Countdown to Spring Practices – Offensive Linemen

Offensive line coach Bill O’Boyle on CU offense: “You have to be able to play in space, change direction. It’s exciting”

From Neill Woelk at … The offense is one offensive line coach Bill O’Boyle says linemen love because of the opportunities it offers.

“It’s a blast,” O’Boyle said. “You’re pulling, you’re moving, you’re not just moving three feet. You have to be athletic, you have to be able to play in space, change direction. It’s exciting.”

Over the last couple of seasons, Kent State had one of the nation’s most productive and balanced offenses. The attack hinges on a run game that gets backs into space, which opens the door for the pass attack.

Now, time is of the essence for O’Boyle and his group. The Buffs are currently in the process of wrapping up their winter strength and conditioning session and will hit the field March 19 for the first of 15 spring practices.

The Buffs have a handful of returnees with decent experience, including tackles Gerad Christian-Lichtenhan and Jake Wiley and interior lineman Van Wells.

But Colorado also added seven O-linemen in the last recruiting class, a group that includes Kent State grad transfer Savion Washington, a 6-8, 320-pounder who is already well-versed in CU’s new scheme.

“You’re getting a great character guy, a great athlete,” O’Boyle said. “He’s really grown into a great player and I think his ceiling is still climbing.”

The Buffs also added several other players via the transfer portal who could come in and make an immediate impact. That group includes Tyler Brown (Jackson State), Yousef Mugharbil (Florida) and Landon Bebee (Missouri State).

“A lot of work to do,” was O’Boyle’s succinct assessment. “I’m never going to knock any other program, but we’ve got a lot of ground to make up strength-wise. The physical part really has to come along. We have to get these guys in a mindset to where you’re going to run 100 plays in a game and might hit 150 plays in practice. Right now, the kids are doing a great job in the weight room … (But) I can’t wait until spring ball.”

Read full story here

… Program Note … CU spring practices open on March 19th. Over the next few weeks, there will be a unit-by-unit preview posted every week leading up to the start of spring ball.

In addition to a look at the current roster and questions which Coach Prime & Co. will be looking to address this spring, we’ll take a look at the odds of whether the described unit is likely to face attrition after the spring. The CU roster is currently hovering around 95 scholarship players, with a deadline of August 1st to get to the NCAA mandated maximum total of 85.

Previously posted:

Up next Friday: Defensive Line

— Offensive Linemen (15) …

Returning starter (bold); walk-on (italics):

  • Seniors … Landon Bebee(TR)
  • Juniors … Gerad Christian-LichtenhanJake Wiley … Alex Harkey … Tyler Brown(TR) … Isaiah Jatta(TR)
  • Sophomores … Van Wells … Savion Washington(TR) … Jack Wilty(TR) … Yousef Mugharbil(TR) … Luke Eckardt … Jackson Anderson … Ben Reznik … Jack Seavall … Camden Dempsey
  • Red-shirt freshmen … Travis Gray … Carter Edwards … John Ramirez
  • 2023 Signees … Hank Zilinskas

The Stats … 

2022 stats for returning players …

  • Jake Wiley … 624 plays … Started ten games at right tackle … (30 career games; 22 career starts) … Grade: 79.6 … Led the team in quarterback sacks allowed (6) and quarterback pressures allowed (11) … tied for team lead in perfect plays on passing touchdowns (8) …
  • Gerad Christian-Lichtenhan … 485 plays … Started final eight games at left tackle … (24 career games; 8 career starts) … Grade: 76.8 … Second on the team in pressures allowed (9) … second on team in hits allowed (4) …
  • Van Wells … 377 plays … Started six games at center … (11 career games; 8 career starts) … Grade: 81.4 … Led the team in penalties (8) … only allowed one-half sack and and one hit on the quarterback …
  • Alex Harkey … 34 plays … (12 career games; no starts) … 74.3 grade …
  • Elsewhere ...
  • Landon Beebe … at Missouri State … Started all 11 games (had 31 starts overall) … A three-time All-Missouri Valley Conference selection, earning second team honors in 2020 (spring 2021), 2021, and first-team honors in 2022 …
  • Tyler Brown … at Jackson State … Started all 13 games … Third-team AP FCS All-American … First-team All-SWAC …
  • Savion Washington … at Kent State … Started all 11 games … Rated as a three-star transfer prospect …
  • Isaiah Jatta … at Snow College … Started all 10 games … NJCAA Football First Team All-American …
  • Jack Wilty … at Iowa Central Community College … Started eight games … 2022 ICCAC Football All-Conference first-team
  • Yousef Mugharbil … at Florida … Two years at Florida without seeing any action … Four-star prospect out of high school

Nationally … CU in 2022 … 

  • Passing offense … 172.9 yds/game … 118th nationally
  • Rushing offense … 108.3 yds/game … 115th nationally
  • Total offense … 281.2 yds/game … 128th nationally
  • First downs/offense … 191 … 125th nationally
  • Scoring offense … 15.4 pts/game … 127th nationally

What to watch for …

There aren’t too many units on the CU roster in which 2022 starters are also expected to be 2023 starters, but the offensive line may be an exception. The Buffs return three starters from last season’s offensive line, center Van Wells along with both tackles, Gerad Christian-Lichtenhan and Jake Wiley. Wells and Wiley in particular are being penciled in by many Buff pundits as starters for the September 2nd opener against TCU.

That being said, being a starter for an offense which ranked no better than 115th nationally in any major offensive category doesn’t guarantee an automatic starting position for anyone this fall. Especially when there are seven new faces from Signing Day along the offensive line … with six of those being transfers.

It is axiomatic in college football that offensive line recruits, unless they are physical freaks of nature, are not going to get on the field as true freshmen. Even the best high school programs cannot fully prepare prospects for what they are going to face at the Power Five level of competition. A year in the weight room – at a minimum – is considered a necessary step in the process of developing offensive line talent.

As a result, Coach Prime (“we’re here to win now”) and offensive line coach Bill O’Boyle didn’t hesitate to bring in transfers with starting experience to shore up one of the weakest units on the team.

With the new additions, the Buff coaches are looking to turn the offensive line around in short order. This spring, CU will have no fewer than eight offensive linemen on the roster who were starting for their respective teams last November. Tyler Brown needs no introduction to Coach Prime, as he was a 13-game starter at left guard for Jackson State last fall, earning first-team all-conference, and third-team FCS All-American honors for the Tigers. Savion Washington, meanwhile, needs no introduction to his offensive coordinator, Sean Lewis, and his offensive line coach, Bill O’Boyle, as Washington was playing for Lewis and O’Boyle at Kent State last season, starting 11 games at right tackle.

And graduate transfer Landon Beebe? All he did was start the last 31 games at left tackle for Missouri State, earning first-team All-Missouri Conference honors this past season (Beebe won’t be on campus until this summer, though, as he is wrapping up his education at Missouri State this spring).

One of the more intriguing players to join the Buffs, though, may be Isaiah Jatta, coming to CU from Snow (Utah) College. A self-described “late bloomer”, Jatta, though coming from a junior college, was highly sought after offensive tackle, earning offers from South Carolina, Auburn, Kansas, Illinois, North Carolina State, Oklahoma State and Syracuse, among others.

Jatta comes to CU short on experience, but loaded with confidence after his success at Snow, where he was named an NJCAA first-team All-American.  “I didn’t really get (technique) down until after high school,” he said. “Now I feel like my technique is top notch. It’s gonna get worked on a little bit more at Colorado, of course, getting to the next level, but right now I’m feeling really, really confident in my technique.”

Jatta told the Daily Camera that joining an experienced group of linemen doesn’t bother him. In fact, it fuels his fire.

“Competition just drives everything,” he said. “I want to play for the best offensive line in college football, hands down. It doesn’t matter who’s there. I just want to play with a great group of guys who are always going to compete. I feel like competition brings the best offensive line room, to be honest. I’m really happy about that.”

So is the Buff Nation …

Burning questions for spring … 

  • CU returns three starters along the offensive line, including both tackles. Which of the three will be starters come September?;
  • With so many (6) transfers coming in to augment the lineup, will the other returning scholarship linemen who were not starters last year – junior Alex Harkey, sophomores Luke Eckardt and Jackson Anderson, and redshirt freshmen Travis Gray and Carter Edwards – be the odd men out come cut time?; and
  • Can Coach Prime, offensive coordinator Sean Lewis, and offensive line coach Bill O’Boyle shuffle and re-shuffle the deck enough times that a cohesive starting five will emerge, a group which can make the “BuffsFast” offense click come September?

Attrition likelihoodMedium … Not all of the 15 scholarship linemen on the roster will see their way to September, so in that sense the answer should be “High”. Whether there are transfers, injuries or medical retirements, this lineup is not set. And yet, until there is some continuity along the line, and some of the transfers can show that they can play at the Power Five level, it will be hard to winnow the roster just for the sake of eliminating scholarships. The  offensive line play in 2022 was horrid, so until further notice, it remains “all hands on deck”.

a YouTuber’s view of CU’s offensive line …


5 Replies to “Countdown to Spring Practices – Offensive Linemen”

  1. If you go by the books and hearsay, we already have a winner…..but, we’ll have to wait and see how all this ink and hoopla translates to wins… in the past.

    As far as the OL, if the QB doesn’t have the protection and time to scan the field and throw to an open receiver…..and if the OL can’t open holes for the RB’s, what have ya gained ?

    Right now, the Kool-Aid smells good…..just hope it’s more palatable than in the past.

    Can’t wait for Spring Game….to see the talent…..and a really decent crowd like the Big Boys get for their spring peek….perhaps a full house ? I hope that ain’t dreamin’.

  2. Yeah, but….. we’ve heard all this, or words similar to these, in prior years. This time I choose to become a cheering fan AFTER the games are played.

  3. This is the position group review I’ve been waiting for. I’ve hated watching the O-Line pains in recent years. That said, I can’t help but think that the starting personnel will be a total overhaul with the exception of Van Wells. I’ve said it before. I think Wells could be a fixture at center for the Buffs. Played at the highest classification level in Texas. Is smart too, earning Academic All State at the prep level will bode well in learning a new scheme of things under Coach Lewis and O’Boyle. Wells could end up being one of the most pleasant memories of former Coach Dorrell’s ill fated stint. Savion Washington will be like an extra coach in helping his line mates tune into the new system. We’ll probably see some unit struggles as should be expected when we’re forced to nearly rebuild from scratch. GO BUFFS !!

    1. Having an accurate qb with fast wide receivers who catch contested balls will help that line a lot. Think the running game will improve too. Going to be fun to see who takes the o line spots. I could see tank staying in there, too.

      Go Buffs

      1. I think all of that will help. The transfer at TE is a huge get. If he is as good as advertised, that will take even more pressure off. We just need to see if they can build some depth. You can never have enough good offensive and defensive lineman.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *