Positional Outlooks: Offensive Guards and Centers

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.

****For time's sake I'll combine these two****

(Analysis after the jump)

Thoughts:

We have a bunch of experience here, but that doesn't necessarily mean we'll be good. Ryan Miller has a pretty up-and-down year, and it took Keenan Stevens some time to get a feel for things. And I've made my opinions on the Left Guard spot pretty clear, as I'll do once again below. We should be stouter in the middle of the line, but we won't really know until those first couple games are in the books.

The cast:

  • Keenan Stevens, Sr
    • Former walk on who was put on scholarship before he took over as the starter last season. He was pretty good last year, but couldn't always stand strong in the pocket. There were also times that I'm pretty he made some incorrect or spotty calls, which could account for some of the disjointed line play. He's solidly the starter now, and that may be the reason the line has shown improved cohesion. He also looks a little more powerful this year. I think our pocket will hold up better this season, and it starts with Stevens.
  • Eric Richter, Jr
    • JC transfer and one of the strongest guys on the team. I wanted him to win the LG spot, but it looks like he's now the third-stringer. He's got the nasty attitude you want, but his technique needs some work. He got used to being the strongest guy on the field at a lower level of competition and was able to get by using his strength alone. He was over-extending and wait-bending (instead of knee-bending) a ton, it caused him to lose his balance quite a bit in early practices and the scrimmage. He is going to have to hone his technique, and he might get a red-shirt year in 2010 to do that. He's got 3 years to play two seasons, and we've got two other Juniors ahead of him on the depth chart.
  • Ethan Adkins, Jr
    • He is one of the guys ahead of Richter. Currently the starting LG (though it came out recently that Mike Iltis was battling him for the starting spot), though I'm looking for someone to beat him out for the job. He's pretty massive (Only Nate Solder and Sione Tau weigh more than he does), but I didn't see too much more out of him than that. He seemed too passive last season and much of the time during fall camp. He occasionally would have that "Mauler" mindset, but not often enough to be an effective interior lineman. He has solid technique and solid strength, but we need better play out of the LG spot than he gave us last year.
  • Blake Behrens, Jr
    • Here's a guy who started all 12 games in '08, but hasn't been able to regain his starting spot since. That was the year that we were strapped for O-linemen. He provides solid depth because he has extensive game experience. He and Matt Bahr are the two primary guys that people reference when talking about our "quality depth" along the O-line. He was solid, but had an injury or two that prevented him from regaining his starting spot last season, and now it seems like he'll only see the field in case of an injury. But a season-plus starter isn't a bad guy to have on the 2nd team.
  • David Clark, Jr
    • He's a big guy who hasn't quite been able to crack the two-deep in his time here. I didn't see much from him in practices or the scrimmage. He didn't stand out in any good ways, but he also didn't seem to make any glaring mistakes.
  • Shawn Daniels, Jr
    • He was practicing at RG at the beginning of the fall, and then all of a sudden was moved to Center and began practicing ahead of Gus Handler. And now he's the backup at Center. His bother Brian was great for us in his career, and it looks like Shawn may have found the position at which he can get onto the field and try to do the same. He will be the guy to come in if Stevens gets hurt, and then it looks like he'll get his chance to win the starting Center position in his final year.
  • Mike Iltis, Jr
    • He supposed to be our starting Center last year, but got hurt early in the first game and never could regain his spot. He started a few games at LG as the season wore on, and it looks like he's competing with Ethan Adkins for the starting spot there now. I think he might have more of the right attitude over Adkins, but I don't know if he can unseat him.
  • Ryan Miller, Jr
    • If you had told me that Ryan Miller would be starting at Guard and wasn't the best lineman on the team when he signed his letter of intent, I would've found a glass of water and done a spit-take, just to demonstrate how crazy that idea would be...well, here we are. He's the tallest RG I've ever seen, and it sometimes shows in his game. He has the ability to be dominant (as we saw in about ¾ of the Nebraska game last year), but he also has done some things that have hindered his success. Because he is so tall, he really needs to work on bending at his knees to maintain leverage against guys that are much closer to the ground than he is. He got too tall at times last year. He looked a bit better this season, but he was still doing it occasionally in fall camp. Hopefully that isn't a problem once the season starts, because he has the ability to be a very, very good Offensive lineman. He just has to live up to that potential (sound like anybody else on the team? Mainly...everyone?)
  • Sione Tau, Jr
    • It feels like he has been here forever, and yet he still hasn't seen the field. That's because he has: Redshirted, been ruled academically ineligible, and then finally excused from all team activities for violating team rules. He is now buried on the depth chart at RT (though he was practicing at Guard during fall camp, which is he's on this list). He really is too big to play right now. He is slow-footed at Tackle and can't get low enough to be effective at Guard. If he can work back into shape, he could be something though. He's huge, and should be able to engulf defenders in the run game. But for now, he's a project.
  • Ryan Dannewitz, So
    • He is back at LT after spending fall camp at RG (again, why he's on this list and not the Tackle list). He is tall, at 6'6", and is definitely better suited for Tackle. He is the backup behind Nate Solder, though I bet Jack Harris will work his way back into that spot as he comes back from his shoulder injury (I saw him two days ago and he still had a big shoulder wrap on while just walking around). Dannewitz and Harris will compete to fill Solder's shoes next year. It won't be easy, but both of them have more experience on the O-line than Solder did. Of course, neither of them can hold a candle to him athletically, but I think between them we will be fine there.
  • Maxwell Tuioti-Mariner, So
    • Anyone else just have a warm, happy feeling come over them when you read that name and thought about how well he played as a Freshman? I sure did. He looked damn good out there. Unfortunately, he has since suffered two ACL tears (in addition to the one that ended his High School career a year early). He doesn't look like he will be healthy enough to contribute this season. After watching him move around, I'm of the opinion that we may not see him on the field again. He doesn't look the same out there, and his knees are clearly still a problem. It's too bad. I thought he was our best lineman for those few games he played. It's a tough break for us, but mostly for him. He is working hard to battle back from some pretty significant injuries, but your joints can only take so much damage before they stop working properly.
  • Scott "Scooter" Fernandez, Fr (redshirt walkon)
    • He didn't quite have the frame for the Offensive line, so his move to the Utility Back position was a good one. Also, he has surprisingly good hands a speed. He looks like he will definitely be able to contribute on our heavy and "Buffalo" short-yardage packages. He caught a TD in the scrimmage, and I wouldn't be too surprised if he caught another ball or two this year. He is definitely more likely to earn a scholarship here than at Guard.
  • Gus Handler, Fr (redshirt)
    • He is practicing as the third Center, but is also getting the occasional snap at Guard. I think his position will be Center, however, and he will have a shot at the starting spot there in 2011 or 2012. He has looked solid, but can improve on his strength and explosion (like most youngsters along the O-line). His snaps looked fine from what I could tell.
  • Daniel Munyer, Fr
    • He is a true freshman who will definitely redshirt this year. He could stand to improve his strength and quickness, as well as add a few pounds. He looks like he has a pretty good handle on the techniques for a true freshman and he has plenty of time to get even better. They shouldn't need him for at least two years, so he has plenty of time to develop.

In 2010:

Miller and Stevens are pretty entrenched at RG and C respectively (they are both on postseason award watch lists for their positions). Adkins has a slight advantage, but he was benched in favor of the guy who is right behind him late last season. I'm sure Adkins is a very nice guy, but I would like somebody else at that spot. Improvement at that spot will help Solder to finally develop into the All-American that he can be, and will allow Stevens to focus on his own assignments. The interior of our line has a chance to be stout and effective. There is plenty of experience, they just have to work on playing as a unit.

Beyond 2010:

Handler or Daniels will take over at Center after Stevens leaves, but we should have both starting Guards back in 2011. It will be in 2012 that the Buffs will have to replace the entire interior of the Offensive line. It's never good to have everybody leave like that, so it will be up to guys like Munyer and Handler, along with additional recruits to make the transition smooth. There's a good chance it won't be, however, which will be interesting to watch.

Questions:

-What did I get wrong?

-What was your impression of our Quarterbacks 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

Offensive Tackle

Safety

Quarterback

Cornerback

 

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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