The second season of Colorado football under coach Mike MacIntyre officially got underway Friday when players reported to campus for team meetings and other formalities ahead of the first practice of fall camp on this morning.
The Buffs are scheduled for 28 practices including five two-a-day sessions over the next four weeks before taking the field for their season opener Aug. 29 in Denver against Colorado State, in what is shaping up as the most important battle with the Rams from the Buffs' perspective in years.
Sure, it's always nice to beat the in-state rival, but CU has a chance to get off to a fast start this season if it can defeat the Rams. With games against UMass, Hawaii and California scheduled among the first five of the season, the Buffs could realistically have as many as four wins by the end of September, and that would be a huge step toward earning six regular season wins to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2007.
But the CSU game will have to set the tone for that to happen.
"I think it sets the standard all through fall camp that we're pushing for that game," McIntyre said of starting the season in a rivalry game. "There is a lot of excitement around it. There is a lot of intensity around it. So I think it pushes your team knowing they're getting ready for that game."
Colorado added transfers Shane Callahan and Jaleel Awini to the roster on the eve of camp. Callahan, a product of Chaparral High School in Parker, transferred from Auburn after two seasons there, one being a redshirt year. Awini joins the program as a walk-on after transferring from Air Force.
Both players will have to sit out the 2014 season under NCAA transfer rules unless Callahan's appeal to the NCAA to be allowed to play immediately is approved.
Junior defensive end Samson Kafovalu will be taking the semester off for personal reasons but will rejoin the team in January.
Colorado enters camp with its starting quarterback already penciled into the lineup for the second consecutive season and third time in the past four years. Sophomore Sefo Liufau was named one of six team captains in the spring and has already come along way since he started camp last year as a wide-eyed true freshman.
But Liufua is the only quarterback, of five on the CU roster, with any playing time under his belt at the major college level. Fellow sophomore Jordan Gehrke will likely be the backup when the season starts. He played one season at the junior college level and redshirted with the Buffs last season.
CU added freshman Cade Apsay to the roster in the 2014 recruiting class and walk-on quarterbacks Will Fischer-Colbrie (Los Altos, California) and Ty Gangi (Glendale, Arizona) joined the program this summer.
Liufau is on much more sturdy ground than Connor Wood was at this time a year ago because of how he performed as the starter in the second half of last season. Wood entered last season as the starter but there were questions about whether he could hold the job long term based on his shakiness in the past. Those concerns proved justified when he gave way to Liufau after five games.
Liufau seemed to improve and become more comfortable as he gained more experience last season and an offseason that included a trip to the Manning Passing Academy this summer likely helped him develop even further. He will be trying to make his mark this season in a conference loaded with returning quarterbacks some of whom are Heisman Trophy contenders.
"The class of quarterbacks in the Pac-12, to me, is by far the best in the country," MacIntyre said. "There are quite a few of these guys that are going to play on Sundays."
While the starting quarterback won't be a big topic for the Buffs in camp this year, there are other notable position battles heading into camp. Fans will be eager to see who wins the starting job at running back in a competition between Christian Powell and Michael Adkins and whether two-year starter Kenneth Crawley can retain his job at cornerback in a battle with junior college transfer Ahkellow Witherspoon, who played well in the spring.
Another position of note, especially if Callahan is allowed to play immediately, will be left tackle where third-year sophomore Jeromy Irwin returns from injury to compete with junior Marc Mustoe, who also was injured late last season but was able to participate in spring ball.
There is a wealth of depth at safety with the addition of third-year sophomore Travis Talianko, a player who transferred to CU from San Jose State by way of College of the Canyons. Talianko joins a group that also includes seniors Jered Bell and Terrel Smith, Tedric Thompson and Marques Mosley.
MacIntyre focused a lot of attention in spring ball on improving on both sides of the ball on third downs and in the red zone. Those areas will continue to be emphasized in preseason practices.
If You Go
What: CU Buffs Fall camp
When: Saturday- Aug. 16
Where: CU lower practice fields north of Folsom Field across Boulder Creek
Info: Pets, cameras, video equipment are not allowed. Cell phones are not supposed to be used inside gates.
Schedule: Aug. 2, 8:50 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.
Aug. 3, 8:50 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.
Aug. 4, 7:40 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.
Aug. 5, 7:40 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.
Aug. 6, 7:40 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.
Aug. 7, 7:40 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.
Aug. 8, 7:40 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.
Aug. 9, Two-a-day 8:30 a.m. - 10:45 a.m. and 4-6 p.m.
Aug. 10 Day off
Aug. 11 Two-a-day 8:30 a.m. - 10:45 a.m. and 4-6 p.m
Aug. 12 8:50 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.
Aug. 13 Two-a-day 8:30 a.m. - 10:45 a.m. and 4-6 p.m
Aug. 14 8:50 a.m.- 11:30 a.m.
Aug. 15 Two-a-day 8:30 a.m. - 10:45 a.m. and 4-6 p.m
Aug. 16 9 a.m.-11:30 a.m.
Remainder of August practices closed to media and public