With a tip of the cap to ESPN's Bill Barnwell, who assembled these team triplet rankings for pro football, we decided to do the same with the Pac-12. Here are the parameters: We’ve selected a trio of skill-position players from each team in the conference.
The rules: Each player comes from a different position group, so the offensive version of this series features a quarterback, a running back and a receiver -- no exceptions. We then ranked each program’s troika against the others in the Pac-12, and we’ll be unveiling each in reverse countdown order. We continue with the Colorado Buffaloes at No. 11.
QB Sefo Liufau
The Colorado quarterback situation has been a whirlwind of news this offseason. Texas Tech transfer Davis Webb was coming and then not coming and then coming again and then going to Cal. Cade Apsay was dismissed from the team. And Sheriron Jones came from Tennessee, then went back to Tennessee. What does all of this mean? That there were three different quarterbacks this offseason that likely could have looked better than Liufau, but at the end of the day, it’ll be Liufau going forward.
All that said Mike MacIntyre is expecting a big year from Liufau as he comes off his Lisfranc injury rehab. Last season, Liufau ended the year with the lowest adjusted QBR of any Pac-12 starter (with seven or more starts under his belt), but has spent every meeting and practice with the Buffs preparing to be the starter in 2016. And that’s a good thing because Liufau must improve in nearly every facet of the game. The one thing he does have going for him is the fact that he led an offense that came dangerously close to knocking off Arizona and UCLA last season. In those two games, Liufau averaged a 65 percent completion rate and threw for 651 yards (more than one quarter of his season total).
Last season, Lindsay led a talented Colorado running back corps with six touchdowns and 653 rushing yards on 140 carries. He also proved to be a solid pass-catcher, finishing the 2015 season with 26 receptions for 211 yards. This season he’ll lead a similarly talented group, but will be looked at as the veteran leader who hopefully will help keep some of the defensive pressure off Liufau and the pass game.
WR Shay Fields
The Buffs have a few solid options at wide receiver, and Fields might be the most consistent one. Fields was the second-leading receiver for Colorado last season (second only to Nelson Spruce) and he finished the year with four touchdowns and 598 yards on 42 receptions. Most impressively, 22 of his receptions were first-down conversions. And he proved himself to be sure-handed as he caught 42 of the 73 passes thrown his way. After two seasons spent watching Spruce soak up the limelight and catches, Fields is ready to step into the spotlight.
It shouldn’t be surprising to see the Buffs coming in at No. 11. They’re ahead of Utah, as Liufau’s experience obviously trumps the Utes’ current quarterback situation as does Fields’ experience in comparison to Utah WR Tyrone Smith, who only had 18 catches in 2015 compared to Fields’ 42. The Utes do have the advantage at running back in that most pundits likely would choose Joe Williams over Lindsay, but at the end of the day the scales tip toward the Buffs as they enter the fourth year of the MacIntyre era.