CU offensive lineman Ryan Miller.
CU offensive lineman Ryan Miller. (Mara Auster/Camera)

Computer programmers are the only people more familiar with the word this week than the men in Colorado offensive line meetings.

The biggest Buffs came into the 2009 campaign with high expectations for themselves, despite the fact three members of the starting unit had never played much or any meaningful football at the college level.

That inexperience was exposed in the season opener by a solid Colorado State defense that held the Buffs to 29 net rushing yards and beat the blocking Buffs for four quarterback sacks.

"I felt like we were well prepared," redshirt freshman tackle Bryce Givens said. "We knew their defense and what they were bringing to the table and we just didn`t get the job done."

That is what has bothered first-year offensive line coach Denver Johnson most in the days since. He also felt like his group had the information and preparation it needed to perform well. He said after meetings at the team hotel the night before the game he felt certain the Buffs would play well. 

    Instead, they were sloppy at times and inconsistent throughout. And they’ve had a short week to get things corrected before hitting the field for another game in the national spotlight Friday at Toledo.

    “The thing I’m always trying to get across to our kids is, before you can win a game, you have to avoid losing it,” Johnson said. “You know, missed assignments, foolish penalties, turnovers and missed tackles will take you out of a game quicker than anything.”


    Johnson said there are no big fixes to be made this week. His players simply have to execute their assignments on every play.

    Colorado faces an aggressive Toledo defense that likes to use speed to disrupt the run and blitzing to get to the quarterback. The Rockets gave up 315 yards on the ground last week to Purdue in a game CU coaches say was much closer than the 52-31 final scores indicates. It should help that center Mike Iltis is probable for the game after missing all but the first six snaps of the CSU game. His replacement, Keenan Stevens, played well in his absence, but losing Iltis so early in the game compounded problems because it added more unfamiliarity.

    “It was rough,” guard Ryan Miller said describing his first game back after his season ending prematurely in 2008 when he broke his leg against Florida State. “We didn’t execute.

    “We’ve got to take our right steps, we’ve got to know our assignments and we just have to execute.”

    Miller said the Buffs didn’t play as physical as they are capable, but part of that was a function of not having enough confidence in what is supposed to happen.

    “I think we could have been a lot more physical, but when you don’t know who to hit, it really doesn’t matter,” Miller said.

    Ineffective offensive line play is nothing new to CU. The program endured the problem throughout most of last year when injuries ravaged the line, forcing players into action who had been expected to spend the season on the scout team.

    Johnson predicted during training camp there would be bumps in the road with first-time starters Ethan Adkins, Iltis and Givens breaking in at the college level and Miller moving from tackle to guard. The one stable spot on the line from last year is Nate Solder at left tackle and even he gave up a sack against CSU.

    Givens said both sacks given up by the tackles occurred because of communication issues that will be ironed out as the season moves forward. But it might take some time before the unit is operating at the level some expect to be at now.

    “If it doesn’t click up front, it’s not going to click anywhere else,” Johnson said. “...It’s no one’s fault. It’s all our responsibility though to go make it better. That’s exactly the attitude they’re taking. So that’s encouraging.”