For the second straight week, the Colorado offense will spend much of its week of preparation unsure of whom its five starters on the offensive line will be.
CU lost its starting tackles in the first two games. Left tackle David Bakhtiari suffered a sprained knee in the season opener against Hawaii and did not play last week against Cal. Right tackle Jack Harris suffered a broken lower leg against Cal and could miss the rest of the season.
In addition, Ryan Dannewitz, who replaced Bakhtiari was injured against Cal and was still extremely sore on Monday. Coach Jon Embree said he probably won't know until Wednesday who will be able to play and who won't against Colorado State on Saturday.
Freshman tackle Alex Lewis saw the first action of his career against Cal and played well under the circumstances. He could be thrust into a starting role this week if his teammates don't heal quickly.
"He was OK, he was good," Embree said. "He didn't stand out for the wrong reasons. So that was good."
Kickers only half the story
There is no doubt Colorado has improved in punting and place-kicking so far early in the 2011 campaign. The team definitely has more confidence in true freshman place-kicker Will Oliver (5-for-5) and redshirt freshman punter Darragh O'Neill (41.3 yard net).
But the Buffs are still having problems in the kicking game, especially on kickoff returns.
CU is averaging a meager 12 yards per return, which is the worst total in the Football Bowl Subdivision (120 teams). Throw in the other 110 teams in the Football Championship Subdivision and the only Division I team worse than CU on kickoff returns is Jackson State.
"That's crazy. I don't understand. We should be significantly better," Embree said. "Sometimes it's the returner. Sometimes it's guys running back and then not seeing who to block and losing sight of their man. It's inexcusable, but we're going to keep looking at some different guys back there who maybe have a little electricity cause I know we didn't block it clean for Ben Kelly. He just had a knack. Hopefully we have somebody on the team who has a knack of hitting that hole."
After his record-setting receiving performance in a loss to California, the Pac-12 Conference named CU wide receiver Paul Richardson one of three players of the week in the conference on Monday.
Richardson caught 11 passes for 284 yards and two touchdowns against the Bears, setting a CU record for receiving yards in a game. His 284 yards were the third most in a Pac-12/10 game.
Richardson leads the nation in total receiving yards through two games. Both he and Florida International wide receiver T.Y. Hilton have 333 yards.
Richardson is also serving as the punt return man for the Buffs. Embree said he isn't concerned that he is exposing his most dynamic playmaker to injury, but he has thought about it.
"It's another chance for him to touch the football," Embree said. "It's a fine line, but really with the nature of the way punts are now, returns are far and few between. So I don't feel like I'm exposing him a lot."
OSU kickoff and TV set
Colorado's game at Ohio State on Sept. 24 will begin at 1:30 p.m. (MDT) and will be televised on ABC or ESPN2 depending on the region of the country. It is considered a national telecast.
Embree has played 10 true freshman in the first two games and says more will play in coming weeks. He mentioned running back D.D. Goodson and offensive lineman Paulay Asiata as candidates to play. ... Jason Espinoza has moved from wide receiver to cornerback. Espinoza began his CU career as a defensive back.