Brian Howell / BuffZone.com
HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Steven Montez donned a Batman mask, juggled some toy footballs and posted a bowling score that was respectable.
The Colorado quarterback, along with linebacker Rick Gamboa and head coach Mike MacIntyre made the rounds at Pac-12 media day on Tuesday and Wednesday, including attending a taping of Jimmy Kimmel Live and filming promotional spots for the Pac-12 Networks.
“It’s really cool,” Montez said from the Hollywood & Highland. “They had a lot of cool activities for us to do … and that was a good time.”
While Montez and Gamboa had fun, media day signals the start of the football season being around the corner. The Buffs report to fall camp in a week, and they came to Hollywood optimistic and itching to get started.
“I’m excited,” Montez said. “I think we have a really good team; really good offense, a really good defense, as well. We’re going to look good. We need to put it all together in fall camp so we have it ready to take into the season.”
Optimism, of course, is high for all 12 teams at this event every year, but the reality is the Buffs have a lot to prove after following up their 2016 Pac-12 South title with a last-place finish last year (5-7, 2-7 conference).
In the preseason media poll released Wednesday, the Buffs were projected to finish fifth in the South. Last in six of their seven seasons in the conference, the Buffs avoided the bottom in the preseason poll for the second year in a row and even got one of the 42 first-place votes.
Defending Pac-12 champ Southern Cal (225 points, 22 first-place votes) was picked to win the South, with Utah (209, 14) a close second, followed by Arizona (178, 3), UCLA (116, 2), Colorado (80, 1) and Arizona State (72).
Washington (249, 40) was the overwhelming favorite to win the North and got 37 of 42 votes to win the title game. Stanford (198, 1), Oregon (178, 1), California (108), Washington State (98) and Oregon State (45) round out the North poll.
CU wasn’t too bothered by its spot in the poll.
“I don’t really think they matter,” Montez said of preseason predictions. “What matters is when teams are playing between the lines and between the whistles. That’s where 1-through-12 is going to get decided. It’s not preseason polls, it’s going to be actual games and the actual season.”
While the projections certainly don’t dictate where the Buffs will finish, they are an indicator of what the Buffs have done recently, and how they are perceived coming into the year. Head coach Mike MacIntyre said the Buffs have some work to do.
“There’s always a bunch of concerns (going into fall camp),” he said.
Still, his main areas of concern — in the trenches — are coupled with optimism.
“Yeah, we’re excited about some of the young guys that we have on our defensive line and our offensive line,” MacIntyre said. “I feel like they’re very athletic, so we need to keep them coming along. So, I feel we’ll be more athletic in those two areas than we have in the past. We’ll just be a little bit younger, so making those two areas come along quick would be a good deal for us.”
In addition to the lines, the Buffs have unproven talent at receiver, running back and cornerback.
The real key to returning to their 2016 form, however, might be attitude.
“I think we need to have that dog in us,” Montez said. “I think we need to get that hunger back, and if we do that, we’ll be in good shape. We need to change our mentality and be tough.”
Comparing the 2016 and 2017 seasons, Montez and the Buffs are well aware how much can change in a year, and that’s part of their motivation.
“I think last year we got a little complacent about having a winning season (in 2016) and we thought we were better than we were,” Montez said. “We need to keep that in the back of our minds how quickly it can change from season to season and stay hungry, stay wanting to work.”
Gamboa said the work ethic of the team this offseason has him excited.
“There’s a lot of guys coming to practice and coming to the meetings with a lot of energy,” he said. “They want to have fun, they want to make plays. For everybody on defense, everybody is real passionate about winning.”
With media day out of the way, the Buffs can sharpen their focus on winning. Fall camp starts in a week and the season opener, on Aug. 31 against Colorado State, isn’t far behind.
“I’m very excited to get going, finally get back to football,” Gamboa said. “We’ve been working out and lifting and running for the past two and a half months. I’m very excited to get back to actually playing football.”