To this point, Mike MacIntyre's tenure as the head football coach at Colorado has been synonymous with the career of quarterback Sefo Liufau.

Both arrived in Boulder for the 2013 season. Both endured three excruciating losing seasons. And, together they were the faces of CU's resurgent 2016 season, in which the Buffs went 10-4 and won the Pac-12 South division with an 8-1 conference record.

Even as Liufau battled injuries last season, MacIntyre stuck with his veteran quarterback, who is CU's all-time leading passer and yet became more of a running threat during the second half of last season.

MacIntyre and the Buffs now enter a new era, so to speak, as Liufau has exhausted his eligibility and sophomore Steven Montez is set to take the reins of the offense.

The young gunslinger appears ready to handle the job.

"I'm excited, to say the least," Montez said.

While Liufau rewrote the CU record book is now the standard bearer in nearly every passing category, Montez is expected to bring more explosiveness to the Buffs' air attack.

Liufau threw a CU record-tying 60 touchdown passes in his career, but only 20 of those came in his last two seasons. In his last eight games as a Buff, Liufau threw only five touchdown passes - three of those against an awful Arizona defense last November.

The Buffs figure to lean on Montez's arm more than they did Liufau's last season. In only 131 passes attempted, Montez threw almost as many TD passes (nine) last season as Liufau (11) had in 290 passes.


Advertisement

With one of the best receiving corps in the country and the strong-armed Montez at the helm, the Buffs should be in good shape at quarterback. Add in the talented Sam Noyer and Tyler Lytle as backups, and the post-Liufau era could be fun to watch for CU fans - and MacIntyre.

"(The team is) real confident in (Montez)," MacIntyre said after the spring game. "He's been on the field with them before and won some big games and they know his work ethic and they've seen his talent.

"I feel like our quarterback situation is good."

Buffzone.com is previewing each position group for the Buffaloes. In this installment, the final one in the series, we take a look at the quarterbacks.

Position: Quarterbacks

Returnees: Casey Marksberry (Fr.,6-3, 185; walk-on); Tyler McGarry (So., 6-0, 205; walk-on); Steven Montez (So., 6-5, 220); Sam Noyer (Fr., 6-4, 215); T.J. Patterson (Sr., 6-3, 185; walk-on).

Additions: Joshua Goldin (Fr., 6-2, 175; walk-on); Tyler Lytle (Fr., 6-5, 205).

Losses: Jordan Gehrke (graduated); Sefo Liufau (graduated)

Redshirt freshman Sam Noyer is expected to battle for the backup quarterback position this fall.
Redshirt freshman Sam Noyer is expected to battle for the backup quarterback position this fall. (Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer)

2016 recap: Sefo Liufau was the leader that CU needed last year, finally helping the Buffs to a winning season in his fourth year as the starter. It was an odd year for him, however. Liufau was well on his way to his best season as a passer when he sprained his ankle in the third quarter at Michigan in game No. 3. At that point, Liufau had six touchdown passes and had CU looking like one of the most explosive offenses in the country. After he missed three games because of the injury, he returned for the final eight games, getting more touchdowns on the ground (seven) than through the air (five). Liufau had some games that fans will never forget (vs. ASU, Arizona, Washington State and Utah), but never seemed to be fully healthy after his return, relying on his toughness, determination and leadership more so than his arm. Montez, meanwhile, gave fans hope for the future by going 2-1 as a starter in the three games Liufau missed. He accounted for eight touchdowns (seven passing, one rushing) in those games. Montez was much better as a starter, as he completed just 12 of 32 passes (37.5 percent) coming off the bench.

2017 outlook: While Montez hasn't officially been declared the starter, the job is almost surely his, given that he had success last year, is the only quarterback on the roster with college experience and had a great srping. Montez has the tools to be one of the top quarterbacks in the Pac-12. He's got the ability to make plays with his feet, but with his talented arm, the Buffs will once again try to be the explosive offense they were early last season. It would not be a surprise to see Montez challenge Liufau's single-season CU record for touchdown passes (28, in 2014) or passing yards (3,200, also in 2014). It also wouldn't be a surprise if he challenged the CU record for most interceptions thrown in a season (16, by John Hessler in 1997), because of his gunslinger mentality. Montez has extreme confidence and will throw interceptions trying to make a great play here and there. As long as the good throws outweigh the bad ones, the Buffs will be fine. Redshirt freshman Sam Noyer and true freshman Tyler Lytle are likely to battle throughout the fall for the No. 2 job. Noyer has had more time to learn the offense, but both players are talented. The Buffs are also confident in walk-on Casey Marksberry should they need to use him in a pinch.

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