FUTURE OF BUFFS
Freshmen show great promise
When the long line of seniors, flowers in hand, left the tunnel at Folsom Field at the end of November before Colorado’s final home game, CU’s veterans were trotting a path many of them had traveled often for four full years.
When Mike MacIntyre took over as CU’s coach in 2013, he didn’t have the luxury of waiting for members of that talented freshman class. They had to play. They had to take their lumps, as they were better than the upperclassmen on his roster.
One year earlier, in 2012 under former coach Jon Embree, true freshmen had made 57 starts. Then MacIntyre added 29 starts to that total in his first season.
Things are different as No. 11 CU (10-3) prepares for the Dec. 29 Alamo Bowl against No. 13 Oklahoma State (9-3) in San Antonio. For the first time since 2001, the Buffs didn’t start a true freshman this season. Further, only three redshirt freshmen — offensive linemen Tim Lynott and Aaron Haigler and quarterback Steven Montez — made starts this season.
Those figures speak to the veteran presence that existed on a team that authored the greatest single-season turnaround in Pac-12 history, but it also underscores the benefit of the 15 extra practices CU is able to conduct by a way of its spot in the postseason.
“It’s like it’s given us more days of spring practice, more preparation,” MacIntyre said. “You can get your hands on those guys and coach them more, which I think they really enjoy. I think it’s been good for our coaches and good for our guys.”
Though playing time didn’t come as frequently for first- and second-year freshman this season as it had in the past, a number of those players will be leaned upon once the Alamo Bowl is over and preparation begins in earnest for next season.
Here are five true and redshirt freshmen who could be pillars going forward:
Tim Lynott, offensive lineman. The 6foot-3, 300-pound former Regis Jesuit star nearly played as a true freshman last season. This season, Lynott started every game at right guard and was one of CU’s most consistent offensive linemen.
He was named a first-team freshman AllAmerican by USA Today, the first Buffs player to receive that accolade since linebacker Addison Gillam in 2013. Lynott could be considered to play center next season as the Buffs lose senior Alex Kelley. Either way, Lynott figures to be an anchor of the Buffs’ line for several seasons to come.
Steven Montez, quarterback. It was the best of both worlds for CU this season when it came to the quarterback position. Sefo Liufau got to write an impressive legacy to end a career that has seen him set 98 school records. But the Buffs also got to see the heir apparent, Montez, perform on some huge stages.
For the most part, Montez impressed. He bounced back from an 0-for-7 relief performance at Michigan to pass for more than 300 yards and run for more than 100 in a signature victory over Oregon.
Montez will have competition for the quarterback spot next season, with current true freshman Sam Noyer and CU commitment Tyler Lytle among the candidates. But the experience Montez gained this season should be a huge boon to his chances.
Anthony Julmisse, defensive back. As one of only four true freshman to see action this season, Julmisse averaged 22.6 yards on 17 kickoff returns. He also showed a natural knack for playing defensive back, picking off a pass in CU’s win over Idaho State in September. With several members of CU’s standout secondary leaving after this season, Julmisse could get the chance to make a big impact next season.
Aaron Haigler, offensive lineman. The Los Angeles native, who grew up in nearby Northridge, Calif., started six games at right tackle this season as a redshirt freshman and played in 11 overall. Competition along the offensive line should be fierce heading into next season, with only Kelley set to graduate, but Haigler’s experience gained this season should give him a chance to make a strong impact.
Johnny Huntley, wide receiver. The true freshman saw most of his duty on special teams. He also had a 14-yard catch during CU’s win over Idaho State. CU won’t lose a single player from this season’s talented receiving corps, but Huntley, from Plantation, Fla., has the big-play ability that will give him a chance to carve out a role.
CU redshirt freshman quarterback Steven Montez gains yardage against Oregon State. Montez this season passed for 1,017 yards and nine touchdowns and rushed for 231 yards and a score while filling in for senior Sefo Liufau. Andy Cross, The Denver Post