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Klee: New motto for Buffs football: Keep Sefo safe

By: Paul Klee
April 11, 2014 Updated: April 11, 2014 at 6:49 pm
Caption +
Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau (13) sits on the sidelines in the second half during an NCAA college football game against Utah, Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013, in Salt Lake City. Utah won 24-17. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

BOULDER - The Jay-Z spitting from the speakers has been turned off. In positional cliques, the Buffs exit the practice field, helmets in hand.

Sefo Liufau has class in 40 minutes. To get there in time, he must climb a hill. It's steep, gravelly and should make the University of Colorado athletic department nervous for the health of its starting quarterback. Shoot, I'm nervous for his health.

"I took a lot of shots last year," Liufau says. "But that comes with the territory."

Not this time around. It can't. Coach Mike MacIntyre will recruit the caliber of player who will turn the Buffs from homecoming game to honorable.

But for now, Mac2 must recruit bodyguards and a police escort to keep his quarterback healthy. Next fall in Boulder, if there's no Sefo, there's no football fun.

New motto: Keep Sefo safe.

CU holds its spring game Saturday at Folsom Field. Here's what the Buffs should hope to see from their sophomore quarterback:

"I'm OK with sliding," Liufau told me. "I've actually been working on it this spring."

This is good. This is promising. This is safe. When a menacing linebacker approaches like Ralphie at feeding time, Sefo needs to slide.

"We do a drill on sliding, yeah," offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Brian Lindgren said. "It's surprising how many guys are not comfortable doing that. There's definitely a technique to it. Once they take that first shot in a live situation, they'll learn how to slide."

Boulder loves hugging trees. Can somebody please hug Sefo?

Quarterback depth is not a strength of the Buffs.

Coaches have high hopes for Jordan Gehrke. The second-string quarterback piled up sick numbers at Scottsdale Community College and has earned reps with the 1's in spring practice sessions.

"We're fired up about Gehrke. He's pushing Sefo," Lindgren said. "We want to keep (Liufau) healthy, obviously, but we want to keep developing guys, too."

Third-stringer Trent Sessions deserves a high-five for his dedication to the program. A high school quarterback from the San Diego area, the sophomore joined the Buffs roster after spending last season as a member of the equipment staff.

I expect the Buffs will add another quarterback before the 2014 season debuts against Colorado State on Aug. 29 in Denver. For now, Sefo is the only sure thing.

In eight games last season he threw for 1,779 yards and is the only returning quarterback who took a Pac-12 snap.

As a leader on the field and in the locker room, Liufau has the It Factor like he has vowels. A conversation alongside the CU practice field reveals the man's character.

"When football's over? That's a good question," he said. "Eventually, I want to be a good father. I want to be a good man. I want to be successful in everything I do and help out my family."

His outlook on the big picture defies his age. Sefo won't turn 20 until the Buffs host Washington in Week 10 of next season.

"Sefo, I would say, is beyond his years. He's a very mature young man," MacIntyre said. "He has a great family. He's always had to care for people and put people in front of himself. I see really, really excellent leadership qualities out of him."

When the Buffs have been good, they had a memorable quarterback. If Liufau develops into the next one, the critical juncture can be traced to the UCLA game last season.

The Bruins punished the quarterback like a pinata, including a pair of dirty hits that drew penalty flags. Liufau responded by shoving linebacker Anthony Barr.

"I think last year in the UCLA game, you saw the team rally around him when he kept getting hit late," MacIntyre said. "The offensive line rallied around him, because he's so tough."

That's admirable, the kind of bravado that fires up a locker room and scores phone numbers at Greek mixers. But the Buffs need Sefo safe.

Lindgren, a coordinator who has star potential in the coaching business, is using spring practice as a lesson on Liufau's footwork. Their goal is to make the first guy miss.

"I don't think he's going to be Johnny Manziel back there, as far as running with the ball," Lindgren said. "But if he can slide in the pocket and get the ball off, that's what we're challenging him to do."

Sefo, don't be Johnny Football.

Be healthy.


Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

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