BOULDER, Colo. (AP) – Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau mingled with the Mannings this summer at their annual camp. He also added some pop to his passes by bulking up in the weight room.
All part of the evolution of Liufau, who took over in the fifth game last season and never glanced back as he set school marks for yards passing (1,779) and TDs (12) by a true freshman.
His next step? Leading the Buffaloes back to a bowl game, where they haven’t been since 2007. The Buffaloes finished 4-8 (1-8 Pac-12) in coach Mike MacIntyre’s first season in charge, but they’re already thinking big in the baking heat of August.
“Everyone here feels we can do this,” Liufau said. “We have a lot more drive and focus compared to last year. That’s not to dog anyone from last year’s team, but I think everyone is a lot more comfortable and sees the plan that the coach is trying to implement.”
Liufau bulked up 20 pounds in the offseason. His throws now have more zip on them, MacIntyre pointed out. The coach also noticed a different demeanor in his sophomore QB, even more so since he participated in the Manning camp.
A few days with Peyton, Eli and Archie in Thibodaux, Louisiana – along with other top college quarterbacks – did wonders for Liufau’s confidence and competitive spirit.
“I’ve just seen a difference in his work ethic and how he works,” MacIntyre said. “When he went in (to games) as a freshman last year he was just making sure he got the snap count right. It was hard for him to see the whole picture.
“It’s kind of like you have a tight lens when you’re young and then it kind of opens and it opens and it opens. I see his lens opening, which helps him be a better player.”
Gone, though, is electric wideout Paul Richardson, who’s now with the Seattle Seahawks. That opens the door for Nelson Spruce, a 6-foot-1, 195-pound junior who had 55 catches for 650 yards last season.
“I feel comfortable kind of stepping into a bigger role and expanding what I do,” Spruce said.
Five things to know about Colorado football:
RAM TOUGH: Some teams might shy away from a rivalry game right out of the gate, but MacIntyre embraces their meeting with Colorado State on Aug. 29 because, “it heightens the awareness of our kids. I’ve always said it’s a 365-day-a-year game. You hear about it everywhere you go for 365 days.”
BOWL OR BUST: MacIntyre likes the notion his players are talking about the possibility of a bowl appearance. Still, he’s trying to keep them grounded. “We look at each game we play as a season in itself,” MacIntyre said.
YOUNG LEADERS: Although only a sophomore, linebacker Addison Gillam was named one of the team’s captains. Same with Liufau. “Anyone can be a leader, really, as long as they’re doing the right thing,” said Gillam, who had a team-leading 119 tackles last season. “I don’t think age should really matter.”
DEVIL OF A TIME: Freshman tailback Phillip Lindsay has been dubbed the “Tasmanian Devil” for his intensity on the field. And while the Buffs have a crowded backfield that includes sophomore Michael Adkins II, junior Christian Powell and senior Tony Jones, Lindsay has still caught the eye of MacIntyre. The coach said if he were alone in a dark alley, Lindsay would be one of the players he’d like to have by his side. “I know one thing: He’d be going 100 miles per hour and I could run out of there,” MacIntyre joked. “He brings that contagious fighter’s attitude every day.”
MOTIVATION: Lately, MacIntyre has been sporting a wristband with the word “Uncommon” on it. That’s become their mantra this season. “We want them to be uncommon in really everything they do in life: How they treat people, how they do academically in school, the things that they’re doing with their teammates,” MacIntyre explained. “Don’t just be common. Anybody can be common.”
– By Pat Graham, AP Sports Writer
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