By the time the Colorado football team gets to Denver for the season opener against Colorado State on Sept. 1, it hopes to be running like a well-oiled machine.

There's a lot of work to do to get there, but in the early going of spring drills, sophomore quarterback Steven Montez likes the progress.

"We're getting better every day and we're coming out and just making plays," Montez said. "We're making some mistakes obviously, but we're learning from them. We're starting to look good and we're starting to jell as an offense."

Spring football is never super smooth, as young players and newcomers are often gaining experience with reps in practice. Montez, however, said it's been an improvement over last year.

"You always run into kinks in spring," he said, "but it's felt a lot smoother this spring than it did last spring."

Montez is a big reason why it feels better.

CU has yet to officially name a replacement for four-year starter Sefo Liufau, but Montez appears to have taken the reins of the offense and run with the opportunity in front of him.

"He's stepped it up a lot in the offseason," senior receiver Shay Fields sad. "He's wanting to throw more. He has that attitude, now that he could be potentially the starting quarterback. He's stepped into that leadership role as Sefo did last year. He's developing that more."

Coaches and players have been impressed with redshirt freshman Sam Noyer and true freshman Tyler Lytle, as well, but Montez is taking his game to another level.


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At 6-foot-5, 225 pounds, Montez is now leaner and more athletic, and it has shown in his running and throwing ability.

"He's doing real well throwing it and very active with his arm," head coach Mike MacIntyre said. "He's moving better. He's always moved well, but he's moving a lot better now that he's in better shape."

Montez ran the offense last spring with Liufau out with a foot injury. Then, when Liufau dealt with injuries last year, Montez went 2-1 as a starter and played in 10 games. He threw for 1,017 yards, nine touchdowns and four interceptions, while running for 231 yards and a touchdown.

With that experience, Montez feels more comfortable in the offense, but more importantly has become a leader.

"I'm definitely trying to fill in that leadership role," he said. "We also have (tackle) Jeromy Irwin and (running back) Phillip Lindsay as leaders on the offense, as well, and obviously all the receivers.

"I think I've done a good job of just kind of filling that leader role and pushing our guys to do better and just get better every day as spring goes on."

Stepping up

CU has a load of talent at receiver, led by Fields, Devin Ross and Bryce Bobo. But, when asked about which receiver has impressed him this spring, the first player Montez mentioned was junior Lee Walker, who caught one pass a year ago.

"He's been playing very well for us right now," Montez said. "He's got tons of speed on him and he's nice with his routes. He needs to understand the playbook a little bit more, but he's definitely come a long way and I think he's going to make some big plays for us this year."

CU's receivers are known as the "Blackout Boys," and Montez said several of them are playing well this spring. He then joked about Lindsay, who, as a tailback, was third on the team with 47 catches last year.

"Phillip Lindsay loves to let everybody know he was the third-leading receiver last year so he should get some credit as a Blackout Boy," Montez said.

Buffs at the combine

Four former Buffs are scheduled to take part in the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis over the next few days.

Liufau is scheduled to participate on Friday along with the rest of the quarterbacks, wide outs and tight ends. On Monday, three CU defensive backs — Chidobe Awuzie, Tedric Thompson and Ahkello Witherspoon — are scheduled to participate.

NFL.com will track the results of the combine, as players go through their workout. Most players are scheduled to bench press, do cone and shuttle drills, broad jump and vertical jump.

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at howellb@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.