CU football: Buffs find some spring answers at QB, receiver, O-line

Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Right tackle Shane Callahan is congratulated by co-offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini during Saturday’s spring game. Callahan is one of several players in the mix for the starting spot at right tackle.

Before the start of spring football in early March, listed five key questions for the Colorado Buffaloes.

With Saturday’s annual spring game in the books and the Buffs facing just one more practice on Monday, it’s time to look back at those five questions and see if the Buffs answered them.

1. How will the coaches work together on offense?

CU’s offensive coaching staff is completely different from last year, either in new faces or new job descriptions. At the head of that list is co-coordinators Darrin Chiaverini and Brian Lindgren.

By all accounts, it was a smooth spring in this regard. Players responded well to both coordinators, to new running backs coach Darian Hagan and to Klayton Adams (offensive line) and Gary Bernardi (tight ends/fullbacks) being in new positions.

Junior running back Phillip Lindsay, one of the leaders of the team, said the duo of Chiaverini and Lindgren at the top of the offense has been a good one to this point. “They’ve been working real well together,” he said. “We needed that mix.”

Lindsay added that the running backs have loved Hagan, saying “he’s like a true father to us.”

2. Can they find five starting offensive linemen?

Fifteen practices wasn’t enough to get this accomplished, but the Buffs are on their way.

Being new to coaching the CU offensive line, Adams spent his spring moving players around to try to find the best group. The actual goal was to come out of spring with about eight players they felt comfortable with using up front, but it’s really still about a 12-man battle.

Junior left tackle Jeromy Irwin did not participate in spring, which hamstrung the development of the line a bit. Still, figure Irwin to start at left tackle, Gerrad Kough at left guard and Alex Kelley at center. Kelley will get plenty of competition from Tim Lynott and Jonathan Huckins in the fall.

Lynott may have the upper hand in the battle for right guard at this point, but John Lisella and Huckins are very much in the mix. Right tackle is wide open, with Shane Callahan, Aaron Haigler, Sam Kronshage and Isaac Miller battling.

CU may not have fully answered this question this spring, but the Buffs did find several good pieces to work with and there’s optimism that the group will be better this fall.

3. Will a clear clubhouse leader emerge at quarterback?

This is an unquestioned “Yes.”

Redshirt freshman Steven Montez seized his opportunity and had a great spring. He didn’t show it so much on Saturday, but Montez was praised by coaches and teammates throughout the spring — not only for his arm and overall athletic ability but for his leadership and rapport with teammates.

Senior Jordan Gehrke had a good spring, and the Buffs are still expecting senior Davis Webb to transfer from Texas Tech and hoping senior Sefo Liufau will be fully recovered from a foot injury. Montez may not go into the season as the starter, but he certainly did what he needed to during the spring.

“We kind of play with him a little bit and be like, ‘If you don’t get the job done, we’ve got reinforcements coming in,’ ” receiver Shay Fields said. “He kind of laughs and steps his game up a lot.”

4. Can they seal the edges on defense?

The Buffs’ defense got a lot better last year, but defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt is hoping they can get more of a pass rush from their base defense, rather than having to blitz and stunt as much as they did last year.

During the spring, the Buffs made some progress, but they aren’t there yet. Leavitt said he still figures they’ll have to use blitzes to get to the quarterback. Senior Jimmie Gilbert and sophomore NJ Falo played well in the spring, though, and improved as pass rushers. Junior Derek McCartney missed a lot of spring with health issues but he’ll be counted on.

It’s a solid group, but one that needs to get better.

5. Which playmakers will establish themselves at receiver?

Fields had a solid spring and is expected to be one of the Buffs’ top receivers this season. The star this spring, however, was junior Devin Ross.

Ross caught 25 passes for 324 yards last year but had several critical drops — leading some to believe he might be a candidate to move to cornerback. That’s no longer a question because Ross was sensational in the spring and caught just about everything thrown his way. During the spring game, he caught eight passes — five for first downs — and didn’t have any drops. Ross could be a huge weapon in the slot this season.

Junior college transfer Kabion Ento also impressed coaches, and sophomore Jay MacIntyre had a good spring.

Brian Howell:, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.