It’s that time again, folks.
This year, it’s much more concrete. In short, we know how the Buffs will play when they get the ball – they’ll go fast, hand the ball to Phillip Lindsay and spread the ball out wide. Those aspects will be even more magnified this year given last year’s success. There’s basically two new faces to get acquainted with, but after that, it’s the same great cast. Let’s dig a little deeper.
Returning: Steven Montez, Sam Noyer, Casey Marksberry (WO), T.J. Patterson (WO)
Departing: Sefo Liufau
Newbies: Tyler Lytle
This is possibly the most interesting position on the offense to preview, largely because it is losing the most. That’s right, Sefo Liufau is gone from Boulder. This is not a Sefo Liufau appreciation article, but we do have to get a sense of what we lost. Sefo was a four year starter, is an unparalleled passer in CU QB history, and leaves behind unbelievable leadership and toughness. He was the soul of the team last year and replacing his intangibles will be just as hard as replacing his record-breaking stats.
Fortunately, CU’s next QB has already learned on the job. Steven Montez is now the Prince that Was Promised (GOT is gonna worm its way in here, y’all). Last year, after Sefo Liufau took a huge licking against Michigan, Montez was thrust into a game against a top-10 game and performed like a backup redshirt freshman would. Then, the very next week, he became the first CU QB in history to pass for 300 yards and rush for 100 against Oregon. The week after, with Sefo still hurt, he put on an incredibly efficient performance against Oregon State en route to a 47-6 win. Against USC and Washington, he struggled. But do did a lot of other quarterbacks. Basically, his 2016 was a season that showed his incredible potential and also a need for caution. His passer efficiency rating against Idaho State, Oregon, and OSU: 200 on the dot. His passer rating against USC, Washington, and Oklahoma State: 90 on the dot. When he started a game and prepared for that week, he was dazzling, with physical tools that Sefo never had. When he came in as a backup (and also faced tougher defenses), he struggled. This year, he doesn’t have the leeway to struggle like he did. Nor do I think he will.
Montez is blessed with a gunslinger’s arm to go along with his mentality. He can and does fit the ball into almost any window, and no throw is too difficult for him to attempt. Case in point here against USC. But that is not the full extent of his natural talent. He’s tough, taking numerous huge hits last year, and he has exciting potential in his legs, as evidenced by his rushing totals last year (231 yards on a 4.4 average). He’s lost plenty of pounds this offseason in an effort to get more dynamic and is unquestionably the #1 QB going into camp.
Montez has the ability to be special, but he needs to show that he can do it against all the teams on the schedule. Luckily, he has a few tune-up games before Washington on September 23.
My prediction? Montez will act as an extension of himself in 2016. He will absolutely perform as one of the conference’s better QBs… most of the time. I don’t want him to lose his absolute confidence, as I think it does more good than bad, but the bad stuff could be crippling. The biggest improvement will be in his preparation. As a starter all the time, he knows that he has everyone’s full support as a leader and a player. Playing in Sefo’s shadow can be tough, but Montez has all tools to succeed him well.
Sam Noyer is a great heir to the throne. He is the Stannis to Tyler Lytle’s Renly (both Baratheons, of course). Sam is accurate, poised, and confident in his arm. As a former pitcher and quarterback, he knows how to use his arm to full effectiveness. Noyer is no athletic slouch, but it will never be an integral part of his game. He can escape, and he is really accurate throwing on the run, but he is most comfortable using his arm most of the time. If he knows the offense, he will be a fine backup. Like Stannis, he’s dependable, accurate, and laser focused.
Tyler Lytle is actually pretty similar to Renly. Lytle’s main shortcoming is that he’s really young. As an early-enrollee true freshman, Lytle has never played college football and has only spent seven months with the program. However, he has shown more than enough potential to be really exciting for Buff fans. Lytle is as physically impressive as Montez, in my opinion, and he has had experience in the toughest league in California high school football. If all goes well, he won’t play this year. He is good enough to keep a secret as long as possible.
This is the best QB depth chart in a long time. All three scholarship options have legitimate starting potential. And Montez may be on the cusp of stardom.