Pac-12: Jordan Gehrke

Colorado fans can breathe easy, for now. After seeing five different starting quarterbacks over the last two seasons and six in the last three, it appears that sophomore Sefo Liufau is in good shape to keep his job -- at least through the first half of the spring session.

Not that there was a ton of concern for Liufau, who started the final seven games last season. And it doesn’t mean a whole lot in March. But for a program that has seen tumultuous turnover at the position of late, a little stability isn’t a bad thing.

[+] EnlargeSefo Liufau
Russ Isabella/USA TODAY SportsRising sophomore Sefo Liufau appears entrenched as Colorado's starting signal-caller.
Following Colorado’s first full scrimmage of the spring season last week, Buffaloes coach Mike MacIntyre said he has been pleased with his starter.

“Sefo hasn’t done anything to lose the job by any stretch,” MacIntyre said.

So, that’s a relief. After taking over the starting job last season, Liufau completed 59.4 percent of his throws with 12 touchdowns to eight interceptions. Not stellar numbers, but for a freshman jumping in halfway through the season, not terrible, either. His final three games (California, USC and at Utah), he showed some promise with seven touchdowns to three interceptions.

Over the last two seasons, Colorado’s potpourri of starters have combined for 32 passing touchdowns to 34 interceptions with a completion percentage of 56 percent. As a not-so-shocking result, Colorado has ranked at or near the bottom of the league in most offensive statistics.

Turnover probably has a lot to do with that. If the Buffs can stick with a quarterback, chances are those efficiency numbers will improve. The fact that Liufau has added about 10 pounds of muscle so far this offseason doesn’t hurt, either.

“Sefo has been very good,” MacIntyre said. “The first couple of days, I noticed a zip on the ball. He was stronger. I think he was completely healthy, his body was fresh. He’s throwing off his back foot better and rotating his hips better, so he has more zip on the ball. He’ll be more accurate. He was good before, but he’s gone out and done the things that Coach (Brian) Lindgren told him to do in the offseason on his own, and he’s improved in that area.”

While it appears for now that Liufau’s job is secure, MacIntyre noted that he’s been equally pleased with backup Jordan Gehrke.

“It’s exciting to see that Jordan is right there on his heels, not that much separation,” he said. “You better have a few guys who can play. Jordan has the ability to escape (the pass rush) and can make some plays and he’s getting a good grasp of the offense. When Connor (Wood) left, I felt like ‘Uh oh,’ and that opened the door for Jordan and he’s taken advantage of it.”

Liufau tossed four touchdowns in Friday’s scrimmage on 9-of-17 passing. He has yet to throw a pick in a scrimmage setting.

Liufau is certainly one of the most intriguing up-and-comers in the conference. And consistent, reliable quarterback play might be exactly what the Buffs need to push them one step closer to being bowl eligibile for the first time since 2007.

Spring position breakdown: QBs

February, 24, 2014
Feb 24
7:00
PM ET
Spring has sprung in the Pac-12, with Stanford starting spring practices this week and several schools following suit next week.

Ergo, we break down where teams stand with each position group, starting with quarterbacks.

Arizona: The Wildcats probably have the most wide-open QB competition, with four guys having a legitimate chance to replace the departed B.J. Denker. Three are transfers from big-time programs: senior Jesse Scroggins (USC), sophomore Connor Brewer (Texas) and junior Jerrard Randall (LSU). The fourth, redshirt freshman Anu Solomon, was one of the biggest stars in the 2013 recruiting class. Don't expect much to be settled by the end of spring, though coach Rich Rodriguez might at least allude to some sort of pecking order. Or a top three.

Arizona State: The Sun Devils are strong at QB with senior Taylor Kelly, a third-year starter who has put up big numbers the past two seasons, and junior Mike Bercovici, a big-armed backup -- perhaps, in fact, the best backup in the Pac-12. That's why Michael Eubank opted to transfer to Samford in Birmingham, Ala. It will be interesting to see which of the youngsters on the roster emerge as a No.3, a guy who might challenge Bercovici in 2015.

California: It seems unlikely that sophomore Jared Goff will be unseated, particularly after Zach Kline opted to transfer. Goff was uneven last season -- his entire team was -- but flashed plenty of potential. He and a talented crew of receivers should get better this spring. The big question might be whether anyone challenges senior Austin Hinder for the backup job.

Colorado: Sophomore Sefo Liufau is solid as the returning starter. He took some lumps last season but also flashed plenty of promise -- as both a player and leader. After him, there's junior college transfer Jordan Gehrke, a redshirt sophomore, the likely backup. Depth is a problem, at least this spring. As the Boulder Daily Camera noted, "Five quarterbacks have left the CU program either to transfer to other schools or give up the sport entirely since the start of spring football last year. A sixth completed his eligibility last season." That's why the Buffs added walk-on Trent Sessions to the roster. He worked with the equipment staff last year.

Oregon: The Ducks probably feel pretty good about their third-year starter, junior Marcus Mariota, a leading 2014 Heisman Trophy candidate who would have been a first-round pick if he'd entered the 2014 NFL draft. The competition for the backup spot, however, will be interesting because Mariota is almost certain to enter the NFL draft after the season. Sophomores Jeff Lockie and Jake Rodrigues are 2A and 2B, with Lockie first off the bench as the backup in 2013, but Rodrigues the more physically talented player as a runner and passer.

Oregon State: Like their friends to the south, Oregon State is fortunate its 2013 starter, Sean Mannion, decided to return instead of entering the NFL draft. Mannion's chief focus will be finding some receivers to replace the production of the departed Brandin Cooks. The battle for the backup job also will be interesting between sophomore Brent VanderVeen and redshirt freshman Kyle Kempt. Of course, their battle might not resolve things much for 2015, with incoming Alabama transfer Luke Del Rio joining the fray after sitting out a season.

Stanford: It seems unlikely that two-year starter Kevin Hogan will be challenged for the starting job this spring, even though he had some ups and downs in 2013, but there is no lack of talent battling for the backup job. Junior Evan Crower was the backup in 2013, but redshirt freshman Ryan Burns is a big-time talent. As is incoming freshman Keller Chryst, who officially will arrive in the fall but, as a Palo Alto resident, figures to hang around spring practices.

UCLA: Heading into his third season running the offense, Brett Hundley gives the Bruins one of the best starting quarterbacks in the nation. He's a proven dual threat and leader who will be refining his game this spring and building chemistry with his receivers. After him, however, things are a bit iffy, in large part because of the 2013 preseason transfer of T.J. Millweard to Kansas. The chief competitors for the backup job are Jerry Neuheisel, the 2013 backup, and redshirt freshman Asiantii Woulard, with Woulard being the guy with the most future upside. Of course, there is another QB out there some UCLA fans might be thinking about.

USC: The returning starter facing the most formidable challenge to his starting job this spring is probably Cody Kessler, even though Kessler played well in the second half of the 2013 season. With the transfer of Max Wittek, touted redshirt freshman Max Browne, at the very least, sets up to be a high-quality backup next season. But plenty of folks think Browne has a legitimate shot to unseat Kessler, particularly with new coach Steve Sarkisian taking over.

Utah: There's still no final word on the long-term health issue that might end QB Travis Wilson's career, and anything decisive might not come for weeks. If Wilson gets cleared, the good bet is on him returning to the starting job. If not, a spring competition will begin between Adam Schulz, who stepped in when Wilson went down, and redshirt freshmen Conner Manning and Brandon Cox. In the fall, dual-threat QB Donovan Isom arrives.

Washington: Keith Price, a three-year starter, is gone, but the Huskies seemed fairly set at QB with sophomore backup Cyler Miles appearing plenty capable of stepping into the cockpit this spring. In limited action last season, Miles completed 61 percent of his throws for 418 yards with four TDs and two picks, and he also showed good mobility, rushing for 200 yards. The pecking order at least seemed set, that is, until Miles got into some off-field trouble that threatens his status for spring practice and perhaps beyond. If Miles is still suspended, that means opportunity comes knocking for sophomore Jeff Lindquist or redshirt freshman Troy Williams to make an impression.

Washington State: Connor Halliday will be a senior, three-year starter and the Cougars' top leader in the third season running Mike Leach's "Air Raid" offense. He figures to put up huge numbers this fall with a strong crew of receivers. His 2013 backup, sophomore Austin Apodaca, opted to transfer, perhaps believing that redshirt freshman Tyler Bruggman had the inside track to the starting job in 2015. Depth is a bit of a question, with the No. 3 this fall likely being true freshman Peyton Bender.

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