Sophomore quarterback Steven Montez continues to impress his teammates and coaches as he enters his first year as the starter.

On Thursday, which was Colorado's fifth practice of camp and first in full pads, he impressed head coach Mike MacIntyre even more.

"I've been pleased with how he's been able to understand the (pass) protection better now," MacIntyre said. "He understands who the free guy is, he understands when the blitz is coming and how to get rid of it, how to dump it to his (running) back on certain situations. I've noticed that more and more now. That's a huge step to me.

"He showed it more today because we did a little more blitzing today with full pads on, and I was really pleased with that."

Hitting time

MacIntyre said Thursday was a "very physical practice" with the Buffs in full pads.

"They were competing like crazy, so it was good," he said.

MacIntyre added that his team is doing a good job of competing, but avoiding cheap shots, late hits, and hits on players in a defenseless position.

"They've done a really good job of taking care of each other but competing at the same time," he said. "It usually is more difficult for (the younger players), but the older guys are teaching them and showing them. I think they're learning that."

Pressure kicks

At the end of Thursday's practice, the whole team gathered around true freshman kicker James Stefanou, yelling at him and putting pressure on him as he attempted a field goal. The kick was good.


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"James made a big kick there," MacIntyre said. "It was fun, it was good. The kids the last two practices had a lot of enthusiasm, which was great."

Stefanou, a 30-year-old former professional soccer player from Australia, has adjusted well this summer to Boulder and MacIntyre said he's been kicking well.

"The other guys are kicking good, too, and I've been really pleased with Alex Kinney at punter," MacIntyre said. "He's punted the best he's ever punted."

Coaches poll

The Amway Coaches Poll of the season was released on Thursday, with the Buffs just outside of the Top 25. They were technically 27th, as the second team under "others receiving votes."

"Where were we ranked last year?" MacIntyre asked in jest, knowing the Buffs weren't expected to be very good a year ago before going 10-4 and winning the Pac-12 South. "I don't take any stock (in a preseason poll)."

He does, however, hope his players use the poll as motivation.

"I think you always need to have a chip on your shoulder in anything you do in life," he said. "If you don't, you get complacent and people pass you by."

In the coaches' poll, Alabama is No. 1, followed by Ohio State, Florida State, Southern California and Clemson in the top five.

Aside from USC, the Pac-12 is represented by Washington (No. 7), Stanford (No. 14) and Utah (No. 25). Washington State was just ahead of CU as the top unranked vote-getter.

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