Positional Outlooks: Offensive Tackle

I'm writing some positional outlooks for our beloved Buffaloes. They are based on what I've read and seen of the players we've got.

(Analysis after the jump)

****I started writing these well before the final depth chart was released and some players have switched positions. I promise I'll talk about all the players by the end of this series.

Thoughts:

We have gotten some really erratic play from out Tackles the last few seasons. Nate Solder, who is a pre-season All American this year, was--and still is--learning the position, and the other side has seen a myriad of starters. Many of us still think back to the game against Florida State during Solder's first year as a starter, and can picture him getting absolutely TORCHED. But for all of the stuff we have had to endure , this year the Tackles look to be pretty good. There is solid competition on the right side, and Solder has been improving every single game. They have been able to eliminate the edge rush in the first few fall practices, which is a good thing.

 

The cast:

  • Nate Solder, Sr
    • I can still remember when he wore the number 92 and was the enormous TE who was pretty good at inline blocking. Now he's pegged as an All American left tackle. An athletic freak who has worked his butt off to get where he is. He has improved just about every single day. He is still not an All American, but he's getting there. He finally looks like a lineman now as well. The last few years, he still looked pretty slight (at 305 pounds, that's an impressive feat) and had trouble anchoring against some bull-rushes. He's now closer to 320 and he looks the part. And at that weight he still is probably the most athletic guy in the country. Watching him move out in space is still something else. He's not perfect, though. He still has some things to work on, and he is still relatively new to the position (only his third season on the O-line EVER). So I expect him to continue to improve as fall camp goes on and throughout the season. He is really smart, and he works his butt off. He may not be the most vocal guy out there, but he is definitely a leader. And he sets an absolutely awesome example for guys. He has worked hard and he does what the coaches ask of him, and now he's poised for a great season that will help him to earn millions of dollars in the NFL draft. Interesting note, is that he's the only guy on the roster listed as a Tackle. Most of the O-linemen are simply listed as OL.
  • Matthew Bahr, Jr
    • Two seasons ago he took over for an injured Ryan Miller at RT and played admirably (though not all that well) for most of the season. Now he's running with the third team and may be switching positions. That's what improved recruiting can do. He is pretty average in most ways, and pretty consistent. He has lots of catching up to do because he's been injured a lot over the last year and a half, but he's healthy now. Just in time to see the younger guys flourishing. So now it appears that he's our primary blocking back. He's the extra tackle in the ‘heavy' packages, and lines up more like a TE in the ‘Buffalo' short yardage package. Good for him for figuring out a way to see the field. He has most likely lost his chance at Tackle, so it's nice to see him find a way to help the team and get on the field.
  • Bryce Givens, So
    • He is a terrific athlete, has really long arms and he came from Mullen. You'd like to see him put on some weight. He was supposed to be the starter last year, but kept having issues and had to take multiple leaves of absence from the team. He is a really emotional player, and not always in a good way. He gets a bit out of control, and I'm sure you all remember the double-personal foul last season. He also has some improvements to make with his technique. He's quick to overextend, which is partly why he's fighting to get that starting spot back. He also lets guys get into his body far too often, which will get him in trouble and can lead to holding calls. I think he's going to be more mature this season, which will help with some of the outbursts of anger and emotion, but we will see if he can regain the starting spot. Either way, the competition is fierce.
  • David Bakhtiari, Fr
    • He's the top RT as of the scrimmage. He came in as a very light, but promising tackle prospect last year. Since he arrived, he has put on 40+ pounds and has retained a lot of the quickness and good footwork that he flashed last fall and this spring. Bakhtiari relies on great technique and balance as he is still improving in the strength area, but it is a stark contrast to Givens. Not to say Bakhtiari isn't athletic, he just does everything the right way. He's better in pass-protection than he is in the run-game right now, but that's fine with me. If we were relying on this position for the run game to be successful, we were going to be screwed either way. And he still has time and room to improve in that area. Givens may win the spot back, but he'll have to make some big leaps in the technical aspects of his game to beat out Bakhtiari.
  • Kaiwi Crabb, Fr
    • He is a true freshman, who's been practicing as the 3rd left tackle. He has a lot to work on, but he's no slouch. He seems to have solid feet, which is a pretty good thing this early on. We won't need him any time soon, so he's got a while to develop.
  • Jack Harris, Fr
    • He's backing up Solder and looks like he could hold down the fort on the left side after Solder takes his game to the Pros. He has good size and strength. His technique needs some work, but it's there. He's pretty good. Another year will do him well, but he could play now if he had to. He has to work on his lateral quickness a bit, but that was the only weakness that jumped out at me. I think another year with the trainers will have him poised to be the guy at LT. He is just really solid all-around.

In 2010:

The whole line has been doing a better job of protecting the QB this fall, and the Tackles are definitely no exception. Solder continues to get better, and is finally learning some of the nuances of the game. He is not an All-American yet, but he very well could be playing at that level by the end of the season. And on the other side, I think Bakhtiari offers a pretty good option, even though he is only a red-shirt freshman. His exceptional balance and footwork will help him against speed-rushers, and I think he will hold up just fine against more powerful guys. We also seem to be in pretty good shape if one of the starters gets a little beat up. Some experience on the right side, and lots of potential on the left side. And I'll say it again, but it's nice that a guy like Matt Bahr has found a way to see the field. It just speaks to the quality of the guys that we have there.

Beyond 2010:

We have good competition and depth on the right side for years to come, and I have a feeling Jack Harris will do just fine taking over for Solder on the left. And there is actually an additional bonus when Solder leaves (bonus, you say??): He's taken quite a bit of time and effort away from the coaches because he was still learning the position the last few years. The O-line coaches will have more time to spend with the other guys, which will aid in their development. And that begins this year, because Solder seems to know what to do and how to work on it now. And if Givens doesn't win back his starting spot (a definite possibility, because Bakhtiari looks like the real deal), we might have a spot open at guard in the next couple of years...

Questions:

-What did I get wrong?

-What was your impression of our Offensive Tackles last season? What do you think/hope will change?

-What have you noticed (Spring scrimmage/Fall camp)?

-Where do these guys fit in recently or historically at CU? Will you remember any of them down the road?

-What's your impression of the coaching and recruiting at this position?

Positional Outlooks:

Running Back

Defensive Tackle

Inside Linebacker

Tight End

Defensive End

Wide Receiver

Outside Linebacker


If you have any questions or additional comments or insights, please feel free to email me at: David.Gerhardt@gmail.com
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