Fall Camp Preview – Offensive Line

Fall Camp, like everything else about Year One of the Coach Prime era, will be closely watched and closely scrutinized. The consensus from the outside world is the the CU coaching staff will not be able to forge a team out of 70 newcomers. The long-standing belief is that team unity, especially along the lines, is something developed over time, and continuity in the coaching staff and development of players over time is the tried and true path to success.

Colorado has all but none of that. Every coach is new, and almost every position will have new starters. The majority of the team is still finding its way around the Champions Center, much less the CU campus.

A month of practices is all that stands between Coach Prime and a date with TCU in Ft. Worth. A unit-by-unit look at the position battles which will be waged in CU’s very fluid lineup … begins now …

… Fall Camp Preview Schedule … 

The Roster … Offensive Line (14)

bold = returning starter … italicized = walk-on … *= early enrollee (in school for spring practices) … TR … Transfer …

  • Seniors … Landon Bebee (TR) … Reggie Young(TR)
  • Juniors … Gerad Christian-Lichtenhan … Tyler Brown (TR) … Isaiah Jatta (TR) … Jack Bailey (TR)
  • Sophomores … Van Wells … Savion Washington (TR) … Jack Wilty (TR) … Kareem Harden (TR) … Jeremiah McCrimmon (TR) …  Ben Reznik … Jack Seavall … Camden Dempsey
  • Red-shirt freshmen … Carter Edwards … David Conner (TR)
  • 2023 Signees … Hank Zilinskas

2023 season projected depth chart

  • Left tackle … Gerad Christian-Lichtenhan (Jr.) … Isaiah Jatta (Jr.)
  • Left guard … Tyler Brown (Jr.) … Jack Wilty (Soph.)
  • Center … Van Wells (Soph.) … Landon Beebe (Sr.)
  • Right guard … Jack Bailey (Jr.) … Landon Beebe (Sr.)
  • Right tackle … Savion Washington (Soph.) … Reggie Young (Sr.)

What to Watch For … 

The above projections for the two-deep above are far from certain, but there is some method to the madness.

CU will have eight offensive linemen with starting experience at the collegiate level and they have welcomed three other transfers that earned first -or-second-team Junior College All-American honors in 2022. CU is expected to have much more depth and talent on the offensive line than it did during the Dorrell era.

That’s the good news.

But … Offensive line coach Bill O’Boyle has never coached at the Power Five level and, other than returning starters Van Wells and Gerad Christian-Lichtenhan, who started for the terrible Buff offensive line last season, the other linemen got their starting experience at the Group of Five, FCS or JuCo level. So there will likely to be a relatively steep learning curve for many of Colorado’s offensive linemen, at least early on during the 2023 season.

So, CU may start the season with two former Buffs … and two former Golden Flashes.

Van Wells could return as the starting center, with Gerad Christian-Lichtenhan reprising his role as the starting left tackle. If those two positions are taken by CU starters from last season (no guarantees there), the right side of the line could well be made up of Kent State starters. Savion Washington was a force this spring, and has now been joined in Boulder by teammate Jack Bailey. Both were starters for former Kent State head coach (and now CU offensive coordinator) Sean Lewis, together with former Kent State offensive line coach (and now CU offensive line coach) Bill O’Boyle. Washington and Bailey may not finish the season as the starters, but, with continuity a problem with the massive overhaul of the lineup, familiarity with the offense CU is going to utilize may be a deciding factor early.

Can O’Boyle get Colorado’s revamped offensive line ready for game action by September 2nd? During spring ball, prior to the arrival of five transfers, O’Boyle expressed frustration over his group’s performance during spring ball.

“With what we do in Coach Lewis’ system, we have to make maybe one, two calls, and then just come off the ball and run,” he said in mid-April. “We’ve got a lot of guys just overthinking things right now. Anytime they do that, they’re just kind of hesitating. That’s what we’re trying to get through right now.

“These guys have to get in the mindset that we’re going to run. We’re gonna run 100 plays a game, and we might hit 150 plays in practice, just getting that attitude where you get yourself ready.”

Colorado has, without question, upgraded the offensive skill positions. The unanswered question is whether the offensive line has been upgraded sufficiently to give those skill position players the best chance to be successful.

So … What might the CU starting lineup look like on offense for the TCU game on September 2nd?

First, let’s look at the starting lineup for the 2022 season (using the players with the most starts at each position last fall):

  • QB – J.T. Shrout
  • RB – Deion Smith
  • WR – Daniel Arias
  • WR – Montana Lemonious-Craig
  • WR – R.J. Sneed
  • TE – Brady Russell
  • LT – Gerad Christian-Lichtenhan
  • LG – Casey Roddick
  • C – Van Wells
  • RG – Tommy Brown
  • RT – Jake Wiley

Now, on to 2023 … A possible starting lineup for the Buffs on September 2nd … 

  • QB – Shedeur Sanders
  • RB – Alton McCaskill
  • WR – Jimmy Horn, Jr.
  • WR – Travis Hunter
  • WR – Adam Hopkins
  • TE – Louis Passarello
  • LT – Gerad Christian-Lichtenhan
  • LG – Tyler Brown
  • C – Van Wells
  • RG – Jack Bailey
  • RT – Savion Washington


— In 1948, Boston Post sports editor Gerald Hern coined a phrase that reflected the state of the Boston Red Sox starting pitching. “Spahn and Sain and pray for rain” was a reflection of the fact that Warren Spahn and Johnny Sain were dominant pitchers, but the rest of the rotation was unheralded. For Buff fans this fall, there will be similar trepidation. Shedeur Sanders is a proven quality quarterback, but behind him? Ryan Staub’s decent spring as a true freshman is as close CU has to an “experienced” backup.

— Kavosiey Smoke, the only senior running back on the roster, may well start in the opener behind Shedeur Sanders, but my prediction would be that home-state Texan Alton McCaskill will be on the field against TCU in Ft. Worth (and both might be replaced by Dylan Edwards by mid-season). McCaskill, who is reported to be a full-go after missing last season with a torn ACL, has the most versatile game, and could be an early asset in the fast-paced Sean Lewis offense.

— Travis Hunter as a starter at wide receiver? I guess that depends on how you are phrasing the question. If you are asking whether Hunter will be on the field for the majority of plays on offense, my answer would be “no”, but if you are asking me if I think that Coach Prime will have his prize dual star on the field for the first snap of the 2023 season, in front of a curious national audience, my answer would be “yes”. As to the other starters, best guess would be that one of the two South Florida transfers – Jimmy Horn or Xavier Weaver – will be on the field to start the year, with one of the four-star freshmen – Adam Hopkins or Omarion Miller – being the other.

— Louis Passarello at tight end to me is just a placeholder for now. Will one of the bigger receivers serve as a de facto tight end? Or perhaps one of the bigger running backs serve as a hybrid H-Back/tight end? With the departure of Seydou Traore (who finally found a home at Ole Miss), the only addition to the roster from last season is Elijah Yelverton, who never saw the field of play in three seasons at Iowa.

— The offensive line? Your guess is as good as mine. If Van Wells and Gerad Christian-Lichtenhan hold their positions as carry-overs from last season, and Savion Washington is as good as advertised, then three-fifths of the line may be set. If not … we’ll just have to hope that Bill O’Boyle can find – and mold – a starting five by September. The quality of the line has been improved, and the depth definitely has improved. It is very much a question, though, whether this is a quality Power Five offensive line.

3 Replies to “Fall Camp Preview – Offensive Line”

  1. Just like the tide rises all boats, so will a talented QB with a mastery of the offense will raise all offensive players, especially the o line. I think Shedeur is that good. An another analogy is Peyton Manning routinely played behind o lines that may not have been the most talented, but his skills as the QB made them look better than they were. Don’t get me wrong, not saying Shedeur is Manning, just saying that he will have the effect of raising all boats.

  2. “But … Offensive line coach Bill O’Boyle has never coached at the Power Five level”
    So…..I’m guessing coaching at the “4” or FCS level to power 5 is like going from Earth to Jupiter?
    Of course there is going to be a difference in the ability of the players at the new level but is the game that much different? O’Boyle has never watched or prepared his team against a power 5 opponent? Will he have to get a doctorate coaching degree to figure out what is going on at the god like power 5 level?
    I dont know how good a coach O’Boyle is.
    It is my opinion successful FCS or lower division coaches bring fresh blood to the power 5 level and help dilute the stale inbreeding created by the carousel.

    1. EP……I love the term “Stale Inbreeding” as an analogy for the coaching carousel.

      Just exactly what we see in government.

      KEEP US ON OUR TOES !!!!

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