With recruiting heating up and fall camp around the corner, it is a good time to assess how the Buffs are looking at each position going into the season and for the upcoming years. So far we have covered quarterbacks, running backs, tight ends and wide receivers. Next up are the tight ends. Below is the depth at the position by eligibility year as we stand today:
|Summer Eligibility Chart - Offensive Linemen|
|Ryan Miller - OG||Ryan Dannewitz - OG||David Bakhtiari - OT|
|Ethan Adkins - OG||Jack Harris - OT|
|Blake Behrens - OG||Gus Handler - OC|
|Shawn Daniels - OC|
|Sione Tau - OT|
|David Clark - OG|
|R-FRESHMEN||2011 SIGNEES||2012 VERBALS|
|Kaiwi Crabb - OG||Alex Lewis - OL||Gerrard Kough - OG|
|Daniel Munyer - OG||Marc Mustoe - OL|
|Brad Cotner - OC|
|Alex Kelley - OL|
|Paulay Asiata - OL|
2011 Season and Depth: For 2011, one of the x-factors on the offensive side of the ball is the linemen. For years, it feels like we have been saying this unit has tons of talent and depth, and for years, the offense lacks explosiveness and never seems to dominant football games. Last season, the Buffs had All American OT Nate Solder and All Conference OG Ryan Miller but Colorado ranked 84th in scoring offense, 79th in total offense, 51st in sacks allowed and 85th in run offense nationally. There are many theories as to why the Buffs have struggled on offense from a lack of play makers, poor execution and turnover prone, inadequate preparation or plain and simple, an over-hyped offensive line. It was probably a combination of all but we do know this: for the Buffs to be successful in 2011, it starts up front.
Once again, on paper, the Buffs look like they have a solid group of experienced linemen returning with a nice mix of young talent. One of the top guards in the country, senior OG Ryan Miller, is the leader on the line and brings with him 35 career starts. Many remember Miller's performance against the Nebraska Cornhuskers' DT Ndamukong Suh a couple years back, a main reason why many predict Miller to be the first guard selected in next year's draft. He has been named to the preseason watch lists for both the Lombardi and Outland Trophies. The heavily touted lineman out of high school will have one last chance to make his imprint on the program and lead the Buffs to a winning season.
The top returning offensive lineman in terms of graded performance is sophomore OT David Bakhtiari. Bakhtiari excites many Buff fans because of his performance in 2010 on the opposite side of Nate Solder. As a redshirt freshman, Bakhtiari more than held his own.
Bakhtiari, who arrived in Boulder weighing 266 pounds, put on 20 pounds his redshirt year and quickly ascended to second on the depth chart at left tackle. With Nate Solder in that position, Bakhtiari was originally supposed to wait a year before seeing action. But opportunity knocked and Bakhtiari moved to right tackle where he started 11 games (played in all 12) and was on the field for 796 snaps, third most among the offensive linemen.
When the 2010 season was all said and done, he had the second highest grade for a lineman at 89.8%, behind only Solder. Bakhtiari, who now weighs 295 pounds, also had 59 knockdown blocks, 3 touchdown blocks and only allowed one sack a year ago. David will now move to left tackle to replace the former All American.
On the opposite side of Miller is offensive guard Ethan Adkins. Adkins, a senior as well, has 20 career starts including 11 a year ago. He was the third highest graded offensive lineman in 2010 behind Solder and Bakhtiari. He is expected to be the starting guard for the 2011. The Buffs are deep at guard with Blake Behrens (injured last season but has 16 career starts), Ryan Dannewitz and newcomer Paulay Asiata from Hawaii.
The two guard spots are pretty well locked up along with the left tackle position. As for center and right tackle, those positions will probably have some new players coming into the fold. Sophomore Jack Harris is expected to be the starter at right tackle after a solid spring. The 6'5" 295 pound Colorado native was a heavily recruited four star prospect back in 2008. Senior Sione Tau is currently listed as the #2 behind Harris.
At center, the Buffs will have to replace Mike Iltis, who started 11 games a year ago but decided to stop playing football and focus on academics and senior Keenan Stevens, who started multiple games a year ago. Iltis was expected to be the starter all spring until he decided to leave the team. Colorado had little experience returning behind Iltis. Currently listed as the starting center is 6'2" 285 pound Daniel Munyer, a redshirt freshman from California who was part of the 2010 recruiting class. Behind him is Shawn Daniels, a senior who has played in four games but has no starts. Embree and offensive line coach Steve Marshall addressed the need for more depth by signing 290 pound center Brad Cotner. Cotner was a late addition to the 2011 class. The 6'2" center was a redshirt freshman at Ventura Community College in California last year so he has four years of eligibility remaining. He played his high school ball at Westlake in Thousand Oaks, California. Center is probably the biggest concern on the 2011 offensive line.
2011 Signees: Colorado signed four linemen in Embree's first recruiting class, including Cotner who was detailed above. Alex Lewis, a grayshirt from the 2010 class, will be a true freshman this season. Lewis, a 6'6" 275 pound tackle, was ranked as the 86th overall offensive tackle by scout.com. He earned first-team All-State honors as a senior. He greyshirted a year ago to continue to add weight.
The newcomer who may have a chance to play this year is Paulay Asiata. A 6'5" 295 guard from Hawaii, Asiata was one of the highest rated prospects signed by Embree in his first recruiting class. Already having the size to excel at the college level, he was named the top player from Hawaii by Scout.com, which also ranked him as the 21st overall offensive tackle in the country. ESPN ranked him as the #2 player in Hawaii and the 58th overall guard in the US. Rivals.com ranked him as 6th best player from Hawaii. The Buffs have some depth at the guard spot but Asiata may see some time and should be in contention for a starting spot in 2012 when both Adkins and Miller graduate.
OT Marc Mustoe, a Colorado native who originally committed to UCLA, was convinced by Jon Embree to join his first recruiting class in Boulder. Similar to Asiata, Mustoe comes in highly rated by the recruiting sites. Scout.com had him as the 33rd overall offensive tackle in the country, Rivals.com ranked him as the 51st best offensive lineman while ESPN ranked him as 45th best offensive tackle. Mustoe has a little room to gain weight standing 6'7" 280 pounds but expect him to be in the mix at tackle the next couple of years.
The final lineman in the 2011 class was Alex Kelly, a 6'3" 295 pound center from Oceanside, CA. Scout.com ranked Kelly as the 122nd overall player from California and the 22nd best center in the country. His father played for the Buffs back in the late '70s.
2012 Verbals: Expect the Buffs to bring in a few offensive linemen with six seniors on the depth chart graduating. So far, Colorado has one commit in Gerrad Kough, an offensive guard from Pomona, California. Kough, who is 6'5" 270 pounds, is currently rated as a two star prospect on rivals.com with his other scholarship offer from Army.
Bottom Line for Buffs Fans: With a senior quarterback and proven play makers at running back and wide receiver returning, Colorado has the potential for a good amount of improvement on the offensive side of the ball. What will determine if the Buffs have a breakout year, though, will be the play of the offensive line and how well new coach Steve Marshall can maximize the unit's capabilities. CU does have talent and a good amount of experience but consistently playing at a high level with limited penalties has not been the MO in the past. Another concern is filling the hole at center. Many believe Jack Harris will be just fine at tackle but center is a different story. If the Buffs can find can find someone to step up in the middle and stay healthy, this could be the year Colorado finds itself in the top 35 offensively.