***I realized I forgot to add this post. What made me remember is that I made a prediction in here about who might be playing Left Tackle, and it looks like I was right. Only I forgot to post this a week ago, and now you'll just have to trust me that this was a prediction...***
Today we look at the CU Offensive Line. There is a good amount of returning depth despite losing Outland Trophy finalist Nate Solder. The Oline is one of the few positions on the roster that has a pretty good balance in terms of class distribution. I'm doing the Linemen all together in one breakdown because I think some of these guys will end up at different positions than they were playing the last few years. Here is the last round of these that I did going into the 2010 season.
Follow the jump to see who the Buffs have along the Offensive Line.
- Ethan Adkins, Sr - He started much of the last two seasons at Left Guard for the Buffs, improving each year. If Coach Blacken can work with him on improving his short area quickness and his flexibility, he should be able to improve even more. His technique was inconsistent two seasons ago, but was a little more solid last year. He's got the size you want at 6'4" 305 lbs, and he's definitely demonstrated some strength at times in the last two seasons. He finally started to impress me at the end of last year, and I think that continues into the Spring and Summer. He may have some competition, but I have a feeling he keeps his starting spot.
- Blake Behrens, Sr - He didn't see the field last year after starting games at Guard the two seasons before that. He's got solid size at 6'3" 300 lbs, and provided good, experienced depth for us last year. I expect him to push some of the other guys on the roster, but I'm not sure he gets on the field this year either.
- David Clark, Sr - He's a big guy, at 6'4" 310 lbs, but we haven't seen much of him. I can't say I remember much about his play last Spring or Summer.
- Mike Iltis, Sr - He has started games at both Center and Guard the last two seasons and had solid size at 6'3" 290 lbs with pretty long arms. He ended the year as our starting Center, and I would say there's a very good chance that he picks up right where he left off. He definitely found a rhythm there at the end of the season. He is one of the most experienced Olinemen we've got with two years of starting experience and should be a leader at the position this season.
- Ryan Miller, Sr - He is huge. 6'8" 310 lbs, and he has better open field speed than you would think. His arms aren't quite as long as you would expect, which is part of the reason he was moved to Right Guard from Right Tackle. I know he has played pretty well for us there (though he can definitely improve), but I have a feeling that Coach Marshall will give him some looks back on the outside during the Spring. In fact, I could see him bumping back out to Tackle for his Senior season, but that's just a hunch. He didn't display quite as much foot quickness as you'd like your OTs to have in pass protection, so he may stay inside at RG. If he does stay inside, I think it would be pretty hard for anyone to beat him out at that spot.
- Sione Tau, Sr - He has been here for a very long time. He is by far the biggest guy on the team at 6'5" 360 lbs, but his size has worked against him in his time here at CU. His conditioning has been questioned and he hasn't shown the necessary quickness to get on the field at OT. I could see this staff looking at him as an Offensive Guard, or even as an extra blocker along the goal line. He may have trouble beating the guys out in front of him if only because I don't think he could hold up for four quarters at that size.
- Maxwell Tuioti-Mariner, Jr -Man, was he was good his Freshman year. Since then he's had two additional knee surgeries and has seemingly been close to giving up football because of them. He's still here though, and has put back on the weight he lost during his recoveries. He's up to 6'3" 325 now. When he was on the field for those first couple of games in '08 we all thought he was going to be something special. If his knees are truly better, he may still be able to show us that nasty attitude and high quality play that made us all fall in love (...or was that just me...) during his Freshman year. We'll have to see what happens with him this Spring and Summer. If he's getting a good amount of reps, then we'll know his knees are doing better. Unfortunately it is really tough to come back from multiple ligament tears in your knees, which is what he's facing. Hopefully he's able to do it.
- Shawn Daniels, Jr - Younger brother of Brian Daniels and still filling out at 6'3" 280 lbs. He was getting snaps at Center last Summer but was listed on the depth chart as an OG all season. He may get a look at C again this Spring and Summer, and it may be his best chance to get onto the depth chart. He doesn't have very long arms, but he's quick and pretty explosive.
- Ryan Dannewitz, Jr - He's a pretty big guy at 6'6" 295 lbs and has seen reps at both OT and OG. He will definitely be in the mix at Left Tackle replacing Solder, but it won't be an easy job to win. He hasn't looked particularly powerful despite his size, but has pretty good feet and solid leg bend. If he can hone in on his technique, I could see him topping the depth chart at LT in 2011.
- Bryce Givens, Jr - He has been interesting to follow here at CU. He still isn't quite as heavy as you'd like at 6'6" 275, but he's been strong and has great feet. He also has been erratic in his play and his behavior (everyone remember his double penalty two years ago?) and has left the team multiple times for personal reasons. He has a lot of talent and it would be great to see him get onto the field again, but he couldn't beat out Bakhtiari last year and will have to battle him for that spot again. He could be pretty good, with a huge wingspan and great quickness, but he just has to wrap his head around the game. Lets see how he battles to get that RT spot.***Being held out of Spring Football while the CU Judiciary committee figures out how to punish him for the vandalism that he was caught for in the off-season...big surprise, eh?
- Eric Richter, Jr - He is big and really strong, at 6'3" 320 lbs. He redshirted last season after transferring in from a JC. He showed the classic signs of having an easy time against lesser competition at the JC level with very sloppy technique. He was constantly overextending and had poor hand placement, but he seemed to be improving as the Summer went on. If he has shored up his technique, there aren't any guys ahead of him that are stronger than he is. He has a good shot to fight for some playing time at LG this year, and possibly at RG if Miller is given some reps at RT (again, just a hunch). ***He has been moved to DT for the sake of depth. He might be the strongest guy on the team, so he'll add some much needed size, strength and depth to that position, if he can pick it up quickly***
- David Bakhtiari, So - He won the starting job at RT last year after putting on something like 40 lbs and has put on a few more to get up to 6'4" 285 lbs. He has really good feet and quickness and he improved with each game last year. Now if we weren't changing offenses, I would say there would be no doubt that he would be our starting RT this year. But since we are, I wonder if they'll see how he fares somewhere else along the line. Perhaps at Left Tackle? It's just another hunch, but these pro-style Offenses really value a LT with great ability to mirror pass rushers, and Bakhtiari has that, while they like big road graters at RT, which he definitely is not. He's solid in the run-game, but is much better in pass protection. I think he starts somewhere for us this year, and that's where I'll leave my prediction.***See what I mean
- Scott Fernandez, So - A walkon who only saw action last year in our heavy short yardage packages as a Fullback. His play there was only so-so, so I can see why the coaches are moving him back to the Offensive Line. Inline blocking and lead blocking are different beasts and his strength appears to be the former. He's a little light at 6'3" 265 lbs, but as a walkon at a position with lots of experienced depth, he probably won't have a shot at any playing time this season anyway. If he continues to bulk up, he may be in the running once some of these older OGs graduate in the next season or two.
- Gus Handler, So - He was getting some snaps at Center and will probably also be looked at as a Guard. I liked some of what I saw from him over the summer, he's just pretty small for now at 6'2" 270 lbs. If he can put on another 20+ lbs, I think he gets into the mix inside in 2012.***With Iltis and Daniels recovering from injuries, he's getting the 1st team snaps at Center
- Jack Harris, So - He has been listed at both LT and RG at different times and would have solid size for both at 6'5" 295 lbs. I think they look at him at LT in the Spring because he has pretty good feet and pretty long arms. He looks like he could line up just about anywhere along the Oline, so I hope they can find a position for him and let him learn it. He is powerful and plays with a mean streak, so hopefully he'll get a chance to display that for us.*** He's getting the snaps at Right Tackle, which makes some sense, because he doesn't have the feet that Bakhtiari, but he's bigger.
- Kaiwi Crabb, RFr - A HS tackle who will probably play Guard here in college, he's bulked up to 6'3" 295 lbs. He seemed to be fairly strong last Summer, but both he and the other newbie had to improve on quite a few things. His feet are only OK, but a good S&C Coach will help with that, and he wasn't very smooth in his motions yet. He gave a ton of effort and I think that helps him to see the field here in a couple of seasons.
- Daniel Munyer, RFr - He has also put on a good amount of weight, getting up to 6'2" 295 lbs. He needed a lot of the same work on his footwork and hand placement, but I think in another year or two he will be very solid. He seemed to get his hands up quickly, which is always good for a shorter interior lineman.
- Paulay Asiata, Fr - He's got very good size for a Freshman at 6'5" 295 lbs already. He will probably be a Guard here at CU, though he might get a tryout on the outside as well. He should definitely be redshirting this year, but I could see him contributing in 2012. He plays really mean and loves to finish blocks. He should be a good one.
- Alex Kelley, Fr - He may only be getting looked at as a Center, but that's not a bad thing. He was a pretty good one in HS and has pedigree (he's a ‘baby buff'). He is strong and pretty quick and already 6'3" 295 lbs. There is a chance he could be competing for a spot right away, but I think the coaches would prefer to redshirt him and let him set his sights on winning the starting job at Center in 2012. He could easily be a 4 year starter there for us, and a good one at that.
- Marc Mustoe, Fr - A big boy, at 6'7" 280 lbs. He's definitely not the greatest athlete, but has undeniable size and pretty good strength with long arms. He will need to spend a ton of time working on his footwork and quickness, but if he can improve there, he will be a valuable addition to our Oline in the coming years. He's a definite redshirt candidate. I think he projects as a RT.
I'm making some bold predictions that are mostly unsubstantiated with regard to guys changing positions. I could be wrong. If guys don't change positions at all, the line could look something like this (from Left to Right): J. Harris, E. Adkins, M. Iltis, R. Miller, D. Bakhtiari. I have a feeling it may look more like this: D. Bakhtiari, E. Adkins, M. Iltis, E. Richter, R. Miller.
What do you think?