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Colorado Football: Five things to watch in Boulder after spring ball

Rise and Grind—What are going to be the storylines for the Buffaloes going into the 2018 season?

NCAA Football: Virginia Tech at Miami Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The spring game for the Colorado Buffaloes was the last hint of football for fans until fall practice begins in August. Coach Mike MacIntyre’s and the Buffs avoided outside distractions and issues while bringing the focus back to the Buffs improvement coming off a 5-7 record. Here are five things to watch throughout the next month and going forward into the 2018 season.

Is Steven Montez competing for a starting job at quarterback?

Not really. Montez has worked harder this offseason and has a full season as a starter behind him. He knows the routine at this point. The Junior from El Paso, Texas remains confident that he’ll be starting when the Buffaloes take the field in the Rocky Mountain Showdown on Sept. 1. CU’s coaches are expecting better competition in practice this season from backups Tyler Lytle and Sam Noyer, keeping the pressure on Montez to play at a high level. At the end of the day, the starting quarterback position is Montez’s to lose at this point.

The next class of “Blackout Boys” has arrived

The drive of offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini is a huge plus for the Buffaloes offense. With the fantastic trio of Bryce Bobo, Shay Fields and Devin Ross exiting to the NFL, a new class of excellent route runners are waiting in the wings. JUCO transfer Juwann Winfree showed promise last season while recovering from a torn ACL and looks ready to help usher in a new class of playmakers. The east coast phenom along with Texas Tech transfer Tony Brown are two underrated receivers among a group of mostly young, electrifying talents like Laviska Shenault, K.D. Nixon and Jaylon Jackson. Filling in the gaps are seniors Jay MacIntyre and Kabion Ento who are primed to contribute more as potential starters.

A turnaround in D.J. Eliot’s second season in Boulder?

CU’s disappointing results on defense last year gave a harsh look into how much Jim Leavitt meant to ‘The Rise’. Eliot was thrown into a role that was difficult to embrace with a pre- existing staff not built to support him. A year later and several changes among the defensive assistants could bring new life to Eliot’s designed 3-4 scheme. The biggest question mark for 2018 could boil down to a lack of talent across the board due to losses at key positions. But with young talent from the Buffaloes solid last two recruiting classes ready to step into key roles the future is bright.

MacIntyre’s newest assistants are difference makers

One thing very different from seasons past in Mike MacIntyre’s tenure is the addition of new coaches along with the departure of his older San Jose State carryovers. The much needed moves show a consistent effort to enrich the program into being a national contender again. New quarterback coach Kurt Roper brings a background of ‘Power 5’ experience to Mac’s staff and is invaluable to the growth of Steven Montez. At first glance, Roper and Chiaverini are primed to take the Buffs offense to the next level project in coming years. Kwahn Drake in place of the exiting Jim Jeffcoat on the defensive line will bring excellent results in terms of recruiting. After holding the same position at Eastern Illinois, Drake and Ashley Ambrose in the secondary will help revamp CU’s defense at much needed positions.

Why adding Travon McMillian is the most important move for Darrin Chiaverini’s offense

Out of all of Colorado’s new players heading to Boulder in 2018, Travon McMillian may be the most important. The Virginia Tech graduate transfer running back intends to pick up where Phillip Lindsay left off at the end of last season. McMillian rushed for 2,153 yards and 16 touchdowns over the past three seasons as a starter in Blacksburg. He brings a physical style of play with decent speed and is likely a “day one” starter for the Buffs. No question that McMillian is built to thrive In Chiaverini’s offense.