With fall camp a little more than two months away, Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau has yet to get an opportunity to run the Buffaloes’ retooled offense.
Head coach Mike MacIntyre isn’t worried.
As long as Liufau is healthy – and that’s still a question at this point – MacIntyre has no doubt about his senior’s ability to succeed.
“I’m expecting him to have a phenomenal year,” MacIntyre said. “I think he should have one of those years where everybody talks about Sefo in a positive stretch. I’m excited about seeing it.”
After an offseason that’s been rather tumultuous at the quarterback position, CU’s best chance for a successful season is riding on Liufau’s left foot.
The senior three-year starter suffered a Lisfranc injury to his left foot on Nov. 13 against USC, and there is still doubt about whether he’ll be ready to play this fall. All reports indicate Liufau is on track to return, however.
Since the start of the year, the Buffs have dismissed Liufau’s top backup (Cade Apsay) for violating team rules; got a potential quarterback of the future (Sheriron Jones) to transfer in, stay for a fortnight and then return to Tennessee; and then had a potential high-profile immediate starter (Davis Webb) pledge his commitment to the Buffs and then, four months later, change his mind and enroll at Cal instead.
MacIntyre has no interest in talking about the ones who got away, saying, “I’m happy with the quarterbacks we’ve got and we’ll just move on from there.”
At the top of the list is Liufau, whose foot injury kept him out of spring practices. While he has been working out and throwing the ball with receivers, he has yet to get on the field and run the offense that co-offensive coordinators Darrin Chiaverini and Brian Lindgren have designed.
MacIntyre, however, said the offense won’t be much different from what Liufau has spent three years running.
“We’ve tweaked our offense. I wouldn’t say we’ve changed our offense by any stretch of the imagination,” MacIntyre said. “We’ve gone to some things that we think will be more beneficial to what we do.
“Sefo was at every single practice, he was at every single meeting. The terminology hasn’t changed; just a tad bit. The terminology (changes) would be tweaks. There’s no learning curve whatsoever. There’s maybe just memorizing a few different terms.”
Liufau said at the end of spring that he feels sitting out has been good for his development as a quarterback, and MacIntyre agrees.
“Sefo is just a phenomenal person, so he always is looking at everything from the positive side of it,” MacIntyre said. “He took it as a learning experience. That was really the first time when his whole world stopped abruptly. I think he had time to kind of reflect, look at everything and … kind of re-evaluate a few things to make him better overall. That’s the way he approached it. His work ethic has been second to none.”
Liufau set more than 50 schools records in 2014, but also threw 15 interceptions and had some costly fumbles. Last season, he started 11 games, cut down on the turnovers and became more of a running threat, but struggled to replicate the firepower in the passing game he had as a junior.
MacIntyre said Liufau “was basically hurt the entire season,” which is why he believes the potential for major improvement is there.
“I think you’ll see a more accurate guy this year, because he’s had time to settle, get well and work on his mechanics on his own,” MacIntyre said, adding that Liufau has lost 13-14 pounds and is in great shape. “I’m looking for a guy that when he steps out there is ready to have a phenomenal year.”
If Liufau isn’t ready, MacIntyre recognizes there are question marks with the rest of his quarterbacks, but he’s confident in redshirt freshman Steven Montez and senior Jordan Gehrke.
Montez has yet to play a snap in college and Gehrke has thrown just 68 passes since joining the Buffs as a transfer three years ago.
“I thought that Steven Montez got better (during the spring) and Jordan got better,” MacIntyre said. “We’ll see how that unfolds.”
CU’s offense sputtered throughout the 2015 season, with injuries – especially to the offensive line – being major factors. The struggles led to MacIntyre revamping his coaching staff and tweaking the offense.
“Overall the offensive line improved and got a better feel for everything,” MacIntyre said. “Staying healthy there will be the key.”
If the pieces around the quarterback are better and healthy, MacIntyre is confident that adding his veteran passer to the lineup will be huge for the Buffs.
“We made some significant jumps (on offense), I thought, this spring,” MacIntyre said. “When we get Sefo out there healthy, I think we’ll make some more significant jumps.”