Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
There is an art to trash talking that Colorado quarterback Steven Montez hopes to master this season.
“Trash talking can get you a lot of places if you do it right,” he said.
Replacing four-year starter Sefo Liufau, who is now with the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Montez will bring his own talent, his own style and his own flair to field.
He also hopes to borrow a few tools that made Liufau — CU’s all-time leading passer — successful. That includes being a pest to the defense.
“A little thing that I saw with Sefo that I liked to put in my own game, as well, is to antagonize the defense a little bit, because once you get in the defense’s head, it’s over,” Montez said during CU’s media day on Tuesday. “Trash talking, that’s really a big thing.”
Watching Liufau last year, Montez said he could see defenses get frustrated and do things that were out of character because of that frustration.
“It’s all about getting into the opponents’ head, and I feel like it’s like that for a lot of sports,” Montez said.
As CU looks to defend its Pac-12 South title this season, it will rely heavily on Montez, who went 2-1 as a starter last year when Liufau injured his ankle.
The 6-foot-5, 225-pound Montez has all the physical tools to be a star for the Buffaloes, but he’s also got the confidence and the moxie to be a pain in the backside of anyone CU plays this season.
While he learned a lot from Liufau, Montez’s desire to get under the skin of the opposition began at Del Valle High School in El Paso, Tex.
“Every game, whether the first play was a run or a pass, I would drop back and tuck it and just go take off,” Montez said. “I’m not a big fan of sliding — and I know (CU co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Brian) Lindgren wants me to slide – but I would go out and either try to make someone miss or get tackled just to get that first-play jitters away and then let them know, ‘I’m going to be running the ball this game so you better be ready for it.'”
Montez’s ability to make plays with his feet, his arm and his confidence could be huge for the Buffs this season.
Head coach Mike MacIntyre said Montez has “pushed himself to another level” this offseason and is eager to see his young quarterback perform.
“I think he does have the talent to be a special player,” MacIntyre said.
For Montez to truly be special, however, the Buffs will have to live with some mistakes. Montez’s confidence in his arm can lead to forcing throws that get picked off by the defense.
“I don’t want to try to pull the reins back on him,” MacIntyre said. “You have to let him play and make his plays. At the same time, we’ve trained him and tried to train him on being smart with the football. Understanding he can’t make every throw in there.
“I’m pretty sure he’ll have a lot of good moments and he’ll have a couple bad moments, like most quarterbacks do.”
While the Buffs want Montez to avoid interceptions, they also recognize that he might take chances that result in big-time plays.
“Part of his ability to create plays on the run and make certain throws also makes him extremely dynamic,” MacIntyre said.
Last year, Liufau became a major weapon as a runner, essentially operating as a 240-pound fullback on a lot of plays. Montez has the ability to be the same type of runner, but Lindgren said Montez’s arm should be a bigger weapon.
“I think he just brings a little bit different skill set as far as some of the passing is concerned,” Lindgren said. “So, I think we’re going to be able to do some things in the pass game that we hadn’t done for the past couple of years with Sefo, which brings a new dynamic.”
That includes improvising and making throws down the field while on the run, or tucking the ball and running it for a big gain.
“It’s tough to stop a quarterback who is going to run around and make plays when things are covered,” Montez said. “As a defense, that’s probably the worst thing. It’s very frustrating for the defense if the quarterback can go out there and make plays with his legs, as well.”
Even more frustrating when the defense has to hear about it after the fact.
“That’s where that trash talk comes in,” Montez said with a smile.