Returning Starters: Jeromy Irwin, Tim Lynott Jr., Gerrard Kough, Aaron Haigler
Departing Starters: Alex Kelly, Sam Kronshage
Newbies: Chance Lytle (grayshirt), Colby Pursell (grayshirt), Grant Polley, Will Sherman, Heston Paige, Jake Moretti
Now we get to the meat of the offense. The thick, barbecued. You ever slowcooked a pork shoulder? Put a can of Dr. Pepper and some barbecue sauce in there and let it sit for 8 hours on low? Come back and it just smells too good? That’s what this offensive line is. It’s been cooking for five years. They’ve had time to stew in their own juices. Drew Wilson was the Dr. Pepper. He added some extra pop and sizzle in the weight room. Sweet Baby Ray gets to remain the barbecue sauce in this metaphor. It’s just that good.
Across the starting front, CU has a tantalizing concoction of experience, talent and potential. It all starts with the anchor at left tackle, Jeromy Irwin. The 6th-year senior and one of the last remaining vestiges of the Jon Embree era is ready to end his career right. He has missed two years of his career due to nasty leg injuries and he’s ready to take that nastiness out on everyone else. He is powerful and agile enough to play left tackle, and will be getting pro looks at both tackle and guard by the season’s end. Irwin fills out his 6’4 frame with more than 300 solid pounds, and he has great technique. He should do just fine anchoring the line.
Next to him is left guard Gerrad Kough. The left guard started almost every game last year, only missing time due to injury. He’s back in a big way this year. At left guard, he is often tasked with pulling to the opposite side, which is one of Kough’s strengths. He is a great second level blocker and excels pushing forward in run protection.
Dead center in the line is Jonathan Huckins, the only player replacing a full-time starter next year. However, it’s not like CU is replacing graybeard with a greenhorn. Huckins is a 5th-year senior who has started games off and on over the past few years, and his skills are accentuated by the switch from guard to center. Jonathan has never been a mauler, and is much more successful in a technician’s role. He may never push forward, but as center, his main job is not to get pushed back. If he can accomplish that, he can be just fine. He is plenty big and skilled enough to succeed. Now we head to the right side of the line, where all the potential lives.
At right guard is Tim Lynott for the Buffs. The freshman All-American (he was a redshirt freshman) returns for a star-studded sophomore year for CU. Lynott is everything you want in a guard - mean, flexible, stout, and strong as hell. He will be counted on to pull, much like Gerrad Kough is, and Phillp Lindsay will have no trouble running behind him. Don’t be surprised if Lynott joins Irwin on all-conference lists at the end of the year.
Finally, we have Aaron Haigler rounding out the starting lineup. His story should sound familiar to Buff fans. Originally recruited at tight end, he kept adding weight while retaining his athleticism, so the coaches put him at tackle. That’s where he flew. Sounds a lot like Nate Solder. I’m not saying he’ll be an All-American, but he’ll have traits that remind you of big #78 himself. Haigler is a freak athlete for his size, and his 6’6 frame is more than lengthy enough to reach the most pesky pass rushers. The big question mark is the power he can generate. All reports say he is bigger (thanks, Drew Wilson) and stronger, but has kept his athleticism. If Haigler continues to improve, look out. He may be the best out of anyone on this line.
deep breath We are finally out of the starting lineup. If it sounds like I have been too effusive with my praise, that may be true; however, this line deserves it. It is the best line since at least the Bakhtiari years, and may be even better. And we haven’t even touched the reserves. Hopefully, these players only get the normal rotational snaps, as that would mean no injuries. The first body off the bench should be Colorado product Isaac Miller. He is a prototypical tackle, with a frame over 6’5 and freaky long arms. He has steadily gotten stronger at CU, but has been held back by injuries. He should be healthy going into his redshirt sophomore year, and will be the primary backup for both tackle spots. Not much is known about how he’ll play, but keep an eye out for #73.
A few other reserve names to mention:
- Josh Kaiser at guard is finally big enough to contribute. He has always been athletic, and now has the body to match. He also has been in the program for a while, so he has experience in practice at least.
- Colby Pursell is a grayshirt freshman who has been turning heads. He is young, but he is thick, and guard is an easier position to learn than most.
- Dillon Middlemiss is another local product who should factor in on the interior of the line. He is big and mean, and will play like a road grader.
If all goes well, all the freshmen will redshirt, allowing Coach MacIntyre to build on this wonderful foundation he’s built. He has been growing towards this offensive line depth since he’s been here, and it should pay off this season. Look for the Buffs to run over some folks. They aren’t quite there yet, but the trenches are getting nasty again.