HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Initially, the thought of spending two days doing interviews and other obligations didn't exactly sound appealing to Colorado's Chidobe Awuzie and Sefo Liufau.

In the end, though, the two seniors felt it was a good experience to represent the Buffaloes at the annual Pac-12 media days at the Hollywood & Highland.

"It was an incredible experience," Awuzie said. "I just wanted to really soak everything in.

"This opportunity to come to Hollywood and experience this lifestyle and doing interviews and stuff and doing photo shoots, you really appreciate it and I'm really grateful for this opportunity."

Both players had to break away from their comfort zones, as they did multiple interviews, photo shoots and played games set up by the Pac-12 Network.

"It's ultimately been a great time," Liufau said. "It's been a blessing and I'm very lucky to be able to come here. It's been an amazing two days, and now basically it's back to business."

Head coach Mike MacIntyre said he always enjoys watching the players interact with the media, but this week is always a signal that business is right around the corner. The Buffs report Aug. 3 and will conduct their first practice on Aug. 4 as they prepare for what they hope is a turning point season.

"I would characterize our program as a group of young men that have really rolled up their sleeves, worked hard to get to this point," MacIntyre said. "They believe they can beat anybody that they play."

Working their way back


Outside linebacker NJ Falo, running back Dino Gordon and defensive lineman Samson Kafovalu are all still suspended for off-the-field incidents this past spring, but MacIntyre said it's possible all three will be eligible to return by the start of camp.

"If they've done what they're supposed to, then we'll go from there," MacIntyre said. "I'm hoping they have everything done by Aug. 4, but we'll see. It might be different for all three of them."

Lee on watch list

CU junior Donovan Lee was named to the watch list for the Paul Hornung Award, presented to the most versatile player in college football.

Lee, a 5-foot-9, 180-pound running back/receiver, is one of 43 players on the preseason watch list. Last season, he ran for 286 yards, had 26 catches for 128 yards and added 540 yards in kickoff returns.

Awuzie (Bednarik Award, Nagurski Award, Thorpe Award) and running back Phillip Lindsay (Doak Walker Award) have also been named to preseason watch lists.

Gaining respect

Although CU is just 2-25 in the Pac-12 the last three years under MacIntyre, the Buffs' conference foes are recognizing the improvement being made in Boulder.

"They've progressed a whole bunch," Stanford running back and 2015 Heisman Trophy runner-up Christian McCaffrey said. "Coach Mac has an unbelievable thing going there and they're only on the come-up from here. That's a team that definitely has the talent; a tough team to play, too, especially at CU and the altitude, a lot of guys aren't used to it. They're definitely on the rise."

Oregon linebacker Johnny Ragin III said he's seen the Buffs improve every year under MacIntyre.

"I think he's doing a great job building that program up to get to the point they want to get to," Ragin said. "I definitely think Colorado is not a team to be overlooked."

Utah defensive back Justin Thomas sees a better CU team, too.

"I most definitely see them being a six or seven — or above — win team this year," Thomas said.


The Pac-12 Network will feature every team on "The Drive" this season. The network will visit the Buffs during the week of Oct. 10, leading up their game against Arizona State. ... Arizona State has a three-way battle at quarterback. Head coach Todd Graham said he'll likely figure out a starter within the first couple weeks of fall camp, but won't announce it publicly until just before the Sun Devils' Sept. 3 opener against Northern Arizona. ... Stanford has a quarterback competition, too, and head coach David Shaw said he is "very willing" to let that competition go into the season. "You've got to let it play out," he said.

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