It may seem that Bill McCartney, the quirky and revered program builder, might've bolted at the worst possible time for Colorado. Following last season the Buffaloes lost their starting quarterback, a Heisman Trophy winner and the best receiver in college ball. But McCartney didn't exactly leave the Buffaloes destitute. Despite the prospect of eating Nebraska's dust again, Colorado is one of the few teams that could absorb a winter of such body blows and still be a national power.
Is there another school—west of Miami, anyway—with so many compelling questions to answer? Consider: Baby-faced 34-year-old coach Rick Neuheisel has never run a program on any level. He brought with him an unproven offensive coordinator, Karl Dorrell, a new wide-open offense, a new aggressive defensive set and a raw quarterback he rashly says could be "the next Joe Montana." Junior Koy Detmer may well be a better passer than his predecessor Kordell Stewart was, but he doesn't have much experience. Nor do the numerous receivers looking to replace All-America Michael Westbrook. Nor do the numerous running backs hoping to make Boulder forget Heisman winner Rashaan Salaam.
"We have to get mature real quick," says Herchell Troutman, the sophomore most likely to start at tailback. "It's bringing out the competitor in all the players. And we're all still trying to figure out what he's going to do."
In other words, Neuheisel and his team are still feeling each other out. What's already clear, however, is that under Neuheisel the Buffaloes will be a more relaxed crew than they were under McCartney, who is a devout Christian. It was Neuheisel, after all, who serenaded a female booster group last fall by strumming a guitar and warbling an anti-Nebraska ditty set to the tune of Jimmy Buffet's Let's Get Drunk and Screw.
Considering the schedule, better to laugh than cry. McCartney's legacy includes another brutal nonconference campaign: dates with Texas A&M, Wisconsin and Colorado State. Then, on Oct. 28, the Huskers come to town.
The focus of the offense will be Detmer. Protected by All-Big Eight senior center Bryan Stoltenberg and guards Heath Irwin and Chris Naeole, Detmer will get plenty of time to make Stewart a fond memory. Not that Detmer is worried. As the younger brother of Brigham Young's 1990 Heisman Trophy winner, quarterback Ty, one of the most prolific passers in college history, Koy has lots of experience following big acts.
"Kordell accomplished a lot, but my brother achieved so much it's almost overshadowing," Detmer says. "My brother's shoes are a little tougher to fill. I've gone through this all my life."