If there’s anything we know about the Colorado Buffaloes offense, it’s that they have firepower. But for as many incredible players there are, the heights the CU offense can reach will depend on quarterback Steven Montez.
Top to bottom, there may be no other team in the Pac-12 with as many weapons as the Buffs. Phillip Lindsay is a Tasmanian devil playing running back. Shay Fields is the game-breaker. Devin Ross, Bryce Bobo, Juwann Winfree and Jay MacIntyre (plus Kabion Ento, John Huntley, the freshmen, etc.) are the depth that will make it impossible for any opposing secondary to match up with them. And meanwhile on the offensive line, Jeromy Irwin and Tim Lynott will lead an experienced and promising group that will open everything up.
It’s all there on offense. The Buffs just need a consistent quarterback to lead them.
Steven Montez could be anything. He can be a multi-dimensional savant capable of destroying the backbone of any defense, just as we saw him do against Oregon when he became the first CU quarterback to throw for over 300 yards and run for over 100. He can be an erratic gunslinger capable of throwing away scoring chances on unnecessary risks, just as he did against USC and Washington’s vaunted defenses. He can also be — and will likely be — anything in between.
Montez is something of a mystery. The quarterback he is on a
game-by-game quarter-by-quarter pass-by-pass basis is up in the air and up for grabs. Jack Barsch, in part of his 2017 Season Preview, linked his consistency issues partly with how prepared he was coming into games — he had a QB rating of 200 in his three starts and a rating of 90 in the three games he came off the bench — and partly because the defenses he was often forced into action against were stronger defenses. Once he’s starting every week, the logic follows, consistency will come. But at the same time, Montez will be Montez, and just as he makes brilliant passes that defy the impossible, he’ll make silly passes that will leave you scratching your head.
All that said, Montez doesn’t have to be a mystery just because he’s been one in the past. If he can find consistency and improve his decision making, he wouldn’t just be the offense’s caretaker, he could be a game-breaking threat that can turn this offense into one of the best in the nation.
It’s unfair to assume Montez will play every week as he did against Oregon when he was named Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week. Nobody can play like that every week, not without being a Heisman contender. But he doesn’t have to be liquid gold to be incredibly valuable. If Montez can figure out the mental side of the quarterback position and avoid trying to make up for his mistakes in one play (Jack Barsch would say he tries to make a 21-point play), he can focus on making the right play.
In this fast-paced spread offense, creating points is less about the big play as it is about making the right play over and over again. This offense is built for the quarterback to just get the ball to the playmakers in space. Let Shay Fields work some magic on the outside. Let Devin Ross fool some defenders in the slot. Let Phillip Lindsay run wild through the open lanes. Just get them the ball and the offense will be great.
If Montez can play to adhere to this philosophy and let the offense move consistently, progressively up the field, the offense can function to the best of its abilities. As a bonus for Montez, the more he makes the right play, the more strained the defense will be, and once the opportunity arises, he can make the big play to break the defense. Glory can be had if he stays focused and patient.
Montez will be Montez, but he can find consistency by learning to make the right play. If he does that, the Colorado offense should take off to unparalleled heights. They could even be unstoppable.