By now, Steven Montez has thrown to most of his receivers “1,000 times,” and he knows the playbook front to back.
Entering his fourth season with the Colorado football team, and following his first season as the full-time starter, Montez is feeling rather comfortable these days.
“This is probably the most comfortable I’ve been in the offense since I’ve been here,” said Montez, a junior. “I’m getting more and more of a grasp on it each day that I go out and get reps. Me and (quarterbacks coach Kurt) Roper going back and forth and him coaching me up, me leaning and taking his feedback and applying it to the game, it’s making me a better player.”
On Saturday, Montez and the Buffaloes completed their eighth of 15 spring practices with their first major scrimmage. Montez wasn’t the only one feeling pretty good about how the Buffs are doing at this point on offense after the scrimmage, which was closed to the public and media.
“For the first spring scrimmage, you want to see if they can operate the offense and I thought we did a good job of operating the offense,” co-offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini said. “I thought we did a good job of establishing some tempo early in some of those drives.
“This is the first big scrimmage of spring and we’re only eight practices in and they did some good stuff today. I’m excited about that, but we have a long way to go.”
The Buffs continue to be impressed with how some of their offensive linemen are playing, including junior guards Dillon Middlemiss and Brett Tonz and freshman guard William Sherman.
Receivers Laviska Shenault and K.D. Nixon were highlighted by some after the scrimmage, while redshirt freshman running back Alex Fontenot continues to shine.
“I think Alex Fontenot looked really good today,” Montez said. “The starting O-Line looked pretty good, as well. We had some very good protection for the most part, but I think Fontenot definitely turned some heads today.”
Chiaverini agreed, adding that Fontenot “has a bright, bright future at Colorado.”
The Buffs are hoping Montez’s future gets brighter, as well.
In his first full season as the starter, Montez had a solid year, throwing for 2,975 yards, 18 touchdowns and nine interceptions, while running for 338 yards and three touchdowns.
By all accounts, Montez is taking his game to another level this spring.
“Steven’s got command of the offense, he really does, and he tries to take command,” Roper said. “He’s got a lot of confidence and understanding on the football field and he tries to take direction of the team and then he made some really good throws (Saturday).”
Montez said Roper, hired in January, has already made a difference in improving his footwork.
“That’s the main thing that he’s been re-emphasizing, my footwork and being faster with my feet, getting them down, making sure they stay underneath me when I’m throwing the ball so I’m always balanced,” Montez said.
Another step in Montez’s development it putting some touch on the ball. He’s got a strong arm and isn’t afraid to use it, but that’s not always a good thing.
“(Working on) taking something off and putting some touch on it and knowing when to make those balls catchable and easy for the receiver to catch, so I just need to work on that some more,” he said. “I feel like I make it really difficult on the running backs when they come out of the backfield because I want to just get it to them quick and get it to them fast, but I don’t really understand (in that moment) that we’re 10 yards away and I don’t need to throw it as fast as I can.”
As Montez and his teammates continue to improve, the Buffs are encouraged by their offense at this point.
“We’ve definitely gotten better from practice one to practice eight,” Chiaverini said.
The Buffs had a full crew of officials working their scrimmage, helping to teach the players on certain penalties. … Head coach Mike MacIntyre said kicker James Stefanou “kicked the ball really well in that wind” on Saturday. He said Stefanou, Davis Price and punter Alex Kinney have all had a great spring. … MacIntyre was pleased that both sides of the ball made plays on Saturday. … Nose tackle Javier Edwards, who arrived at CU a year ago weighing around 390 pounds and played last season around 360, said he is now at 339 and is looking to get to 325 by the time the season starts