said of all the QB buzz. "To see dudes like (Jones and Webb) come in and just push my level of competition to the next level, to what it's going to be later on, it's really exciting, actually."

Most exciting to Montez is the opportunity he has this spring.

Liufau won't be healthy enough to go through spring drills, and Webb will be in Lubbock, Texas, finishing his degree at Texas Tech. That leaves Montez, redshirt sophomore Cade Apsay and senior Jordan Gehrke fighting for the attention of CU coaches. (Montez also believes senior Jaleel Awini, a linebacker who was used as an emergency quarterback late last season, will be in the mix this spring.)

Montez, who has four years of eligibility in front of him, hopes he can separate himself from the others.

"It's a huge opportunity for all of us, really, to go out there and show what we have, show what we've got," Montez said. "That's going to be a great time for competition and just to go out and do the thing we love and play football."

It's a particularly big opportunity for Montez, because he's the quarterback with the most to prove.

Apsay (two starts last season), Gehrke (one start in 2014) and Awini (two starts for Air Force in 2013) all have starting experience, while Montez has yet to experience a college game.

Montez did his work as a redshirt, behind the closed gates of the CU practice field. He impressed his coaches and teammates at times, and said he believes it was a good year for him.

"I feel like I had a really productive freshman year," he said. "It was more about coming in and managing school and doing stuff like that. Even with football, just working and getting the time in the weight room and working out. I think I gained 20 pounds. It's just getting me ready for Division I football."

Montez, who threw for 2,967 yards and ran for 1,058 as a senior at Del Valle High School, was tabbed for a redshirt from the start of last season. That makes this spring his first real opportunity to show what he can do with CU's first- and second-team units.

"Steven is big, strong, athletic and has a big arm," head coach Mike MacIntyre said. "I think Steven has a good future ahead of him. He just needs to keep getting experience.

"He needs to keep working on all the different attributes of the quarterback position and get more and more well-rounded. That takes time of getting reps and he's going to get a ton of reps this spring, which is going to help him accelerate that."

While many expect Webb or a healthy Liufau to start this fall, Montez still recognizes this spring is important as he tries to earn the trust of his coaches. He would like to prove he can be counted on if and when his number his called next fall.

"You're always ready to go in and compete and win the job," he said. "I'm hyped. I'm ready to go."

Brian Howell: howellb@dailycamera.com, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.