BOULDER, CO - OCTOBER 22: Quarterback Nick Hirschman #8 of the Colorado Buffaloes gets a pass off as he's pressured by defensive tackle Wade Keliikipi #92 of the Oregon Ducks after he blew by offensive lineman Gus Handler #76 during the third quarter at Folsom Field on October 22, 2011 in Boulder, Colorado. Oregon defeated Colorado 45-2. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
These three spots sound like they're all set, though there could be a surprise before it is all said and done. I don't know if I believe it, but it sounds like some of the young guys along the offensive line may push for a spot. We did lose one of the prime candidates to take one of those spots when Paulay Asiata left the team, but others seemed to have stepped up. There won't be "battles" here like there will at other positions, but it will still be an important group to watch. We could stand to improve inside (yes, I know we lost two senior leaders from last season, but that doesn't mean we can't get better). Lets get right to it, shall we? Also, let's all remember how I was completely, half-right about some of my initial claims about who would be starting here!
- Gus Handler, Jr - He has been mentioned as a guy who has really taken the offseason training seriously and I think we will be pleasantly surprised by him come September. He was competing with Munyer (below) for the center spot, but Munyer had some lingering injuries that gave Handler the spot by default. He got better as the season wore on and has since been rewarded by being named to the official watch list for the Rimington Award, annual given to the nation's top center. He has a firm hold on the position and his experience from last season will help both of the guys who end up starting next to him. I'm excited to see how he develops in year 2, and by the time his 3rd season of starting rolls around, he should be a great asset to us.
- Kaiwi Crabb, So - Currently listed 2nd at left guard. Crabb is compact but pretty strong. He's not the biggest lineman we have, but he has some strength to him and has been solidly competing for a spot on the two-deep for the last couple of seasons.
- Alex Lewis, So - Now last time we talked about the young, Mr. Lewis, I told you that I thought he would be starting on the left side of our offensive line. I made another claim or two about him (that he would be our starting left tackle and he would push David Bakhtiari inside...didn't happen), but we should focus on what I was right about. He showed that he can play and that he can block last season when he got some snaps at TE, and he has since earned the starting left guard position, and has been practicing there and developing a good rapport with Bakhtiari on that left side of the offensive line. Those two guys should be our strength, are great athletes, and should help shore up the line for us. I foresee great things out of Bakhtiari (LT), Lewis (LG) and Handler (C).
- Daniel Munyer, So - Remember last season when he started the year as our 1st string center? If memory serves, he was actually co-starter at center with Handler. Well, now he finds himself the co-starter at Right Guard with Ryan Dannewitz (who I will profile when we look at the tackles). It sounds like Munyer is healthy and I think he earns that spot outright by the end of camp. He's got good size and is pretty good in the phone-booth. He's not quite the athlete that Lewis is, but he should be a very good option there on the right side.
- Brad Cotner, RFr - **He's listed as a freshman on one roster and a sophomore on another. I think he's actually a redshirt freshman, so I'm listing him as that. It's a question for Dave Plati, but I'll let someone else ask it.** Cotner is a guy who I'm excited to watch. If you remember, he was just a 230 lbs center coming out of HS, but didn't get any offers because of his size. In one year of JC (not playing), he gained 50 lbs and came to CU. He's now nearly the proper size for a D-1 center and is behind Handler. As a guy who had to be technique-savvy because of his size in HS, I'm excited to see what he can do as he continues to get bigger and stronger.
- Alex Kelley, Fr - He's a grayshirt, so he's been on campus since January. He's one of the biggest guys we have along the offensive lines at 310 lbs and is supposed to move very well at that size. He's currently listed 3rd at both guard spots, and I bet he gets some reps at center as well. I'm excited for news about this guy, because I think he could develop into something special.
I don't really have a bold statement to make. It looks like the starters will be Lewis, Handler and Munyer, left-to-right, and I would be okay with that. I think that is a group we can win games with. Dannewitz is listed as the co-starter at RG (and also at right tackle), but I think his true value to this team is as that first reserve off the bench, especially since he has game experience at 3 of the 5 positions. There is some exciting youth here, especially with the two guards looking like it will be sophomores alongside the junior, Handler. Then you talk about high-potential guys in Cotner and Kelley, and this is a group that may need a little more time to gel, but should be very good for us over the next couple of years. I think that Jeromy Irwin (who I will profile with the Tackles) is another guy who will be fighting for time inside soon, but I have a feeling the coaches will start him on the edge when he arrives on campus.