A position-by-position look at the Colorado Buffaloes:

Quarterback

Projected starter: Steven Montez, So.

Key backups: Sam Noyer, R-Fr.; Tyler Lytle, T-Fr.; Casey Marksberry, R-Fr. (walk-on)

Outlook: This may be the most talent the Buffs have had in a group of quarterbacks in a couple of decades, but there is very little experience. Montez started three games last year, going 2-1, and finishing with 1,017 yards and nine touchdowns, and he shows potential to be a star. The challenge for Montez is proving he can handle the criticism, praise, pressure and everything else that goes with being the starting quarterback. Noyer figures to be the first one off the bench, while Marksberry could get a shot at some point to preserve Lytle's redshirt.

Running back

Projected starter: Phillip Lindsay, Sr.

Key backups: Michael Adkins II, Sr.; Beau Bisharat, So.; Kyle Evans, Jr.; Donovan Lee, Sr.

Outlook: This is a very intriguing group led by Lindsay, who rushed for 1,189 yards and 16 touchdowns and caught 47 passes for 390 yards; he's one of the best backs in the country. If healthy (which he hasn't been the past two years), Adkins gives the Buffs a lethal 1-2 punch; he's rushed for 1,175 yards in his career. Bisharat is a big (6-2, 215 pounds) change of pace back primed for a breakout year. Evans (398 career yards) and Lee (422 rushing yards, 244 receiving) both have experience and add great depth.

Tight end


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Projected starter: George Frazier, Sr.

Key backups: Chris Bounds, So.; Dylan Keeney, Jr.; Eddy Lopez, Jr.; Jared Poplawski, T-Fr.

Outlook: This is primarily a blocking position in CU's offense, with Frazier, Bounds and Lopez all expected to contribute in that regard. They may get a pass or two thrown their way, but if the Buffs are going to throw to the tight ends, Keeney and Poplawski are the better options. Poplawski is the most talented of the group, but CU may want to preserve his redshirt.

Colorado’s Tim Lynott, Jr. is an important part of the Buffs’ experienced offenisve line.
Colorado's Tim Lynott, Jr. is an important part of the Buffs' experienced offenisve line. (Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer)

Wide receiver

Projected starters: Bryce Bobo, Sr.; Shay Fields, Sr.; Devin Ross, Sr.; Jay MacIntyre, Jr. (in four-receiver sets)

Key backups: Kabion Ento, Sr.; Johnny Huntley III, So.; KD Nixon, T-Fr.; Lee Walker, Jr.; Juwann Winfree, Jr.

Outlook: The deepest and most talented position group on the team, the Buffs are loaded here. Bobo (41 catches, 523 yards, 2 TD), Fields (52-845-9), Ross (66-765-5) and MacIntyre (30-390-1) are all back after big seasons in 2016 and they figure to lead this group again. Ento and Winfree are veterans who would start on a lot of teams and they'll get several passes thrown their way. Nixon could be used in a variety of ways, in the slot or even as a runner at times (he could also return kicks). Unless there are injuries, Huntley and Walker figure to make bigger contributions on special teams.

Offensive line

Projected starters: LT - Jeromy Irwin, Sr.; LG - Gerrad Kough, Sr.; C - Jonathan Huckins, Sr.; RG - Tim Lynott Jr., So.; RT - Aaron Haigler, So.

Key backups: Josh Kaiser, Jr.; Dillon Middlemiss, So.; Isaac Miller, So.; Colby Pursell, T-Fr.; Brett Tonz, So.

Outlook: Arguably the best group of starters CU has had in a number of years. Four of the five are returning starters, with Huckins being the "newcomer." While he's a first-time starter at center, Huckins has 13 career starts (at guard) and 26 career games under his belt. As a group, the starters have 83 career starts, and if they stay healthy, they could be a real key to this season. The Buffs like their backups, but there's a grand total of 102 career offensive snaps played (71 by Kaiser, 31 by Middlemiss) among them.

Defensive line

Projected starters: Leo Jackson III, Sr.; Javier Edwards, Jr.; Chris Mulumba, Jr.

Key backups: Jase Franke, Jr.; George Frazier, Sr.; Lyle Tuiloma, So.; Frank Umu, So.

Outlook: This is an entirely new group of starters, led by Jackson. The senior started 10 games in 2015 and has played in all 26 games over the past two years. Edwards and Mulumba are both junior college transfers, so they've got game experience in college, just not at the Division I level. The Buffs love the potential of both players. The backups all have the potential to be very good, as well, but they need to show it on game day. Expect more rotation up front than last year.

Outside linebacker

Projected starters: Derek McCartney, Sr.; Terran Hasselbach, Jr.

Key backups: Jacob Callier, T-Fr.; Timothy Coleman, Sr.; Michael Mathewes, Jr.; Dante Sparaco, T-Fr.

Outlook: Graduation and attrition hit this area hard, but this could be a fun group to watch. McCartney missed the last 11 games with a torn ACL last year, but he's got 24 career starts and the potential to be one of the best in the Pac-12. Hasselbach and Coleman are veterans (57 games played between them) itching to prove themselves in bigger roles. Callier and Sparaco have been impressive as true freshmen. At least one of them may redshirt, but expect to see at least one of them on the field.

Inside linebacker

Projected starters: Rick Gamboa, Jr.; Drew Lewis, Jr.

Key backups: Akil Jones, R-Fr.; Nate Landman, T-Fr.; Jonathan Van Diest, T-Fr.

Outlook: Perhaps the key to the defense is this group, which has a lot to prove. Gamboa has started 25 games over the past two years and is one of the most intelligent players on the team. If he's healthy and can take his game to another level, that'll be huge for the Buffs. Lewis is a freak of an athlete, but doesn't have very experience. The Buffs need him to quickly sharpen his game early in the season. The backups are all raw, but show great potential in the future.

Buff back

Projected starter: Ryan Moeller, Sr.

Key backups: Evan Worthington, Jr.

Outlook: Moeller moved into this role a year ago and flourished. Worthington — back after a year-long suspension - has had a great offseason and pushed for this job, as well. Either one of them could be on the field in this position at any time and there may be a lot of times when they're both on the field because they are both so valuable.

Safety

Projected starters: Afolabi Laguda, Sr.; Nick Fisher, Jr. or Moeller

Key backups: Worthington; Kyle Trego, Jr.

Outlook: Laguda returns for his second full season as a starter and is embracing a leadership role on the defense. He needs to be more consistent than a year ago, and if he is, he could be one of the top safeties in the Pac-12. The other position will mostly be manned by the trio of Fisher, Moeller and Worthington. Fisher is the least experienced of the trio, but proved his talent when named Pac-12 defensive player of the week after CU's win against Washington State last year.

Cornerback

Projected starters: Isaiah Oliver, Jr.; Trey Udoffia, R-Fr.; Worthington (nickelback)

Key backups: Ronnie Blackmon, R-Fr.; Derrion Rakestraw, So.; Dante Wigley, So.

Outlook: It all starts with Oliver, who could be one of the best corners in the Pac-12. Last year's third corner, Oliver has only started six games in his career, but he's already got valuable experience covering elite receivers. Behind Oliver is no experience at the Division I level (except for walk-on Andrew Bergner). Udoffia had a sensational offseason and won the starting job opposite Oliver. The versatile Worthington could be used here, as well, while the Buffs like the upside of Blackmon, Rakestraw and Wigley.

Specialists

Projected starters: Alex Kinney, Jr. (punter); James Stefanou, T-Fr. (kicker); J.T. Bale, So. (snapper); T.J. Patterson, Sr. (holder)

Key backups: Chris Graham, Sr.; Davis Price, So.

Outlook: Last year was a rough one for the special teams, but this year figures to be much better. Kinney, a third-year starter at punter, had his best camp. Stefanou, a 30-year-old freshman from Australia, is likely to win the kicking job. He has a strong leg and if he can show solid accuracy, he'll be an upgrade over what Graham and Price did a year ago.

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