Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
For the past eight months, Colorado football coaches have worked tirelessly to fix an offense that struggled throughout the 2015 season.
Now just three weeks shy of the season opener against Colorado State, the Buffaloes are feeling good about the work they’ve done.
“I think we’re doing well,” quarterback Sefo Liufau said. “There’s been some ups and downs in days and practices, but I think for the most part we’re trending upward, especially on the offense, which is a good thing to see.”
CU managed just 24.6 points per game a year ago, and that number slipped to 19.7 per game in Pac-12 play.
In December, the Buffs added former CU receiver Darrin Chiaverini to the coaching staff as a receivers coach and co-offensive coordinator with Brian Lindgren. That duo had a good offeason putting a plan together, and it’s been a smooth transition into fall camp.
“I think we’ve worked really well together and we’ve blended things,” Lindgren said. “I like the package that we’ve got.
“We’ve definitely developed a trust factor between each other and I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve become a better coach because of it.”
Lindgren, who brings a calm, quiet demeanor, will call plays and sit in the press box during games, with Chiaverini — who brings much more fire to the field — on the field with players.
While their approaches are different, it’s worked well to this point, but it’s almost time to prove their plan will work.
“At the end of the day, it’s about winning and losing,” Chiaverini said. “We have to win football games.”
CU took a big jump defensively last year and is expected to be much better this season. Because of that, Chiaverini has been encouraged by the offenses’ ability to move the ball in camp.
“I think we have a good defense, so if we can make some yards on our defense and get some first downs and score points against our defense, I think we’ll be pretty good,” Chiaverini said.
The key to the offense, of course, is Liufau. The senior, three-year starter, missed spring football while recovering from a foot injury. Now that he’s back on the practice field, players and coaches alike have said there’s a different vibe to the offense.
“You can tell he’s spent a lot of the summer working with those (receivers) and it’s nice to have that guy that has that game experience out there,” Lindgren said. “Those guys really trust and believe in him. We just have a little bit of extra energy, a different energy than we had in the spring, which has been nice to see.”
Linebacker Addison Gillam said the offense is a lot quicker than it’s been in the past and he’s been impressed with the adjustments made on offense.
“They seem like they have an answer for everything (thrown at them by the defense),” he said.
Liufau admitted he was rusty the first couple days of camp as he got back into the flow of practicing, but has felt confident ever since.
“I’ve felt in tune with the offense, understanding everything that’s going on and we’re clicking for the most part,” he said.
Liufau added that he’s done a better job of moving onto the next play mentally, and he’s been more consistent than in the past.
While Liufau’s return has boosted the offense, there’s confidence in backups Steven Montez and Jordan Gehrke to get the job done, too, if needed. The two of them got most of the reps in spring ball with Liufau out, and it’s paying off now.
“There’s no words I can put on how much that spring helped me,” Montez said. “It just made me a better football player; it got me closer to the playbook.”
The Buffs will put their offense on display Saturday during an open scrimmage at Folsom Field. It may wind up being a rather vanilla set of plays, and several backups are expected to play, but head coach Mike MacIntyre wants to see a sharp performance from the offense.
“I would hope that we have good rhythm and execution,” MacIntyre said. “They’ll be out there without the coaches on the field with them. We’ll truly see what they know and that’s what I talk to the coaches about. On those scrimmage days or certain periods where we don’t have any coaches on the field, you’ll see what they really know and then you know what you can coach off of better.”
Surely, the Buffs will come away from Saturday with a set of things to work on before the Sept. 2 opener against CSU. At this point, however, they feel good about where they are offensively.
“It’s just getting on the same page and being consistent,” running back Phillip Lindsay said. “We have the potential to have a great offense, but we just have to take it day by day.”
Brian Howell: firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.