This summer, Colorado quarterback Steven Montez had the opportunity to attend the Manning Passing Academy for the second year in a row.
While dealing with intense heat at the Nicholls State campus in Thibodaux, La., Montez’s primary focus was on the lessons being taught by two of the camps main hosts, Eli and Peyton Manning.
“Those are two probably Hall of Fame quarterbacks,” Montez said. “Seeing the work that they do and put in and hearing their words – telling us things we need to do to be great. You want to take as many notes as you possibly can. Just make sure you write down everything that they tell you. Those words are like gold.”
Throughout his career at CU, Montez has tried to soak up everything he’s been taught – and he’s heard a lot of voices.
Leading up to fall camp, which starts Thursday, Buffzone.com is previewing each position group for the Buffs. In this final installment, the focus is on the quarterbacks, which are being guided this season by offensive coordinator Jay Johnson.
Johnson is the third quarterbacks coach Montez and backups Tyler Lytle and Sam Noyer have had in the past three years. All three quarterbacks have had positive reviews of Johnson this offseason and they’ve all said that the different types of coaching they’ve received is making them better.
“It’s a good mixture for sure,” Noyer said.
Montez’s goal is to take all the teaching he’s had – from Johnson, his other coaches and the Mannings – and turn this into his best year at CU. Having started every game for the Buffs the past two years, he’s projected to start again, and the fifth-year senior is aiming to lead the Buffs to the postseason.
“It’s kind of weird knowing this is my last for sure year of college,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if I want to come back next year or not. I have to leave after this year. I think ever since I first started playing here for the Buffs, and even in high school, I kind of always just take it one step at a time and do my part. I just come in and get my work done and try to give it everything I’ve got, especially on the football field and in the film room.”
While Montez is just 12-15 as a starter, he has typically kept the Buffs in games, and he’s got a chance to break a lot of records before his CU career comes to a close. He’s also made a good impression on Johnson and first-year head coach Mel Tucker this offseason.
“He has the tools and I feel like he’s going to continue to get better as he learns our system and he gets more comfortable with our coaches,” Tucker said. “As players develop around him through the summer and through fall camp, we’ll be able to figure out what we do best offensively; what we can hang our hat on; what are the things that we can really feature; who are our best players and what works well for us with the skill set that we have collectively.”
Although Montez has some work to do in order to improve his game – as most quarterbacks do – the Buffs at least know he’s one of the top weapons on offense and he’s got a talented group of receivers catching his passes. Montez is one of the Pac-12’s most experienced and talented passers.
Aside from Montez, it’s difficult to know exactly how good the Buffs are at quarterback because nobody else has played much. Noyer and Lytle have thrown a combined 46 passes in their career.
Throughout the spring, Tucker and Johnson were complimentary of the progress being made by all the quarterbacks, and Noyer and Lytle played well in the spring game. Although not facing the Buffs’ top defense, they both looked poised and comfortable, providing some encouragement going forward.
“I’m proud of them,” Johnson said at the end of spring. “I think they all have really progressed. We have a long ways to go, but we’ve made some progress.”
The Buffs are hoping that progress – by Montez and the others – results in this being a position of strength all season.
Returners (2018 statistics)
Tyler Lytle, So., 6-5, 220 (4-of-5, 55 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT; rush: 4 att., minus-14 yards)
Steven Montez, Sr., 6-5, 230 (258-of-399, 2,849 yards, 19 TD, 9 INT; rush: 94 att., 238 yards, 4 TD)
Sam Noyer, Jr., 6-4, 220 (8-of-14, 60 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT; rush: 4 att., minus-8 yards)
Blake Stenstrom, Fr., 6-4, 220 (redshirted last year)
Josh Goldin, Jr., 6-2, 190 (walk-on; played nine games as holder)
Grant Ciccarone, Fr., 6-2, 205 (walk-on; true freshman)
2019 outlook: Given the experience and continued development of Montez, the Buffs have an opportunity to be explosive on offense. He’s been a solid quarterback the past two years and if he’s taken another step or two forward, he could be elite. As long as he’s healthy, the Buffs are in good shape at quarterback. That doesn’t mean they are doomed if he gets injured, however. The Buffs just don’t know exactly what they’ve got behind him. Noyer is entering his fourth year in the program and he’s been shaky in his limited opportunities (21-of-41, 179 yards, 2 INT, 0 TD), but he’s often been thrown into difficult situations. Lytle is entering his third year in the program and his only chance to throw passes came on a frigid day against Utah last year, when he went 4-for-5 for 55 yards and an interception. Both have flashed their talent and they are getting more comfortable as they mature, but until they have a chance to start games or play meaningful snaps, they are unknowns. Stenstrom could make the backup battle interesting. He missed spring with an injury, but he has exceptional ability and a good football IQ. During fall camp, the Buffs need at least one of the three backups to take major steps forward, just in case something happens to Montez.