Replacing a three-year starter and doing so at a new position is a challenge, but it's one that Jonathan Huckins has fully embraced.
The senior is projected to take over as Colorado's starting center in the fall, and has put himself in position to excel in his new role.
"He had an excellent spring," head coach Mike MacIntyre said. "He's very, very bright. He's in great shape. I think he'll be an excellent center."
Alex Kelley, who recently received a mini-camp invitation from the NFL's San Francisco 49ers, started 38 of CU's 39 games at center over the past three years, but Huckins believes he can step in and make the transition a smooth one.
"I can definitely feel the pressure (of replacing Kelley)," the 6-foot-4, 310-pound Huckins said. "Alex was a great center for us for three years. I definitely leaned on him, stuck to his advice and took that to heart. Overall, I think the whole center position, I think it does fit me better. I think this is a good position for me.
"I feel really comfortable. I know this offense really well."
To this point in his career, Huckins has played mostly at guard and only once at center, as a redshirt freshman in 2014 during a blowout loss at USC.
"All good snaps, so it was positive," he said with a smile.
While his experience at center is minimal, Huckins has played in 26 games during his career, including 14 as a starter (all at guard).
A year ago, offensive line coach Klayton Adams decided to get a look at Huckins at center. Adams was immediately impressed with Huckins' ability to snap, and Huckins said he felt comfortable right away, especially taking on the center's role of making calls for the line.
"Making those calls and doing those things out there as a center ... it was a pretty easy transition," said Huckins, who came to CU from The Woodlands, Texas.
With the exception of a couple of off days, Huckins said he was pleased with his performance as the first-team center this spring.
"I think I made a big jump from how I played as a guard last year to my center play this year," he said. "I got a lot of the steps and the technique down, which is very important. I think I took to center really well this spring."
Huckins has adopted the ball-out snapping technique that Kelley used last year for shot-gun snaps and said it's been effective for him, as well.
"There's not as much rotation, not as much risk that you're going to over-snap," he said.
The main advantage to the ball-out technique, Huckins said, is that it requires the snapping arm to be extended farther, which puts a little more space between the center and the defensive linemen on the other side of the line. That gives Huckins that extra split second to get the correct footwork and technique for the play.
"I had (360-pound nose tackle Javier Edwards) across from me most of the spring, and having that kind of extension really was an advantage to me," he said.
In general, Huckins is excited about joining the starting lineup for a group that is loaded with experience. While starting positions haven't been completely settled, the Buffs return left tackle Jeromy Irwin (26 starts), left guard Gerrad Kough (22 starts), right guard Tim Lynott (14 starts) and right tackle Aaron Haigler (seven starts).
"I feel like it's a really good opportunity for me and the rest of the offensive line to really take that next step and be one of those supporting groups on the offense that people can look to," Huckins said. "That's the one thing that this line is going to be packed full of is experience, but I think experience together is going to be the biggest thing."