MacIntyre’s 2014 Hopes Are High For Liufau, Gillam

BOULDER – A defining football season sits just over the horizon on the Boulder campus. The climb back to relevance will be expected to hit another gear as Mike MacIntyre and his staff try to improve on a four-win 2013 campaign and become, at the very least, bowl eligible for the first time in seven seasons.

One of the determining factors in reaching a new slew of goals set before the 2014 Colorado Buffaloes will be the continuing development of two players who made significant contributions as freshmen last year and who both figure to play a prominent role as sophomores.

Quarterback Sefo Liufau, who started seven games as a true freshman, and middle linebacker Addison Gillam, who set a freshman school record for tackles, jumped immediately into the fire last year and were highly instrumental in the team’s success. MacIntyre thinks so highly of both players he named each a team captain in the spring. He knows whether or not his young team takes that next step this year will hinge considerably on the rapid maturation of that pair.

“They just finished their freshmen years, so that’s pretty amazing (to be where they are),” MacIntyre said this spring. “(They) know what we’re looking for in captains . . . we go over it, we give them examples. It’s not just, ‘Hey these guys should be captains.’  This is something we worked on and laid out there as to what we’re looking for as a captain.” 

Liufau, who replaced starter Connor Wood in mid-October last season and never relinquished the role over the remainder of the year, seems to be firmly entrenched now as the starting quarterback. Wood graduated and Jordan Webb left the program. Liufau heads a group of young and inexperienced signal callers, along with sophomore Jordan Gehrke, and freshmen Cade Apsay and Ty Gangi (walk-on). Liufau’s development has helped ease some of the strain that might have otherwise accompanied the loss of so much experience at the position.

“I have a lot of confidence in Sefo,” MacIntyre said Tuesday. “He’s doing well and making a lot of good reads. He’s throwing the ball better and I’m excited to see what’s in his future. He’s definitely ahead of where he was at this time last year.”

Liufau’s play on the field is complimented by his qualities as a leader, which made naming him a team captain a no-brainer for the staff back in the spring despite the fact that university had never before, in 125 seasons, named a sophomore as a team captain for the entire season.

“The team rallies around him,” MacIntyre said. “He’s not going to run over everybody running the ball so to speak but he’s a tough guy. He’ll take hits and sits in the pocket. They know that he’s got their back. He’s going to always be ready for battle.”

MacIntyre has a similar outlook for Gillam, whose extraordinary play took the conference by storm last year. Statistically, it may be difficult for him to improve on the 119 tackles he made in 2013, but MacIntyre sees other ways the talented linebacker could take the next step.

“I expect to see the same but more turnovers, more interceptions, more caused fumbles and more sacks,” MacIntyre said. “I think that will happen with the way he anticipates better. He’ll be a little bit closer to being in the right position. Instead of knocking it down, he’ll pick it. Instead of just making the tackle, he’ll strip it.

“He did everything last year, that’s just the next step you take when you dominate the game. I think he has the ability to be the guy that when people see him, they’ll go ‘Wow, look at 44!’ I think he’s that kind of guy.”

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