- Kevin Gemmell, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Pac-12 is blessed with an abundance of returning starting quarterbacks in 2014. With 10 starters coming back, many are wondering if the league is on pace for its best quarterback year ever. This week the Pac-12 blog will give you a snapshot of all 10.
Name: Sefo Liufau (pronounced seff-0h loo-fow)
School: Colorado Buffaloes
2013 passing stats: Completed 149 of 251 passes (59.4 percent) for 1,779 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions. He had a raw QBR of 44.8 and an adjusted QBR of 54.4.
Career passing stats: Same as above.
2013 rushing stats: Rushed 40 times for 43 yards and zero touchdowns.
Career rushing stats: Same as above.
What you need to know about Liufau: When the Buffs saw their nonconference game against Fresno State canceled because of flooding in Boulder last year, it opened up the schedule for another FCS team in Charleston Southern. That's when head coach Mike MacIntyre shrewdly pulled the trigger and inserted Liufau into the starting lineup -- though he'd seen extended action the previous game against ASU. The move gave the freshman a bit of confidence as he went 14-of-20 for 198 yards and a touchdown. The Liufau era was officially underway. Jordan Gehrke played well enough in the spring to keep Liufau on his toes during fall camp -- though as the only Buffs quarterback with any game experience, Liufau is the guy unless he plays himself out of the starting spot.
Career high point: Besides the Charleston Southern win, Liufau's only other victory as a starter came in a 41-24 victory over Cal. He was impressive, completing 23 of 36 passes for 364 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. In the process, the Buffs snapped a 14-game skid against conference opponents. Liufau is young, and the Buffs coaching staff hope he's got many more career high points to come.
Career low point: Like the career high point, he doesn't have many games to work with. But the 59-7 loss to Washington last year was a pretty rough game all around. Liufau completed just 12 of 22 passes with a touchdown and two interceptions. One of his interceptions was a pick-six on the first drive of the second half, and the second one came on the very next drive. He was pulled in the fourth quarter in favor of Connor Wood.
When he was a recruit: Colorado was Liufau's only offer, but that doesn't truly tell the story of his recruitment, as the former four-star quarterback received plenty of interest from some of the Pac-12's top programs, including Oregon, Stanford and UCLA. While it was something of an up-and-down season for Liufau once he took over as a starter in the seventh game of the season, that didn't come as much of a shock, due to his status as a first-year player and looking back to his ESPN RecruitingNation scouting report. There are the ups: "He is an imposing player who, when in rhythm, can really get hot and make every throw on the field." The downs: "His release mechanics show promise, but are not always consistent. He can look smooth on one throw and quirky on the next." And what makes him exciting for the future at Colorado: "Liufau is raw fundamentally and has some street ball characteristics when things break down, but there are tools to mold and he has upside as a result."
Opposing head coach's take: “Very athletic. Strong player. He's got a great future. We have to see what he does without that big No. 6 there as a security blanket (receiver Paul Richardson). If they can put some pieces around him, he could be a strong leader for that program. But he's still young. He's got a lot of developing to do.”
What to expect in 2014: Liufau is a work in progress. But there were flashes in 2013 of what he's capable of. As our opposing head coach said, seeing what he can do without the benefit of Richardson will be interesting. Of Liufau's 149 completions last season, 52 were made by Richardson. And 5 of his 12 touchdown passes were caught by “big No. 6.” He's already been voted a season-long team captain by his teammates. So his teammates have faith in him. He's got three starting offensive linemen returning to protect him and there's a potentially strong running game behind him. No one is tapping Liufau for all-conference just yet. But the playing experience he gained last season should pay dividends as the Buffs move into a much more difficult schedule (remember, no FCS teams this year). First mental test comes in Week 1 against rival Colorado State. Matching last year's win total (which included two wins over FCS teams) would be considered a step forward for the program and Liufau could cement himself as the Colorado starter for the next couple of years.
Erik McKinney contributed reporting.