Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Ryan Kang / Associated Press
So far this season, the Colorado football team has shown confidence in its ability to win with two different quarterbacks.
While the Buffaloes go into this week unsure of which one will start, that’s not their biggest concern when it comes to the quarterback position. The Buffs (4-2, 2-1 Pac-12) are more interested in knowing who will start at quarterback for this week’s opponent, Arizona State (5-1, 2-1).
Starter Manny Wilkins missed last week’s game against UCLA with a high ankle sprain. While ASU expects the sophomore to start, there is enough uncertainty that the Sun Devils are also preparing true freshman Dillon Sterling-Cole, who burned his redshirt by playing the last two snaps against UCLA.
Wilkins’ primary backup this season, Brady White, started against UCLA, but suffered a season-ending foot injury.
“To me, that’s a very, very scary thing on our part to prepare for a team who we don’t really know who is going to play quarterback,” CU head coach Mike MacIntyre said.
It’s scary, MacIntyre said, because the ASU game plan could be vastly different if Wilkins plays, as opposed to Sterling-Cole.
Wilkins is an athlete dual threat, who has thrown for 1,233 yards and rushed for 254, while accounting for nine total touchdowns. If Wilkins plays, MacIntyre said, “they’ve got their whole arsenal.”
Sterling-Cole was a highly-rated prospect, but if he’s thrown into the fire for his first start, MacIntyre believes the Sun Devils could lean more towards its run game, which is led by running backs Demario Richard (436 yards, 2 TD) and Kalen Ballage (310 yards, 9 TD).
“They have two excellent — not good, but excellent — running backs, and they have a very powerful offensive line,” MacIntyre said. “So, I’m preparing for them if (Wilkins) doesn’t play, they’re going to run the ball a ton and they have good enough players to do that and try to control the game.”
MacIntyre said trying to prepare for two different quarterbacks “kind of makes it a little bit harder for us, I think.”
As for their own quarterback situation, the Buffs are once again planning to go about the week and see if senior Sefo Liufau is ready to play. If not, redshirt freshman Steven Montez will get his fourth consecutive start.
Athletic director Rick George addressed the media on Tuesday and spoke about various topics, including the success of the football team to this point. George has always expressed his high expectations for the football team and he said he’s pleased with its start.
“I like where we are,” he said. “I like the leadership that we have in the locker room with our football team and the way they’re performing. It’s a different team. Having that leadership in the locker room and having the leadership from coach MacIntyre and his staff has really got us off to a great start.
“We control our own destiny in the Pac-12 South, but the thing I like about this team is our focus is always the game ahead of us.”
George also pointed out the quality of the coaching staff and how they are working together. The key now is keeping it going.
“Let’s remember that we’re only six games through the season,” George said. “We’ve still got six games to go, so there’s a lot left to know. At the halfway point, we’re happy where we are, but we have lot of work to do these last six games.”
Each week, inside linebacker Addison Gillam becomes a bigger part of the defense. Last week in a 21-17 loss to USC, he was on the field for 30 snaps and made five tackles and a sack.
“It’s fun to see isn’t it? It’s exciting to me,” MacIntyre said. “He made some big plays Saturday, and he’ll make some big plays this Saturday. As the season has gone on, he’s played more and more and that will continue to happen. It’s great to see him out there flying around.”
Safety Afolabi Laguda said the Buffs weren’t as mentally focused and prepared as they should have been against USC, but he expects that to change this week.
“I think we’re rebounding pretty strong,” he said. “Coach Mac has definitely been on us about practicing hard and getting that intensity back in us. Last Saturday, we came out flat and we didn’t play Colorado football, so we’re definitely trying to get our edge back this week.”
MacIntyre said outside linebacker NJ Falo, who was suspended the first three games of the season, is progressing well as he gets back into football shape. Falo played 17 snaps against USC. … George took time to highlight the success of CU’s fall sports programs and said this is believed to be the first time all of CU’s teams have been ranked nationally at some point. … While the Pac-12 continues to try to work with DirecTV to carry the network, George said the best way for those subscribers to get the network is to subscribe to Sling TV. … On Tuesday, former CU offensive lineman Chris Naeole was announced as one of five members of Class of 2017 for the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame.
Brian Howell: firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.