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Colorado Football 2020 Preview: Offensive Line

There’s a new coach town. Also: please stay healthy everyone

Oregon State v Colorado Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

OL: Will Sherman, Kary Kutsch, Colby Pursell, Casey Roddick, Frank Filip, Valentin Senn, Kanan Ray, Carson Lee, Josh Jynes, Jake Wiley, Gerad Christian-Lichtenhan, Nikko Pohahau, Chance Lytle, Jake Wray

The offensive line of the Colorado Buffaloes, even through the dark Dan Hawkins days, used to be somewhat of a strength. Gary Barnett’s best teams relied on a punishing run block, and Bill McCartney’s wishbone made stars out of plenty of “undersized” and mean linemen. However, a slow decline in depth starting around 2011 led to some truly ragamuffin units in the early part of the 2010s. By 2018, it was almost default that CU’s quarterback was going to have to take a lot of punishment every Saturday. There was one brief glimmer of hope in 2019, with new offensive line coach Chris Kapilovic, who did the best he could and recruited even better. The Buffaloes could march on people! Running backs were relatively clean! It was great. And then it was gone, when Mel Tucker realized what he had and took Kapilovic to MSU with him. Oh well. The talent left is still enough to build on, and new coach Mitch Rodrigue shouldn’t be a massive departure.

We here at the Ralphie Report are all about honesty, so I’ll be upfront with you all - of all the positions, offensive line is the one I’m least comfortable prognosticating about. I think I know what a good offensive lineman looks like, but I can’t be confident that I can identify the building blocks to get there. I like big guys, I like mean guys, and I like fast big mean guys. Luckily, CU has at least one proven commodity here. Will Sherman reprises his role as LT for this team, which is a real shame, in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, he is without a doubt the best LT on this team, and he deserves the NFL looks that he’s getting. But with his 6’3 frame, I just think that he would be luxurious as a guard in this system. Like, one of the best in the country good. For now, the fact that he’s a top half LT in the Pac-12 is more that good for Sherman. I expect him to be solid in this role after Arlington Hambright stepped in last year and also performed well.

Protecting UNKNOWNQB on the other side will likely be Frank Filip, who is finally seeing the field. The Texas recruit was injured, transferring, coming back, and then redshirting all in the span of a calendar year. After some injury related weight loss, he’s back to full strength and picturesque on the edge. 6’7, around 300 pounds, and plenty atheltic, Filip has everything going for him but the game experience. I expect him to have plenty of growing pains, but if he can put it together quickly, he should onto that spot for as long as he wants. The depth at tackle is pretty unproven. Valentin Senn is a total unknown, and Chance Lytle is an unexciting option here. Everyone else at this spot is either a redshirt or true freshman, so I wouldn’t trust any of them just yet.

The interior of this line is way more proven. They are downright solid. Coming back for his 40th year is Colby Pursell at center, who continues to grow. He is a fire hydrant now, and I trust him to be a solid Pac-12 lineman once again. Pursell knows the calls, knows the guys he’s playing around, and won’t lose his battles. While there might be a new mix up front this year, there aren’t any brand new faces, and that should be taken with relief. These guys knew what they were doing last year. At LG will be Kary Kutsch, who played plenty of snaps last year. He solidified his spot on the line over the break, and he’s more than capable there. Once again, another solid choice in the middle of the line. The left side of this group, Sherman-Kutsch-Pursell, are experienced, reliable, and a plus on this team. While the right side, will be brand new (ish), the left side is something that Darrin Chiaverini can rely on.

Rounding out the starting lineup is probably Casey Roddick at right guard, though you should expect plenty of rotation here. Roddick is massive for a guard, and well over 320 pounds, and he has really worked on his body since he came to Boulder. This will be his third year in college, so while he is relatively new to D-1 competition, he is not new to the program. He’ll be splitting time with Kanan Ray and potentially Chance Lytle depending on where they put him. Lytle and Ray can both play up and down the line, so they will be the first off the bench, regardless of postition. Ray is an interesting piece that used to be a High School All-American. He’s plenty big and he should play often on this line.

Now we get to Mitch Rodrigue, the new offensive line coach. Rodrigue has had a winding path to a P5 offensive line coach. He was hired to Boulder to coach after spending two years at a high school in Texas, but that’s not the whole story. He was a great offensive line coach at ULL, where he coached with former CU OC Jay Johnson. Rodrigue has put some guys in the league, and he prizes physicality and aggression, similar to last year. It should be a relatively smooth transition on the field.