Just a year ago, the Colorado football team went through a drama-filled offseason at quarterback.

At this time in 2016, the Buffaloes had no idea if senior Sefo Liufau would be able to play as he recovered from a foot injury. They also thought Texas Tech quarterback Davis Webb was going to transfer to CU and either take the starting job or give them the most experienced back-up in the country. Then, there was that period in January when Tennessee's Sheriron Jones transferred to CU, only to return to the Vols two weeks later.

Ultimately, Webb went to Cal and Liufau played a vital role in the Buffs' resurgent 10-4 season.

USC’s Sam Darnold went 9-0 and earned Rose Bowl MVP honors last season.
USC's Sam Darnold went 9-0 and earned Rose Bowl MVP honors last season. (Ryan Kang / Associated Press)

CU head coach Mike MacIntyre is certainly happy to be free from that type of drama this offseason, but he doesn't discount the best thing that came of that time: it allowed Steven Montez to be the lead quarterback during the 2016 spring and develop his game.

"In hindsight, and I knew it after he went through it, Steven getting all those reps took him to another level quicker," MacIntyre said this week.

Getting to that next level quicker has helped Montez and the Buffs feel good about his ability to lead the team this season.

While MacIntyre has yet to pronounce Montez as the starter, it's clear the redshirt sophomore is on that path.

"If he keeps going on the trajectory, he will be (the starter) and he should be," MacIntyre said.


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MacIntyre was quick to point out, however, that redshirt freshman Sam Noyer and true freshman Tyler Lytle — who enrolled in January — both played well in spring.

"I came out (of spring) saying, 'Wow, they all have a chance to help us,'" MacIntyre said.

In the Pac-12, strong quarterback play usually leads to team success. It's once again a conference loaded with talented passers, with Montez showing the ability to be among them. He threw for 1,078 yards, nine touchdowns and five interceptions as Liufau's backup last season, while also rushing for 231 yards.

"He's in phenomenal shape and he's throwing the ball well," MacIntyre said. "I thought he had a really good spring and made some strides in the right direction. I'm excited about what he can do."

While he may not look forward to facing them, MacIntyre is also impressed with the talent he sees at quarterback around the Pac-12.

Most notably, the Los Angeles area (Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold) and the state of Washington (Jake Browning and Luke Falk) feature elite quarterbacks — with the Buffs slated to face all four.

There's also a pair of Alabama transfers (ASU's Blake Barnett and Utah's Cooper Bateman) who could make the Pac-12 South division more interesting - although neither one is guaranteed to start.

"I'm excited about the quarterbacks in our league and hopefully our guys will be able to stand up and match those guys," MacIntyre said.

With the start of the football season a little more four months away, here's a look at the quarterback situations for each team in the Pac-12 (with their 2016 record).

Arizona Wildcats (3-9, 1-8 Pac-12)

Projected starter: Brandon Dawkins, R-Jr., 6-foot-3, 210 pounds

Outlook: The primary starter a year ago, Dawkins was much more dangerous as a runner (944 yards, 10 TD) than he was as a passer (1,348 yards, 8 TD, 6 INT). Sophomore Khalil Tate, a talented dual threat, is very much in the running for the job, however. Both exceptional athletes, but whoever starts needs to step up their game.

Washington State quarterback Luke Falk has thrown for 9,034 yards and 76 touchdowns in his career.
Washington State quarterback Luke Falk has thrown for 9,034 yards and 76 touchdowns in his career. (Ryan Kang / Associated Press)

Arizona State Sun Devils (5-7, 2-7)

Projected starter: Manny Wilkins, R-Jr., 6-3, 197

Outlook: Wilkins had some great moments last year, but was hobbled by an ankle injury during the second half of the season. Alabama transfer Blake Barnett, a former five-star recruit, will push Wilkins for the starting job. No question, better QB play is needed for the Sun Devils to improve.

California Golden Bears (5-7, 3-6)

Projected starter: Ross Bowers, R-So., 6-2, 190 or Chase Forrest, R-Jr., 6-2, 205

Outlook: Forrest, who threw 18 passes in 2015, is the only QB with any college experience, so the Bears are very green at QB in head coach Justin Wilcox's first year. Bowers and Forrest emerged from the pack to take the lead in the spring, however, and one of them figures to win the job.

Colorado Buffaloes (10-4, 8-1)

Projected starter: Steven Montez, R-So., 6-5, 220

Outlook: Last year, Montez started three games (going 2-1) and came off the bench in several others. He was much better in the games he started and could thrive as the Buffs' No. 1 quarterback. Talented freshman Sam Noyer and Tyler Lytle are vying for playing time.

Oregon Ducks (4-8, 2-7)

Projected starter: Justin Herbert, So., 6-6, 225

Outlook: After becoming the starter midway through last season as a true freshman, Herbert threw 19 TD passes had a QB rating of 148.8 (third among Pac-12 QBs with at least 150 attempts). Competition is open with new head coach Willie Taggart, however, giving redshirt sophomore Travis Jonsen and true freshman Braxton Burmeister a chance to push for the job.

Oregon State Beavers (4-8, 3-6)

Projected starter: Marcus McMaryion, R-Jr., 6-1, 207

Outlook: A three-way battle for the starting job will go into the fall, so projecting McMaryion as the starter is really a guess after he played fairly well in the second half of last season. Senior Darell Garretson (who started last year before being sidelined with a broken ankle) and JUCO transfer Jake Luton are also competing, and head coach Gary Andersen has said he would consider using multiple quarterbacks.

Stanford Cardinal (10-3, 7-2)

Projected starter: Keller Chryst, Sr., 6-5, 234

Outlook: Chryst, who went 6-0 and played well after taking over as the starter, may not be ready for the start of the season after tearing his ACL in the Sun Bowl on Dec. 30. If not, the Cardinal could turn back to senior Ryan Burns, who struggled while starting the first seven games and nearly transferred this offseason, or sophomore K.J. Costello.

UCLA Bruins (4-8, 2-7)

Projected starter: Josh Rosen, Jr., 6-4, 220

Outlook: Rosen, who missed the second half of last season with a shoulder injury, is one of the top QBs in the country when healthy and a potential NFL first-round draft choice at some point. Redshirt freshmen Matt Lynch - from Legacy High School - and Devon Modster are battling this spring for the backup job.

USC Trojans (10-3, 7-2)

Projected starter: Sam Darnold, R-So., 6-4, 225

Outlook: One of the leading Heisman Trophy candidates, Darnold took over as the starter after three games last year. He lost his first start (on a last-minute TD at Utah) and went 9-0 the rest of the way and earned Rose Bowl MVP honors. He will be fun to watch this year. If anything happens to Darnold, the Trojans will turn to a pair of inexperienced youngsters: redshirt freshman Matt Fink and true freshman Jack Sears.

Utah Utes (9-4, 5-4)

Projected starter: Troy Williams, R-Sr., 6-2, 209

Outlook: Williams had a solid debut season in Salt Lake City, with nearly 3,000 yards in total offense (2,757 passing, 235 rushing) and 20 TDs, but he's not guaranteed to start. Sophomore Tyler Huntley, who is probably the better of the two at making plays with his feet is pushing for the job, while senior Cooper Bateman, a transfer from Alabama, had a solid spring.

Washington Huskies (12-2, 8-1)

Projected starter: Jake Browning, Jr., 6-2, 205

Outlook: Last season, Browning led the Huskies to the College Football Playoff and was a Heisman Trophy candidate, throwing for 3,430 yards and 43 TDs. Although he had offseason shoulder surgery, Browning is expected to once again be among the top QBs in the country. Junior KJ Carta-Samuels, a former four-star recruit, is one of the top backups in the conference.

Washington State Cougars (8-5, 7-2)

Projected starter: Luke Falk, R-Sr., 6-4, 225

Outlook: In his two full seasons as the Cougars' starter, Falk has been sensational, throwing for 9,034 yards, 76 touchdowns and only 19 interceptions. Last year he was second nationally (behind Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield) with a 70.0-percent completion rate. Sophomore Tyler Hilinski is the backup and did well in mop-up duty last year.

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