HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — During a recent player-led practice in Boulder, the Colorado offense was running through a play when an offensive lineman stepped directly on the left foot of quarterback Sefo Liufau.
"It went well, so I can't complain," Liufau said with a smile.
That's a relief to the Buffaloes, because that foot carries much of the hope CU has for snapping a 10-year run of losing seasons.
Liufau suffered a Lisfranc injury to his left foot on Nov. 13, ending his junior season early and knocking him out of spring practices. He has spent months rehabilitating the injury and with fall camp around the corner, he is feeling good and eager to get his senior year underway.
"I am healthy, ready to go and I'll see you guys all on Aug. 3 (for the start of camp)," Liufau said from the Hollywood & Highland, where Pac-12 media days are being held. "I feel pretty normal. I'm able to do things I wasn't able to do before. I haven't had a setback in forever, so I'm pretty excited with everything that's going on. It's all a tribute to the strength coaches and sports medicine for getting me to where I am right now."
Liufau was cleared by doctors a couple weeks ago, head coach Mike MacIntyre said.
"He's in excellent shape," MacIntyre said. "We'll be cautious with him in camp, but he's doing good. He's in better shape than he's ever been."
Liufau comes into this season as the most experienced quarterback in the Pac-12, with 29 career starts and 7,397 career passing yards (13 shy of breaking CU's all-time record).
He also comes into the season with much to prove, because the Buffs are just 8-21 in his starts, 2-19 in Pac-12 games. That record and his penchant for making mistakes in crucial moments has some fans doubting Liufau's ability to lead the Buffs to success.
Former CU quarterback and current Fox Sports analyst Joel Klatt is one who believes in Liufau.
"We fall into a trap in this day and age ... if someone is not a generational talent, we automatically just look past you and are like, 'What's next?' " Klatt said. "Constantly the grass is greener, unless you're watching Andrew Luck or watching Marcus Mariota.
"Sefo is a heck of a player, and he's one of the reasons why they've been able to have chances in games."
Klatt praised Liufau's leadership and said he's "very talented as a passer." Klatt also recognizes that there's another level for Liufau to reach.
"The bottom line is, the next progression for Sefo is playing clutch in clutch moments," Klatt said. "That's the growth, which you would much rather want a growth in terms of intangibles rather than skill set, because no one is just going to all of a sudden become a more accurate thrower. But you can learn how to deal with situations better, and that's the growth that I would hope for him."
Throughout the offseason, Liufau has dealt with injury rehab, the saga of Texas Tech transfer Davis Webb committing to CU and then ultimately landing at California, and trying to learn the new tweaks in CU's offense.
Regarding Webb, Liufau said: "It's water under the bridge. Even if he came here, it'd still be a good competition and the best man would've played."
On the offense, which will be a bit different with Darrin Chiaverini coming in as a co-coordinator with Brian Lindgren, Liufau said: "People misinterpret how much it's actually changed, because it's not a lot. There's tweaks here and there and there will be some different things we'll come out with, but for the most part I feel comfortable with it even though I haven't run it in a practice setting. We'll run a bunch in August camp. I'm not worried about the amount of reps I'm about to have."
Through it all, Liufau has had his eyes on the ultimate goal of returning to the field and becoming the type of player that can lead the Buffs and thrive in the clutch.
"The best way to do that is to watch more film and be prepared and just seize the opportunity and seize the moment," he said. "I've done that and trained on my own and trained with other people and doing my best to be ready for the season.
"Those moments are going to happen again this year. We're going to be in more close games and I just have to be able to seize the opportunity and make the play for my team."
Klatt points out, however, that it's not all on Liufau to step up. On Oct. 25, 2014, against UCLA, the Buffs got a fourth-down stop late in the fourth quarter and had a chance to win, but Liufau threw an interception that ended a key drive. Ultimately, UCLA won in overtime.
"They were so excited just to be in the game at that point that the execution of the details went away and vanished in the wind, and (Liufau) kind of panicked," Klatt said. "Quite frankly, the sideline panicked; everyone panicked."
Klatt said there needs to be calm among the entire team, not just from Liufau, in those moments.
"It'll help if the expectation is there from the whole," he said. "The team needs to transition from hoping to win to expecting to win. If they can execute in those moments, they can have a three or four win differential in the positive direction."
Now that he's healthy, Liufau is firmly focused on obtaining those extra wins and ending his career on a positive note.
"I've been with these guys for four years now, and I can see the development in a lot of things that we went through growing up," he said. "It's pretty exciting. There are a lot of playmakers on both sides of the ball. Once August hits and everything starts rolling, it'll be pretty exciting to see the fruits of our labor."
Brian Howell: firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.