Pac-12: Jeromy Irwin

Buffs shuffling O-line again

May, 13, 2013
With the news breaking late Friday that Colorado offensive lineman Alex Lewis will transfer to Nebraska, and the subsequent news of Lewis' arrest on Saturday along with quarterback Jordan Webb, new Buffs coach Mike MacIntyre finds himself needing to replace another former starter on the offensive line.

[+] EnlargeAlex Lewis
David Dermer/Getty ImagesAlex Lewis' decision to transfer leaves a hole to fill on Colorado's offensive line.
Lewis started 12 games last year at left guard, and the Buffs had already lost David Bakhtiari to the NFL a year early -- meaning the left side of the offensive line will have to be replaced.

So be it. This is just another among the challenges MacIntyre has to overcome at Colorado.

Lewis missed all of spring ball after having shoulder surgery in November. The Buffs were certainly looking forward to getting him and his experience back in the fall, but in his absence others were able to work in at the position -- meaning they won't be starting completely from scratch when fall camp comes around. Still, Lewis was all-league honorable mention last year, so his departure isn't an insignificant one by any means.

Just another obstacle Mac & Co. will have to deal with moving forward.

So where does this leave the Buffs up front?

  • Left tackle: Jack Harris moves over, and he has some experience after starting 11 games last year -- six at right guard and five at right tackle. He finally got some consistent playing time after missing the majority of 2011 with an ankle injury. Depth is a huge issue, here, however.
  • Left guard: Vacated by Lewis, junior Kaiwi Crabb sat atop the post-spring depth chart while Lewis was rehabbing his shoulder. Sophomore Jeromy Irwin will also be in the mix and sits second on the depth chart.
  • Center: Gus Handler is solid and will probably be on the Rimington watchlist again. He started the final 10 games of 2011 and started five games last year before suffering ankle and knee injuries. Other than learning a new system and adjusting to a new set of starters on the line, the Buffs are set in the middle. Brad Cotner sits behind Handler on the depth chart, and Daniel Munyer also has some experience at center after filling in for Handler last year.
  • Right guard: Munyer, who missed most of spring with a fractured fibula, was an all-league honorable mention last year and should be 100 percent by August. He started all 12 games last year, six at right guard and the remaining six at center filling in for Handler. He's probably Colorado's most consistent performer on the line. Alex Kelley will back him up.
  • Right tackle: Stephane Nembot played in 10 games last year, starting seven. Injuries forced him into action during his redshirt freshman season, so the sophomore has some experience. Marc Mustoe is No. 2 on the depth chart.

The Buffs also have five linemen coming in -- most of them with good size already (Gunnar Graham, 6-foot-5, 305 pounds; Jonathan Huckins, 6-3, 310; Sam Kronshage, 6-5, 275; John Lisella, 6-4, 240; and Colin Sutton 6-5, 295).

It's likely one or more will have to, at the very least, crack the two-deep and help provide some depth.

Biggest shoes: Colorado

March, 21, 2013
Starters in, starters out. That’s college football. Players’ eligibility expires, and they leave for the rest of their lives, whether that includes the NFL or not.

And they leave behind shoes of various sizes that need to be filled.

Our concern with this series? The biggest shoes -- in some cases Shaq-like size 23s.

Biggest shoes: David Bakhtiari

Quantifying the impact of an offensive lineman is always difficult. Quantifying the impact of an offensive lineman on a one-win team that was either last or near last in the league in almost every offensive category is even tougher. But anyone who followed Colorado the past couple of seasons understands the impact of the 6-foot-4, 295-pounder. He started 11 games at left tackle and yielded 2.5 sacks for the entire season -- meaning he did his part for a team that allowed 50 sacks in 2012. He consistently continued blocks downfield and is a legitimate NFL player.

Stepping in: To be determined…

Though completely reasonable, Colorado was still a bit caught off guard when he decided to jump to the NFL early, so there wasn't much time spent grooming a replacement. At this point – especially with a new coaching staff coming in and shifting to a pistol offense, it’s pretty wide open. We could see someone like Stephane Nembot move over to the left side. Jack Harris is also a possibility -- as is a guard like Jeromy Irwin shifting positions. It’s up in the air – and replacing the two-time second-team all-conference selection won’t be easy.