Colorado center Gus Handler? has had to adjust to multiple snap options with the implementation of the pistol-style offense.
Colorado center Gus Handler? has had to adjust to multiple snap options with the implementation of the pistol-style offense. ( CLIFF GRASSMICK )

Heading into his third year as a starting center, Colorado senior Gus Handler is comfortable on the field.

It took him a little while to find his comfort zone this offseason, though.

New CU head coach Mike MacIntyre has introduced the pistol offense to the Buffs. It's an offense that should be more up-tempo and, ideally, produce more yards and more points.

It's also an offense that presents a new challenge for Handler and his fellow centers. CU quarterbacks will line up in a shotgun formation more than they have in the past.

"The offense is a little different, where we're a lot in the shotgun and we have to move and snap at the same time, so it's a little tougher than usual," said Handler, who has started 15 games at center the past two seasons.

CU coaches came out of spring practices a little concerned with how the centers were handling the new approach. Shotgun snaps were not consistently crisp at that time.

However, with training camp wrapping up on Saturday and the season opener coming up on Sept. 1, CU appears to have fixed any issues it had in that area.

"I don't really consider it a problem right now at all," offensive line coach Gary Bernardi said.

"We have a CQ (center-to-quarterback) exchange every day and they've gotten better at that. We try to make the centers strain pretty good in that period to focus and concentrate on the snaps."

Handler and his fellow linemen got the message at the end of spring that they needed to work on their snaps. In the pistol offense, a center has to be prepared for three different types of snaps -- a basic snap when the quarterback places his hands under center, a medium-range shotgun snap and a longer-range shotgun snap.

"In the spring it was an adjustment because we had to get more lateral and more up field," Handler said. "It was just getting used to the steps and snapping at the same time. That was the biggest difference.

"I feel like I really went home in May and in the summer and worked on that (shotgun) snap."

Handler, who was a tackle in high school, said the basic snap is the easiest for him.

"I'd much rather just have the guy under me, snap and go," he said. "But, I've got the adjustment down."

He's not the only one. While Handler is likely to be the starter, the Buffs have used several different players at center throughout camp and all are getting the hang of it. Junior Kaiwi Crabb, sophomore Brad Cotner, redshirt freshmen Alex Kelley and Vincent Arvia and true freshman Jonathan Huckins have all snapped the ball this month.

In addition, junior Daniel Munyer started six games at center last season, including the last four after Handler was injured. He also started the first three games at center in 2011 before an injury. Munyer has not participated in live drills during camp as he recovers from a leg injury.

So, in all, the Buffs have given seven of their 16 linemen work at center. Bernardi said the Buffs can't have too many guys knowing how to snap.

"I'm not so concerned about the continuity," he said. "I'm concerned about all those guys being able to react and play the position.

"I think it's vital (to have multiple centers). I don't want to ever, ever be in a situation where we don't have a guy who can snap in the game."

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at howellb@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.