Love him, hate him, or love-hate him, Steven Montez has had a prolific career at Colorado. The El Paso native will graduate at or near the top in almost every all-time passing statistic in Buffs history. He’s been slinging passes across 37 career starts, and although he didn’t necessarily grow during those four seasons, it’s still valuable to have a multiyear starter capable of winning games.
Montez was the natural successor to Sefo Liufau. While those two are cosmic opposites, the Buffs seamlessly went from one 3.5-year starter to the next 3.5-year starter. During that 2016 run to the Pac-12 Championship, senior Liufau dealt with injuries and had to be replaced by the redshirt freshman. It was then that Montez demolished Oregon in his first ever start and defeated Oregon State in his second. We knew that the Buffs had their starter for as long as Montez stayed at CU, considering his apparent NFL potential.
With 3- or 4-year starters, you have years to develop your successor at quarterback. With all that time, you hope to have a one-year stand-in at the very least, but the Buffs have not been able to develop anyone ready for 2020. Part of that is cycling through offensive coordinators and QB coaches; the one that hurts most is Kurt Roper leaving to NC State and bringing promising in-state recruit Ty Evans with him.
Sam Noyer was a practice legend, but he went deer in the headlights during games, and now he’s playing safety. Tyler Lytle was a highly rated recruit, but it doesn’t seem like he’s remotely ready, and he was injured on his first pass attempt in 2019. Blake Stenstrom was a 4-star recruit and has great size (6’4, 220) and solid touch, but it doesn’t appear he’s ready to start. The coaching staff must not be confident in Stenstrom’s ability to help (as of right now — a huge caveat) if they didn’t replace Montez with him in blowouts; it’s also worth noting that in Colorado’s loss to Washington State, Lytle came off the bench before Stenstrom did.
There’s a significant chance that Stenstrom isn’t even the QB of the future. That may be Brendon Lewis, the dual-threat QB in the 2020 recruiting class. He was recruited to CU by Jay Johnson and Darrin Chiaverini, two coaches with very different offensive styles — Johnson loves the pistol while Chiv wants to spread the field — but Lewis may be the versatile passer who thrives in elements of each. He doesn’t quite have the arm talent as Montez (or even Stenstrom) but he stands out with his feel for the game and natural playmaking ability. Even if he is the QB of the future, he’s still a true freshman next season and will need a year or two of fine-tuning.
Colorado hasn’t had uncertainty about QB play since Tyler Hansen graduated and the Buffs replaced him with Jordan Webb and Connor Wood. Obviously those two players didn’t work out — Liufau replaced them as a true freshman — but the Buffs of now are so far from where they were in 2011-12. They can get a graduate transfer who can come in and contribute immediately because they have a QB-friendly system with solid coaches and receivers.
The Buffs have recruited potential transfers at QB, but we will have to wait until transfer season starts at the end of the season. It’s not clear which teams will be QB-needy once the transfer portal heats up. We still have to wait on the coaching carousel, the draft season, and maybe even NCAA waivers to see who will be eligible in 2020.
As to the question of who will replace Montez next season, I have no idea, but he’s probably not yet on the roster.