Offensive Line Shuffles Continue
The old saying, “You can’t tell the players without a scorecard” takes on new meaning when you are talking about the Colorado Buffaloes' offensive line.
When we last left the Buffs, the offensive line had put out the same starting lineup for the second game in a row for the first time this season. Against both West Virginia and Texas, the Buffs trotted out Nate Solder at left tackle, Ethan Adkins at left guard, Keenan Stevens at center, Ryan Miller at right guard, and Bryce Givens at right tackle …
No, wait. Didn’t Miller move back to tackle? What about Mike Iltis, who had taken over the center position this past spring, beating out Stevens? What about Blake Behrens , who started at guard against Wyoming, and who started 11 games at guard last season?
Well, you and I may be, but the Buffs’ opponents haven’t been. The Colorado rushing game, which was supposed to be the focus of the Buffs’ offensive attack, has continued to sputter. Last season, Colorado ran for 124 yards per game, ranked 84th in the nation. This year, the Buffs are rushing for 83 yards per game, down to 112th.
So, what’s offensive line coach Denver Johnson going to do?
Move players around, of course (it’s been working so well so far). The latest moves (take notes, there will be a quiz later):
- Sophomore defensive lineman Eugene Goree may be asked to move to the offensive line. Goree has been supplanted at nose tackle by red-shirt freshman Will Pericak. Goree made a similar move briefly last fall, before moving back to the defensive line this spring.
“I’m still tossing it around in my head right now,” said Goree of the move. “I’m just going to finish out this week on defense and see how it goes.” Considering the offensive line was supposed to be deep (if inexperienced), and the defensive line was completely decimated and devoid of talent, the move has to be seen as curious at best.
- Keenan Stevens was so completely beaten out for the center’s job this spring and fall by Mike Iltis that the center position was considered to be one of the two spots (along with Nate Solder at left tackle) that was settled going into the season.
Then, Iltis suffered a sprained ankle and concussion, pushing Stevens, a former walk-on, into the position of starter. Now, it appears that a healthier Iltis is not getting his job back.
OK—if Stevens is doing a better job than he was apparently capable of doing during spring ball and fall camp, fine. Johnson said he is pleased that he has “interchangeable players” at center. Great. So then it makes perfect sense that Iltis has been practicing … at guard?
“We’re going to try to start maybe looking at Mike at guard as well,” Johnson said, “so we can continue to develop a little more utility and maybe create some more options depth-wise.”
Huh? We want to be two-deep at center, so, by all means, let’s practice Iltis at guard …
- Meanwhile, the return of Maxwell Tuioti-Mariner this season looks less and less likely. MTM, who decided to stay in Boulder this fall instead of going on a mission, is still working back from several knee surgeries.
“I don’t think he would tell you at this point that he is truly full speed,” Johnson said of MTM. “That thing is just going to continue to run its course.”
Here’s hoping that MTM uses 2009 for his red-shirt season. The Colorado football program will need him in the future, and it looks less and less like the present coaching staff knows how to handle the offensive line.