CU Season Preview – Offensive Line


Offensive Line


— Seniors: Alex Kelley; Shane Callahan; Sully Wiefels

— Juniors: Gerrad Kough; Jonathan Huckins; Sam Kronshage; Jeromy Irwin; Colin Sutton

— Sophomores: John Lisella; Josh Kaiser

— Red-shirt freshmen: Isaac Miller; Dillon Middlemiss; Tim Lynott; Aaron Haigler

— True freshmen: Chance Lytle; Colby Pursell; Hunter Vaughn (was signed as a gray-shirt, but will be enrolling this summer)

bold (returning starter from 2015) … italicized (walk-on)


Reasons to be excited:

CU has six returning starters along the line … 

Colorado loses a long-time starter in left tackle Stephane Nembot … and yet still has a significant number of returning starter depth along the offensive line. Last season:

– Alex Kelley started every game at center;

– Gerrad Kough had ten starts at left guard;

– Jonathan Huckins had eight starts at right guard; one at left guard;

– Sam Kronshage had three starts at left tackle; three at right tackle;

– John Lisella, playing as a red-shirt freshman, had five starts at right tackle, including the last four games of the season.

– Shane Callahan had five starts at right guard, including five of the last six games.

With all of that experience returning, you would think that Klayton Adams would be fine tuning his first offensive line, not reworking it. Adams, though, who moved over to offensive line this spring after coaching CU’s running backs for the past three seasons, doesn’t see it that way.

“I don’t care how many games you’ve started, I don’t care how many games you started at what position — nobody in here is a starter,” Adams told his new charges during spring practices. “We’re going to try to find the best five guys”.

So, let’s not spend too much time with the post-spring “pencil depth chart”, which, for the record, had:

Left tackle: Jeromy Irwin; Left guard: Gerrad Kough; Center: Alex Kelley; Right guard: Tim Lynott; Right tackle: Sam Kronshage.

“I’d say there’s like 12 guys that are fighting for a starting job,” Adams said after spring practices. “Everything is a legit competition.”

Sounds good.


— … and that’s before we talk about Jeromy Irwin …

Jeromy Irwin was the starter at left tackle in the opener against Hawai’i last fall, reprising the position he held down for most of the 2014 season. Irwin was also the starter the next weekend against Massachusetts … at least for the first 40 offensive plays. Irwin went down with a torn ACL against the Minutemen, missing the remainder of the season.

With Irwin in the lineup full time throughout most of the 2014 campaign, the team gave up only 23 sacks (with only three coming through Irwin).

Without Irwin in the lineup for most of 2015, the team gave a league-worst 41 sacks.

Irwin sat out spring practices as he continued his rehabilitation, but he is already penciled in as the starter at left tackle this fall.

“I mean, as of right now I’m full go”, Irwin told Neill Woelk at during spring practices. “I’m doing everything beside some lateral movement stuff, because I don’t have the brace yet. I just got refitted. I’m squatting. I had a tough stretch for about two weeks where I had some tendinitis in my patella. But other than that, I shook that off after my trainers got on me a little bit. It’s feeling great, I’m about 90 percent right now. I just need to get my leg back to where it used to be and take it from there then I’ll be good”.

For his part, CU head coach Mike MacIntyre spent the spring telling anyone who would listen: “He looks like an NFL player”.

If Colorado is to improve its offensive line play, Irwin will need to do more than look like an NFL player … he’ll need to play like on for a full season.


– … or before we talk about the incoming red-shirt freshmen 

Granted, the “pencil depth chart”, as noted above, will not carry significant weight when it comes to the actual depth chart against Colorado State on September 2nd.

But some of the names on the post-spring depth chart did raise some eyebrows.

Tim Lynott, a red-shirt freshman, was listed as the starter at left guard.

Aaron Haigler, a red-shirt freshman, was listed as the alternate starter (along with Sam Kronshage) at right tackle.

Isaac Miller, a red-shirt freshman, was listed as the primary backup to Jeromy Irwin at the vital left tackle position.

Now, it may not come to pass that these three red-shirt freshmen see significant playing time this fall (if you want to lay odds, bet on Lynott seeing the most action, perhaps even as a starter, in 2016).

But, at the very least, Buff fans should be happy that there is so much young talent waiting in the wings to help the Buffs’ cause.


Reasons for Concern:

— Is Klayton Adams the right man for the job?

With the ineffective play on offense last season, there had to be changes in the coaching lineup for the fourth season under Mike MacIntyre.

The changes were not necessarily as bold as some Buff fans may have wished.

The move of Klayton Adams from running backs coach to offensive line coach (instead of being shown the door) was one of those changes which raised concern.

CU, of course, put the best spin on the move as possible.

“Obviously it’s the position that I played and probably the position that I’m most passionate about,” Adams said. “I’m definitely comfortable there and excited about the challenge”.

Yes, Adams did play along the offensive line in college, and he did coach the position … at Sacramento State and Western Washington.

Will that vast experience in coaching the offensive line translate into an upper division Pac-12 performance this fall?

… We’ll see …


Numbers don’t lie 

Where to start?

Some statistics from last season:

— Colorado averaged 156.2 yards rushing per game, 86th in the nation;

— Colorado gave up 41 sacks, tied for 116th in the nation;

— Colorado gave up 88 tackles for loss, tied for 93rd in the nation;

— Colorado converted third downs only 36% of the time, 97th in the nation; and

— In the all-important bottom line, scoring offense, Colorado posted 24.6 points per game … 97th in the nation.

Of course, all of this does not fall upon the offensive line. Quarterback play was spotty at times, the running backs failed to live up to expectations, and the wide receivers corps was never able to create a consistent deep threat.

And yes, we could spend a great deal of time discussing coaching schemes, play-calling, and the failure to develop Stephane Nembot into something more than a freak of nature.

But the numbers are what the numbers are. Without effective line play, the Buffs’ new and improved offense won’t go anywhere this fall.

“This position is one where chemistry is unbelievably important,” Adams said. “How people communicate with each other and work with each other is the key. Unlike anything else in our game, offensive line is really one position played by five people. They’re tied together and everything they do on every snap affects everyone else.”

Keep your fingers crossed.


Bottom Line … 

Can the return of Jeromy Irwin make that much of a difference?

Is Tim Lynott going to live up to all of the hype and become the next great CU offensive lineman (after Irwin, of course)?

Can Klayton Adams turn this group of 12 potential starters into one group of five which need to play, as Adams put it, “Like one player with five people and 10 legs.”

For Mike MacIntyre to be the head coach at Colorado into the 2017 season and beyond, the 2016 season needs to be a success.

For the Buffs to be successful, the offensive line must have a much better year than last year.

It’s that simple …




4 Replies to “CU Preview – Offensive Line”

  1. With Adams back at his natural position as an OL coach, a strength coach in Lewis who believes OLs in lifting for, ya know “strength” and a huge dose of enthusiasm and different schemes from Chevarrini, the Buffs will improve offensively.

    No more five and seven step drops, waiting for WRs to break open; this “O” will be more rapid-fire and quick-hitting. And with a true QB talent in Montez (think his last 15 passes in the spring game, not his first six), Sefo, if he returns, will have to pick up his game as well.

  2. I remember Coach McCartney saying that his best teams would take on the personality of that year’s O-line. This year, they need to be bigger, play with technique, and come out full speed in the first game. No more getting pushed around. That is the sustainable way for the offense to get better and the best way to get to six wins. I want to see that.

  3. Even though we have had recent success recruiting the speed positions I would feel a lot better if MM rounded out the upcoming class with a few highly regarded O and D linemen

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