With their two most experienced quarterbacks unable to participate in spring football, the Colorado Buffaloes are eager to see how the battle behind them unfolds.
That battle will have one less participant than expected.
On Tuesday, head coach Mike MacIntyre announced that sophomore quarterback Cade Apsay and junior safety Evan White have been dismissed from the squad "for violating team policies."
MacIntyre did not go into details about Apsay and White, but both have been disciplined before. Apsay was suspended for the first two games of last season, and White was suspended for two games in the middle of the season. In both cases, MacIntyre said the players violated team rules.
Apsay was the Buffs' second-team quarterback last season and started the final two games after Sefo Liufau went down with a season-ending foot injury. Apsay completed 64.1 percent of his passes (59 of 92) for 582 yards, three touchdowns and five interceptions this past season and would have been CU's most experienced quarterback this spring.
It is expected that seniors Sefo Liufau and Davis Webb will be the top quarterbacks next season, but Liufau will miss the spring with a foot injury and Webb, a transfer from Texas Tech, will not arrive on campus until the summer.
Now with Apsay gone, the spotlight will shine on redshirt freshman Steven Montez and senior Jordan Gehrke as the Buffs open spring practices on Wednesday. Senior Jaleel Awini, who will split time at wide receiver, also will play quarterback this spring.
With Awini viewed as more of an all-purpose threat and Gehrke having spent his CU career as a backup, Montez is the odds-on favorite to emerge from spring atop the depth chart.
"The one good thing is it gives Steven Montez, who hasn't had as many reps as Jordan and Jaleel at the quarterback position, he'll get a lot more reps this spring," MacIntyre said. "I think he has a bright future in front of him. He just needs to get more reps."
CU loves the potential of the 6-foot-5, 230-pound Montez, who has a strong arm and good mobility. He impressed teammates and coaches with how he played on the scout team this past season, but now will have a chance to run the first-team offense.
"I hope he moves up the ladder, is able to be ready to play," MacIntyre said. "We'll find out as spring goes. Hopefully, he makes a big jump here within the offense.
"This will be really good for him to be under a little bit more scrutiny and a little bit more pressure out there doing it."
While he's been a backup to this point, Gehrke could also take advantage of the opportunity to get more reps. He made one start in 2014 and threw for 116 yards last season.
White's departure leaves the Buffs with just four scholarship safeties this spring, only three of whom have game experience.
White was a backup last year who primarily played on special teams. He played just 45 snaps on defense, but in 2014 he had 31 tackles and played 232 snaps over nine games.
Losing White is likely what led to the Buffs signing safety Kyle Trego, a transfer from Diablo Valley (Calif.) College, to a letter of intent on Sunday. Trego will join the team in the summer.
On the eve of spring football, there were several other items of note:
• MacIntyre said he would like to take the Buffs out of state for a few spring practices in the future, as other schools are doing. "It costs a lot of money and right now we don't quite have that in our budget, but that is something I've talked about wanting to do and I would like to maybe do in the future," he said.
• CU will use its full staff to coach special teams but will have a quality control special teams person who can instruct kickers and organize the special teams units. MacIntyre has not yet named that person.
• Last year, CU had a 12-player leadership council and each week picked captains from that group. This year, MacIntyre said he will probably have a leadership council of some sort, but "I also believe I'll pick a few specific captains."
• Offensive lineman Connor Center has decided to give up football and leave the team. A junior, Center had never played in a game for the Buffs.
• CU will open two practices to the public this spring: March 11 (scheduled for 8:40-11 a.m.) and the spring game on April 9 (scheduled for noon).