What better place to start our look back at the season that was than at the quarterback position? Sefo Liufau completed a record setting year, throwing for 3,200 yards on 325 completions including 28 touchdown passes. However the stats are pretty hollow when the wins don't come and Sefo would be the first to admit it. All things considered, how does his 2014 campaign grade out and how high is his ceiling going forward? Jack Barsch and I go back and forth to hash it out.
JB: How many quarterbacks in the Pac-12 would you trade Sefo for?
PG: With quarterbacks who played this year, probably at least 10 of them. This seems harsh but it speaks more to how deep the Pac-12 is at the sport's most important position. Even a couple backups stood out and were more than effective, Mike Bercovici showed he has a live arm in his time filling in for Taylor Kelly and Luke Falk picked up right where Conor Halliday left off. The only two I definitely wouldn't exchange him for would be Cyler Miles and Travis Wilson. I still have this feeling that we haven't seen Sefo's ceiling. It's obvious that he has room for improvement and I think he'll make a jump next season. The number one issue holding him below his peers is his penchant for critical turnovers, most were avoidable this season and all cost the Buffs dearly. If he can take care of the ball next season I'd put him up against most all of the new and returning signal callers. What do you think?
JB: This may be overly optimistic, but I'd put him in the 6-8 range for this year. The quarterbacks that are sure to be above him are pretty much above everyone else in the country too, as you said. Mariota, Goff, Hundley, Mannion, Kessler, and Halladay are easily above him, but I think after that it gets dicey. Also, Solomon, I forgot about him. What a revelation he's been for Zona. Hogan is inconsistent at best, Kelley regressed in his senior year, Miles was a train wreck for a lot of the season, Wilson's main job was to hand off to Booker, and that leaves Sefo in the middle. Not much of an asset, couldn't be called a liability. In my eyes, at least.
PG: Sefo certainly has the tools to move himself into the top half of the conference's QBs and has shown more effective command of the offense at times than some of his counterparts. He did put up 3,200 yards after all, but the wins just weren't there. As cliche as this question is, and I don't want to use the word clutch but it can easily be argued that he wasn't, do you think Sefo panics under pressure? Is this just who he is or can he become more reliable in crunch time next year?
JB: I don't know if panicked is the right word, so I'll use excited instead. Not like "it's my birthday" or "House of Cards is coming back" excited, but ramped up, like a dog. I just think he feels the pressure to make a play and does too much to make said play. Overthrows, errant throw-aways, running out of the pocket, I'd argue all of that is Sefo trying to win the game all by himself. I'll always say Tom Brady's best asset is he relies on the right people at the right times, and with Sefo, I think he's missing a lot of that trust. Based on that, I do think he can fix some of the missing clutch factor. I hope he learns to just settle in the offense when it all comes down to it. You brought up his stats earlier, and that's been a hot issue because many think that it's the system, not Sefo, that put up such gaudy numbers. How much of his success can be attributed to the offensive system, and can you separate that from the player himself?
PG: I think that you're right on the point that Sefo tries to do too much in big moments, the game might still be moving pretty rapidly for him when those situations come up. I'd expect him to be more confident and steady next season having gone through all of these close calls. As for the stats, a fair amount of his performance can be chalked up to the system as well as the lack of a consistently effective running game. The Buffs were forced to make their crucial plays through the air for much of the season. But, Sefo himself had a lot to do with those offensive numbers. It's clear that he was the leader of this offense and when Jordan Gehrke saw playing time, although it wasn't in the best situations, the offense was not at all the same. I think his toughness and attitude meant a lot to what this team was able to do offensively and it certainly didn't hurt having such a reliable target in Nelson Spruce and a newfound explosive device in Shay Fields. On the flip side of that, how much of the blame for the turnovers and missed opportunities can be placed on his supporting cast? The goal line failure in Berkeley comes to mind, as well as the 4th quarter pick in Tucson. Would other Pac-12 quarterbacks fare similarly in this team's situation?
JB: I have trouble with this, as it is hard to parcel out the blame of failure in such a team sport. I agree that Sefo might have one of the least talented supporting casts in the PAC-12, but they performed admirably this year. The gap between the Buffs on offense and the rest of the PAC is closing rapidly, but I will say there were moments where they could've helped Sefo out this year. The Bobo drop in the UCLA game comes to mind. After a great fourth quarter, Bobo dropped a pass on 3rd and 2 that would've given them the first down and CU had to settle for a field goal. Little things like that will get fixed with experience and growth, hopefully. For this year, I think Sefo has to shoulder the blame for the turnovers, at least. There were so many errant throws at bad times that seemed to suck the air out of the offense, and that's why he was vilified by the fan base. The Arizona was almost single-handedly put out of reach by Sefo's turnovers, as the defense could hold, but not when the field is only 30 yards long for the offense. Would other quarterbacks make the same, if not more mistakes? I think it depends on the quarterback. The more careful ones, such as Miles, Wilson, or Kessler, would fare well, as this system is QB-friendly. But if the fans were mad at Liufau in this system, I can't imagine Halladay lasting the year. Finally, Patrick, grade his season this year. On a scale of Bernard Jackson to Darian Hagan, how did Sefo do for the Buffs? What's his ceiling? And most importantly, would you rather be a dragon or own a dragon?
PG: No love for B-Jax, Bernie-J?! He was nasty in NCAA '07. Anyways, I think Sefo is the best quarterback to have suited up in the Black and Gold since Joel Klatt but I also think there's a decent chance that he does not finish his career in Boulder as the starter. Only time will tell on that front. I love Sefo and he's a tremendous Buff, nothing would make me happier than watching him make the leap next year and place his name amongst the Pac-12's upper tier by delivering wins. I believe he does have another level in him, something along the lines of a 30 touchdown season with less than 10 interceptions. It really comes down to taking care of the ball and consistent execution, and I think improvement will be made in both of those aspects come late summer in 2015. Really, he's going to have to reach a higher level if the Buffaloes are to advance to a bowl game next year. As for this season just finished, I would give Sefo a B-. It was refreshing to watch largely competent quarterback play and yes, the team went 2-10 and yes, Sefo played a significant role in those losses but he also put his team in positions to win which they hadn't previously found themselves in before and who knows what happens if the Cal or Oregon State games break our way, I doubt the season unfolds as it did. The margin between the reality of 2-10 and the possibility of 5-7 (which some argue would have been the ONLY way to show improvement) was thinner than the cheapest BIC razor.
As for the important question, give me a pet dragon. Not only can you eventually strap a saddle on that baby and soar, dragons also make for effective doorbells and security systems and can be a tremendous bargaining chip should you be involved in any high stakes negotiations. You'd also be able to claim dragon-rearing as a shared interest with Daenerys Targaryen, so there's that. Being a dragon seems like it'd be a fairly uncomfortable existence, every meal is just so overcooked. So, Jack, sum this up with your thoughts, how would you grade Sefo's year? Do you see him progressing further? Would you rather be the fire-breathing lizard or be commanding one?
JB: Sefo has earned my trust this year, as overly optimistic as that may be. He moved the offense fantastically and garnered the team's respect as a leader. The main, or only, thing holding him back is the turnovers and the play in clutch situations, which, considering the state of CU football the past ten years, is something I can live with. I would probably give him a 6 out of 10, but with the curve, that translates to a B-,or a little above average. Given the state of affairs around him (much like himself, shaky but improving), and the defense giving him no alternative but to score on every drive, Lifuau did admirably well. I don't think he was limited by his physical abilities this year, which is good and bad, something that I've written before. The good news is that he's bound by nothing physically, so the room for improvement is there, but the bad news is that the problems may never go away or be accounted for, and the room stays vacant. I see him making a big leap as an upperclassmen, into the top 3rd of PAC-12 quarterbacks, because he's the one person on this team that would put the work in on and off the field for the whole summer. As for the dragon question, I would much rather be a dragon. Just think of the domination on the court and the field with that wingspan. I get to hang around Daenerys Targaryen all the time (not just at the dragon owner meetings, Patrick) and, presumably, the treasure of our conquests belongs to me. Plus, no taxes!