There's no question Steven Montez is the man atop the depth chart at quarterback for the Colorado Buffaloes.
During a scrimmage at Folsom Field on Saturday, Montez played with poise and confidence as he led the offense, proving why he's going into his second year as the starter.
The tight battle for No. 2 continues, however, between sophomore Sam Noyer and redshirt freshman Tyler Lytle.
"Sam is probably a little ahead of Tyler right now in what we're doing, but both of them are talented and make good plays and have the ability to throw the ball," quarterbacks coach Kurt Roper said this past week. "I'm pleased with them, but I think right now Sam is probably playing at a little bit higher level than Tyler. But Tyler has improved from spring."
Noyer threw a pair of 50-yard touchdowns — to Maurice Bell and Kabion Ento — during the scrimmage, but also got picked off by linebacker Chase Newman. His performance put his overall improvement on display, however.
Lytle didn't throw a touchdown pass in the scrimmage, but did connect with Bell and Jaylon Jackson on big plays and moved the offense at times. He, too, showed his overall improvement.
Senior receiver Jay MacIntyre said both have simply grown up as they gain experience in the CU system.
"I think they both have bright futures ahead of them, so it's exciting for them and exciting for me to watch," MacIntyre said. "It's just getting in the playbook and knowing what they're doing. It's just crucial to being a good player at this level. Every day, they continue to get better. Sam throws such a good ball; one of the nicest balls I've seen. Tyler is real good at it, too. They're both confident guys."
True freshman Blake Stenstrom has been impressive, as well. While he's still new in the offense, Stenstrom is fundamentally sound.
"He really plays the game fundamentally well at an early age, so it allows us as coaches to focus on the system, rather than maybe, 'OK, this is how we're going to stand and this is what you need to do with your feet,'" Roper said. "He's pretty developed for a freshman quarterback. Fundamentally and even knowledge of football, he really comes in further along than most, I would say."
While they're all battling for position on the depth chart, this is a group that gets along well, too.
"We want everybody to succeed in that quarterback room. We want everyone to succeed on this team," Noyer said, "so, it's our job to push everybody each and every day and to get better each and every day."
Even walk-on Josh Goldin pushes the group and watches as much film as any of them.
"Competition is always going to get you better," Lytle said.
During both of CU's open practices, the Buffs went with the same starting five on the offensive line: left tackle Josh Kaiser, left guard Brett Tonz, center Colby Pursell, right guard Tim Lynott Jr., and right tackle Aaron Haigler.
Line coach and co-offensive coordinator Klayton Adams said there's still plenty to be decided, however.
"I don't know that we're closing in on our top five, but I think we've got about eight we feel are really hard core in that mix," he said.
That includes redshirt freshmen Jacob Moretti and William Sherman. Moretti played with the first and second teams at left tackle on Saturday. Sherman played left tackle and left guard with the first team and second team.
Junior college transfer guard Karry Kutsch and walk-on tackle Jack Shutack both got a lot of reps Saturday, as well. True freshman Frank Fillip can't be counted out either. He's missed most of camp with an ankle injury, but has exceptional potential and could help this year.
Overall, it's a group that doesn't have a lot of game experience, and that could lead to multiple players contributing.
"When you're dealing with a relatively inexperienced group, there's nothing wrong with having maybe two guys that play one position and both of them play during a game," Adams said.
Pursell has yet to play in a college game, but Adams isn't worried about his ability to handle nerves on the big stage. "His blood pressure very rarely rises and I would expect him to play that way as he gets into a game," he said. ... The Buffs had the day off Sunday and will return to the field Monday.