The offensive line for the Colorado football team remains a mystery as they head toward the 2014 season opener. One thing is certain: it must be drastically improved.
Last season, the Buffaloes averaged 121 rushing yards per game, with a meager 3.4 yards per rush and an even more mediocre 5.3 yards per offensive snap. Head coach Mike MacIntyre and offensive line coach Gary Bernardi face looming question marks at all five positions that must be answered if they are to raise those averages. To make matters worse, out of the 16 offensive linemen on the current roster, only two are seniors and all 16 of them combine for only 23 career starts.
These seniors, Daniel Munyer and Kaiwi Crabb, will be relied upon to spearhead a somewhat patchwork line when Colorado opens their season against their in state rivals, Colorado State, on August 29th. As a team captain and one of the only guaranteed starters on the line, Munyer will take on a newfound leadership role this season. It’s a role that will be exponentially heightened with the departure of Jack Harris and Gus Handler in the offseason. Munyer will have to support and model his younger, inexperienced line mates if the Buffaloes want to compete in the trenches.
In recent years, injuries have been the cause of monumental issues for the Buffaloes up front. Last season, starting left tackle Jeromy Irwin was lost to a broken foot and eventually had to repair the injury with a season-ending surgery. If Irwin can get himself healed and ready to go, he may well be the starting left tackle again in 2014. In the event that he isn’t ready to go on opening day, junior Marc Mustoe would replace him, with Kaiwi Crabb sliding then to guard. It is worth mentioning that Crabb has also shown flashes of his capability to play the left tackle position in spring ball. He has impressed coaches and should not be overlooked in the competition for the starting spot.
Mustoe, who broke his leg last season, remains to be cleared to start lifting weights again, but looks as though he’ll be ready to play on opening day. Similarly, Munyer had a nagging injury that prevented him from weight lifting during the 2013 season and probably contributed to his mediocre play. It’s always rather unknown how each player will return from injury, but the Buffaloes coaching staff are hoping that they haven’t missed a beat.
However, during the current offseason, the Buffaloes have had some good luck in regards to the injury bug. Not including Irwin, no offensive lineman has missed a single practice. This bodes well for the Buffaloes and hopefully will help in establishing the chemistry that is important within any offensive line.
Because of the many injuries in previous years, players like tackle Stephane Nembot were thrust into the starting lineup. This season, the 6-foot-7, 300-pound Nembot returns for his sophomore year and is almost a lock to start at right tackle. If he can play at a high level over the course of the season, he may have a shot at left tackle in the not too distant future.
The Buffaloes will not only rely on returning players, but will count on newcomers to step up as well. After transferring from American River College, Sullivan “Sully” Wiefels is expected to come aboard and make an instant impression in 2014. At 6-foot-4, 300 pounds, he has the size that every offensive line coach dreams about. With the size and skill set that he possesses, don’t be surprised if he competes for significant playing time at all three positions inside the line.
Once the foundation of the offense is constructed and the Buffaloes can fully rely on the offensive line, improvements can be made in other areas. The offensive line, as a whole, is a work in progress. That being said, it is a young core of players with an incredible potential to develop into something special. This is not to say that there aren’t more changes coming, but head coach Mike MacIntyre certainly has Colorado football moving in the right direction.
Projected 2014 Starting Lineup:
LT-Jeromy Irwin (Soph. 6-foot-5, 295 pounds)
LG-Kaiwi Crabb (Sr. 6-foot-3, 300 pounds)
C-Alex Kelley (Soph. 6-foot-2, 315 pounds)
RG-Daniel Munyer (Sr. 6-foot-2, 300 pounds)
RT-Stephane Nembot (Jr. 6-foot-7, 300 pounds)