FU­TURE OF BUFFS

Fresh­men show great prom­ise

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Nick Kos­mider Nick Kos­mider: 303-954-1516, nkos­mider@den­ver­post.com or @nick­kos­mider

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

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