Spring Practices Analysis – Offensive Line

Colorado has concluded its spring practices, with three of the 15 practices open to the public, including a “Spring Showcase” which featured a glorified scrimmage instead of a Spring game.

While information has been limited, there have been notes and quotes aplenty. Over the next few weeks, we will review each unit on the team, along with analysis as to whether Buff fans should be C+ … Confident; C … Cautiously optimistic; or C- … Concerned.

Previously postedQuarterbacksRunning backsWide Receivers and Tight Ends

Offensive Line

Notes

The Spring “pencil” depth chart for the offensive line:

  • Left tackle … Aaron Haigler (Jr.); Jack Shutack (Jr.); Jake Moretti (R-Fr.)
  • Left guard … Brett Tonz (Jr.); Chance Lytle (R-Fr.); Justin Eggers (Jr.)
  • Center … Colby Pursell (R-Fr.); Heston Paige (R-Fr.); Justin Eggers (Jr.)
  • Right guard … William Sherman (R-Fr.); Dillon Middlemiss (Jr.); Kolter Smith (So.)
  • Right tackle … Josh Kaiser (Sr.); Hunter Vaughn (So.); Grant Polley (R-Fr.)

This lineup, however, has to be taken with a huge dose of salt.  Suffice it to say, if this lineup takes the field for the Buffs against the Rams August 31st, it could be the start of a long season for Colorado football.

For starters, one of the top returning players from last year, Tim Lynott, missed spring practices with an Achilles injury. Lynott, who will be a junior this fall, had ten starts last season (six at right guard; four at center), and is being counted upon to be a mainstay for the offensive line for the next two seasons.

Another potential starter, red-shirt freshman Jake Moretti, is still working himself back into playing shape. One of the highest-rated recruits in recent years, Moretti hasn’t played since his junior year in high school, but was on the field for about a third of the snaps in the Spring scrimmage.

 

Quotes

… “I do feel a lot better about that group than coming into the spring,” head coach Mike MacIntyre said after the Spring Showcase. “I thought all of them made some progress. As far as jumps — that’s kind of a big word. You can move forward and not jump. I think some of those guys made jumps.”

Meanwhile, players who also made “jumps,” according to MacIntyre, included tackle Jacob Moretti, guard/center Brett Tonz, guard/tackle William Sherman and guard Dillon Middlemiss.

… “We’re still a long way from where we want to be and need to be to be a really good football team,” said O-line coach and co-offensive coordinator Klayton Adams. “There’s been a ton of things in areas that we’ve gotten better, and we’ve gotten bigger and stronger and more physical. I think we understand things better.  We’re just not where we want to be. We want to be great and we’re a long ways from there.”

Aaron Haigler, listed at 295, is more comfortable with his body and has actually spent most of the spring at left tackle.

“It’s been really nice for me in my development to go back to (tackle),” he said. “Having played guard and played tackle gives you good experience in both and what’s going to happen and how to play things.”

Adams has been pleased with Haigler’s play throughout the spring at left tackle.

“I think he would probably tell you he feels a little bit more comfortable there,” Adams said. “I’ve tried to keep him there and not move him around as much and try to get him to where he can feel comfortable.”

… “I remember watching Jake Moretti against (339-pound defensive tackle) Javier Edwards,” quarterback Steven Montez said. “He pushed him off the ball, pushed him off the boards. That alone was very impressive.

“When he’s on the field, he’s a mean dude. You kind of want that from your O-line. You don’t want your O-line to be soft. I think he gives us definitely a nice sharp edge.”

… “A guy like Will Sherman hasn’t played in a game, but he has taken so many reps because he really wasn’t on the scout team a lot in the fall,” Adams said.  “He and Colby Pursell were with the ones and twos a fair amount, so those guys have taken a lot of reps in practice. They’re developing some of that (continuity), but having said that you have to get into a game to figure out what you really have.”

 

 

Analysis … 

CU lost three starters to graduation — left tackle Jeromy Irwin, left guard Gerrad Kough and center Jonathan Huckins. This spring, they are also without Lynott, who is a two-year starter but recovering from an Achilles injury. Isaac Miller, who made six starts last year, is also out for the season with a knee injury (and may decide not to return for the 2019 season).

All told, that’s 122 career starts that are no longer on the field, leaving Aaron Haigler as the most experienced lineman on the team this spring. With 16 starts and over 1,300 snaps played over the past seasons, Haigler is teaming with Josh Kaiser — the lone senior on the line — to lead a young group of linemen.

If … and it’s a big “If” … Jake Moretti and Tim Lynott can stay healthy, the line can be a good one. Moretti is edging ever closer to being able to be a full-time player. If Moretti is as good as projected, he could be a four-year starter and an NFL prospect.

Tim Lynott is also a potential NFL prospect, but he too has yet to live up to his full potential. Lynott was injured in the Arizona State game last November, undergoing Achilles surgery November 8th. Lynott sat out the spring, but coach MacIntyre has indicated that Lynott should be a “full go” by June.

One position which had been a question mark may have been answered. Jonathan Huckins was the starter last season, and there was no clear choice for a replacement for the 2018 season.

Offensive line coach Klayton Adams, though, feels he may have found his starter – red-shirt freshman Colby Pursell. “He’s had spring ball, he’s had training camp, he’s had a season, he’s had a winter conditioning, now he’s had another spring ball,” Adams said of Pursell.  “That’s one of the big advantages of grayshirting, is that a guy like him gets a tremendous opportunity to get all those reps before he ever gets out on the field.  He’s done a nice job. He’s got a ton of things to work on, get better at, but the great thing about him is he tries to do exactly what you tell him. … I’m excited about where he’s headed but got a long way to go.”

That last sentence sort of sums up the Colorado offensive line potential for 2018. Buff fans can be excited about where they are headed … but they have a long way to go.

Grade … C- … Concerned

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9 Replies to “Notes and Quotes – OL”

  1. Your Grades:
    QB – C
    RB – C-
    WR/TE – C+ (probably could have broken that group up)
    OL – C-

    My thoughts on your list.

    You way too harsh on QB and RB. Montez is our best player and there is little doubt there. He would be ranked #1 by any outside observer. QB is about as fine as any position on the team. The top 2 guys have played and the 2 guys behind them are highly rated recruits. Little to complain about there with the returning production we have from the spot. Not perfect but not really a concern beyond we want them to dominate.
    My grade: C+

    At RB both Lee and Evans proved to be capable backups in years past. Lee in 2015 and Evans in 2016. Both had their moments as Buffs. Both are notably healthy now. Both are down at 3rd and 4th on the depth chart. Neither is a bad player as proven in games in the past. That means the 1st stringer Fontenot if likely very good to put two 5th year seniors that far down the depth chart. I saw the last practice and Fontenot has some giddy up. He is our new game breaker back.

    I get it that everything is up to Travon McMilian getting here. Travon is not a flakey quarterback so we need not worry about him visiting other spring games. From his highlight film, the guys is an absolute monster RB. He will also have fresh legs due to the curious decision by Virginia Tech to platoon him. If McMilian is the number one running back, then we have great running back depth because our other backs proved they can play behind Lindsay and they are behind Fontenot. With 2 freshmen studs incoming, 7 strong and mostly experienced candidates will get a shot at the position. That sounds healthy not concerning.
    My Grade: C+

    You probably do give too much faith on the wide receivers. They should be good due to strong recruiting but none of them have proven to be a Travon McMilian. Outside of McIntyre who scares no one, the rest don’t have the stats nor the playing time to back up your faith. You gave these guys the 2nd best in college football thumbs up last year only to realize they were the 2nd worst in the conference. These guys backed those guys up. This should be addition by subtraction but how you come up with confident is a little odd compared to the other lists. You are confident in the guys who could not beat the guys who were not very good. There is plenty of talent no doubt but very little production. The TE position has 1 guy who caught 7 passes with a junior college transfer behind him with 0 who is learning. The 3rd guy tore his ACL. There are no incoming freshmen. The TE position is as weak of a position as there is on the team. The good news is we only need 2 which is great since we only have two!
    My Grade: C

    I agree with you on the offensive line. My starters would be.
    LT – Haigler, LG – Tonz, C – Pursell, RG – Lynott, RT – Kaiser. People who want a bunch of guys who have never played on the offensive line are crazy. Other teams will blitz CU and confuse those young guys who are still learning all the signals and calls. They also haven’t had 300 pound guys bearing down on them play after play. Barnett had a great quote years ago about wins and losses. You add a loss for every freshman you start. Pursell gets a pass since he is in year 3 as a freshman. Lots of questions of depth here and the health of Lynott. If Lynott returns in full health, this is a C for me.
    My Grade: C-

    1. Very interesting.

      There is plenty of talent no doubt but very little production

      Who Said that? Oh Wait you did so………..

      QB
      Past Montez There is plenty of talent no doubt but very little production

      RB
      Past the new guy….There is plenty of talent no doubt but very little production Naw Talent is a big question.

      WR
      There is plenty of talent no doubt but very little production

      OL
      There is plenty of talent no doubt but very little production

      My grades

      QB C
      RB D+
      WR C
      Ol D+

  2. This an area where play design and the timing of play calling along with the quicker pace will help a lot. Do as much as you can to keep the opposing D line off balance.
    If Soder ever retires get him here as a coach quick.

  3. After 5 years of Mac2’s olines, this has to be the year it is a real offensive line doesn’t it?

    Gonna have to be.

    Buffs

    1. VK, after 5 years I think it’s more then the O Line. As I’ve said before; I’m losing patience. It’s been 5 years. Time for a big step up this year.

      1. Welp, there was a big step up 2 years ago and it was because of the defense period. The offense was marred in its usual middle of the pac 12 ranking. Been there 5 years.
        The millstone around the neck of the offense is gone. Mac is still there but hopefully is good bud Roper can keep in control from the offensive perspective. Mac is not an offensive guru.

        We are hoping the young Oline can be the one. Subtle changes in the blocking schemes were evident in the open practice and scrimmage. (Pulling, speed, direction) These were even more not so subtle in the closed practices. (Yup)

        The play designs will be different as will the formations. (Ignore Chiv when he says it is just minor tweaks blah blah blah) Roper is a difference maker for the QB’s and not having the millstone to deal with is elevating Chiv, Adams, Hagan and even Bernardi into enlightening situations. You hear about the different player attitude? There is a different coaching attitude as well.

        I figure if no bowl this year Mac will be just about done here. It would be 5 out of 6 non-winning seasons. That = a loser.

        Okay then, I expect a winning season and the offense to average at least 33 points per conference game.

        And the defense which came from conference game points allowed

        2013 47.2
        2014 43
        2015 32.3
        2016 18.4 (Not counting that championship fiasco)
        2017 34.6

        Needs to make that jump from 17 to 18 like they did from 15 to 16

        Then all things will be good and Mac can be considered a good coach not just a one time unanimous coach of the year on the backs of others.

        That is 5 months to the opening kickoff

        Buffalo Up

  4. “One position which had been a question mark may have been answered. Gerrad Kough started every game at center last season, and there was no clear choice for a replacement for the 2018 season.”

    Kough played LG all last year. We had Huckins and Lynott at Center. Doesn’t change the issue of not sure who the starter going into this year would be.

    I would hope/like to see our starting O-Line look like:

    LT- Haigler
    LG- Sherman
    C – Pursell
    RG- Lynott
    RT- Moretti
    With Kaiser and Tonz being “supersubs” at multiple spots.

    I think that is our best combination for next season.

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