The coaches who recruited quarterback Sefo Liufau said he was as confident and mature as any high school player they had ever come across.
The coaches who inherited him as a recruit at Colorado saw him live up to that billing as a true freshman starter for more than half of his first season with the Buffaloes in 2013.
Liufau took questions from reporters Tuesday at the program's weekly luncheon in advance of the season opener Friday against Colorado State (7 p.m., FS1) looking cool, confident and composed and very much like the man who was named a sophomore team captain in the spring.
He certainly didn't look like many of the previous quarterbacks at CU just days away from the pressure of their first start against the in-state rival. He also didn't look like a man concerned because he has been outplayed by his backup, Jordan Gehrke, at times in the past month.
It is the Rams who have the fifth-year senior under center right?
While coach Mike MacIntyre admitted he has some concerns about some members of his team "peeing down their legs" Friday at Sports Authority Field in a game that appears vital to the success of most of CU's goals for the season, he has no such concerns about Liufau.
"You better have a good quarterback or you're not going to have success, not in today's college football," MacIntyre said. "If you look at the pro teams, the ones with a good quarterback, that coach is there for a long time. That's a fact.
"... You've got to have a good quarterback and I think we do."
Liufau said it was fun to be a part of last season's win over CSU on the sidelines. He watched Connor Wood throw for 400 yards and three touchdowns in a 41-27 win. It proved to be the best day of Wood's college career. At that point, there was no indication that coaches would have to turn to Liufau before the season's midway point to replace Wood, who lost confidence.
Liufau said he didn't want to hype up the game with the Rams. He said he would have the same approach if he was facing Alabama or Oregon this week. He repeatedly said he is treating his first appearance in the Rocky Mountain Showdown like any other game. He described the team's mentality this way: "I'd say we're focused. It's something that we're trying to, I guess, work on. I think at times last year we kind of lost focus or I guess weren't really all bought in compared to this year."
Liufau played in eight games and made seven starts last season. He didn't produce eye-popping statistics, but he did give his teammates, coaches and fans reason to believe he could develop into exactly the kind of player and leader the program needs at the position. On Tuesday he was asked what he learned about himself last season.
"A lot of things," Liufau said. "The college football game is a lot different from high school. You take a lot bigger shots. The game moves a lot faster mentally. But I know I can handle it. Also, that I'm not alone. I have my teammates beside me and I have the coaches. It's just more confident now going into this year."
Liufau said he is confident in the receivers he has to throw the ball to this year. It's a deeper group in 2014 but lacks the star power former Buff Paul Richardson brought to the table. He also said he believes the offensive line in front of him has improved.
MacIntyre said Liufau also has made improvements in the more subtle parts of the position.
"His arm is stronger," MacIntyre said. "That's one of thing you'll notice. I think he's more accurate and more consistent, which is what we need, and his arm is stronger and then he's moving better, too."