If Mike Iltis and Bryce Givens would have remained eligible members of the Colorado football program, the Buffs would have fielded one of the most experienced offensive lines in college football this fall.
But Iltis chose to focus on academics and Givens couldn't stay out of trouble off the field and CU is once again in rebuilding mode in the trenches.
That much was obvious during a Week 1 loss at Hawaii in which the Buffs surrendered seven sacks and struggled to find any offensive continuity. The problem was exacerbated when sophomore left tackle David Bakhtiari suffered a knee injury in the first half against the Warriors that kept him out of the rest of the game.
"David is our best offensive lineman," offensive line coach Steve Marshall said. "Ryan Dannewitz came in and really did a yeoman's job. ... It's always an issue when your best guy is on the sideline, but it may happen again this week. We've got to get a lot of guys ready to go."
At Monday evening's walk-through, Bakhtiari was still on crutches, but head coach Jon Embree refused to rule him out of Saturday's home opener against the Cal Bears, who registered seven sacks against the Buffs in a 52-7 win last season.
Marshall was inclined to believe Bakhtiari probably won't start and he will plan accordingly in preparation this week. Embree said no major changes are expected to the depth chart and no position changes are in store.
Senior offensive lineman Ryan Miller said the Buffs had problems at times in the opener but he believes they can be worked out. Miller said he didn't want to give the impression that he is making excuses but he said playing with three inexperienced teammates on the offensive front was problematic at times.
"It definitely went parts of good and bad," Miller said. "We had some miscommunication towards the end and we had some lack of experience toward the end. On a scale of one-to-10, I don't think it was a 10, but I don't think it was a one. I thought we did OK."
Marshall said he came away from the first outing feeling like his group still has a long way to go but he gave them a generally favorable review. He said he liked what he saw from both young centers, Daniel Munyer, who made his first start, and Gus Handler, who rotated with Munyer.
He said each week will be a learning experience for them throughout the season, but he believes both can be very good players as they mature.
Miller said the most important area for the Buffs to improve this week against Cal is communicating with each other.
"It needs to happen in the film room first of all and then on the practice field," he said. "We have to understand what looks generally generate more pressure than others and we have to be able to pick up that pressure and talk it out, get everybody on the same page, running backs and the offensive line."
In addressing what led to allowing seven sacks in the opener, Embree and Marshall said there were multiple breakdowns from everyone on offense. They said some of the sacks were quarterback Tyler Hansen's fault because he missed a read or didn't get rid of the ball fast enough. Other sacks were attributed to running backs missing blocks along with the offensive line.
In general, Marshall definitely didn't seem to be in panic mode as the Buffs prepare to play in front of the home crowd for the first time this season.
"I feel great about them," Marshall said. "We can play a lot better, but there were a lot of good things that came out of that game."