Today we look at offensive tackle. We went into the 2011 season with a returning starter (though he was switching from the right side to the left), and one guy who showed a lot of promise that they had slotted to start at right tackle. Well, things didn't end up that way, as both of them were injured during the season. Lets look at who we have there now:
- Ryan Dannewitz, Sr - All of a sudden, Dannewitz is the greybeard of the offensive line. He's played a number of positions for the Buffs throughout his career, but his true value is as a reserve swing-tackle. He was pressed into action almost immediately in 2011, and ended up 3rd in number of snaps played along the o-line. Dannewitz is a tough guy who has some versatility and good size, but is limited athletically and can't give these coaches exactly what they want every down at the tackle position. He's a guy who can come in and give some solid backup-level play off the bench on either side of the line.
- David Bakhtiari, Jr - He's been labeled (by the coaches) CU's best offensive lineman. I can't disagree. He may be playing out of position at tackle, but he's got quick feet and longer arms than you'd think for a guy his height. I think his game would benefit from sliding inside to guard, because he doesn't have quite the length you'd like to deal with edge rushers, especially on the blindside. With two seasons worth of starts, he's now the most experienced offensive lineman CU has. It also looks like he hasn't yet reached his ceiling, so hopefully he can get even better.
- Jack Harris, Jr - He was injured early enough in the season that I'm hoping he qualifies for a 6th year down the road. He flashed some talent before he was injured against Cal. He just needs playing time. He's strong, has good feet and plays with a pretty good mean-streak. Hopefully he is fully recovered from surgery to begin participating in offseason work as soon as possible, because his return would definitely bolster the line. A much softer non-conference schedule might allow him to work his way back into the groove of things in 2012.
- Alex Lewis, So - He has the potential to be pretty good. The coaches liked him enough as a blocker to get him on the field as a tight end, and our offense was definitely more effective with him out there. He wasn't quite heavy enough to hold up at tackle, so hopefully he can put on the muscle this offseason that he'll need. I would love for him to take over at left tackle so that bakhtiari can move to one of the guard spots. He's got quick feet and extends pretty well off the snap. He definitely has the talent to see the field (which is why he was on the field for a bunch of snaps this year at TE and some at T) and looks the part. But even if he doesn't see the field as a starter, he definitely can contribute as a 6th blocker for the Buffs once again.
- Marc Mustoe, RFr - I only got to see a shortened afternoon of him during the summer, but he looks like he's got the perfect disposition to play on the right side. High effort, strong hands and a mean-streak. He looked light, so hopefully a full year in the system will have him bigger and stronger. We'll know more after spring ball.
- Stephane Nembot, RFr - I definitely see why they moved him to tackle. He's got great size, crazy-long arms and he looks strong enough to become REALLY good as a blocker. He's a fantastic athlete, and could be in play for that left tackle spot at some point. He's one of those guys that can be putty in the coaches hands. I hope we see some development out of him in the spring, because he could be a fantastic tackle. But his ability to contribute is 100% on the coaches. He's really raw, so Steve Marshall, do your thing!
We need three offensive tackles over the next two cycles. Ordinarily, I'd say bring in one this time and two the next, but we might have to bring in two this February. Either way, three in the next two years is what needs to happen. The pro-style offense we're running seems to require the stereotypical athletic and long left tackle, and the mean and powerful right tackle. And they want taller guys on both sides to help combat the rush off the edge. Long arms help tackles get to those speedy DEs and OLBs quicker. Bold statement here? Alex Lewis is our starting left tackle in 2012.