Colorado kicks off its season Sept. 1 against in-state rival Colorado State, but fans can catch a glimpse of the Buffaloes this week at Pac-12 Media Days.
Mike MacIntyre will take the stage Wednesday as he looks to keep the momentum going from a dream 10-win season. He’ll be joined in Hollywood by running back Phillip Lindsay and defensive end Derek McCartney.
Here are Colorado’s biggest storylines and questions heading into Pac-12 Media Days:
Was the rise for real?
That’s the question everyone is asking. Was last season’s out-of-nowhere 10-win season and Pac-12 South title an aberration triggered by down competition and overachievement by an experienced, senior-dominated group? Or is the turnaround at Colorado something sustainable based on the culture change started by MacIntyre and his staff?
Will Mike MacIntyre take heat for his handling of the Joe Tumpkin scandal?
MacIntyre and athletic director Rick George were reprimanded and required to give $100,000 to domestic violence awareness groups after it was discovered that mistakes were made in the protocol of reporting allegations of domestic violence.
MacIntyre is not likely to face further discipline in the matter. Still, promoting Joe Tumpkin (who has since been fired) to defensive coordinator in December for the team’s bowl game after learning about Tumpkin’s alleged long-time domestic abuse is not a good look. It has stained MacIntyre’s reputation on campus and beyond.
Meet the best WR corps in the country
Shay Fields, Devin Ross and Bryce Bobo are not household names to many outside Colorado, but there may not be a better trio of receivers in the country. Each can beat you deep. Each can make catches in traffic. Each can take a short slant to the house.
They combined for 169 catches, 2,218 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2016, despite the Buffaloes throwing an average of 33 times a game (50th most in FBS). The rising seniors lead a deep, talented group of playmakers called the #BlackoutBoyz. They will keep defenses guessing about which one will get the ball.
Is Steven Montez the real deal?
Montez was electric in three games as the starting quarterback last season after taking over for oft-injured Sefo Liufau. His breakout performance came at Oregon, where he threw for 333 yards and 3 TDs while running for 135 yards and another score. He followed up with a 293-yard, 3-TD effort vs. Oregon State.
Montez is relatively inexperienced, but at 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds he is a strong quarterback with the athleticism to make things happen if the pocket breaks down. If he can take advantage of his opportunities and efficiently lead the Buffaloes offense, the redshirt sophomore has a chance for a big season.
How do you replace 3 NFL draft picks in the secondary?
Chidobe Awuzie, Ahkello Weatherspoon and Tedric Thompson had incredible seasons in 2016. The Buffs secondary was one of the best in the nation, ranking fifth in opponents completion percentage. All three are gone to the NFL, so who steps up?
Junior cornerback Isaiah Oliver is a budding star, and senior safety Afolabi Laguda is a hard-hitting, experienced veteran who leads a deep group of talented, hungry defenders. There likely will be a dropoff in production (Thompson and Weatherspoon led the country in passes defended last season with 23 each), but it might not be as problematic as many suspect.