It is a unit billed as a strength of the team just a few short weeks ago, with some believing the Colorado offensive line had the potential to be one of the best in the program's long history.

Certainly that potential is still there. However, through three games CU's offensive line could probably best be described as a work in progress.

Saturday's final nonconference date against Northern Colorado, a 41-21 victory, was supposed to mark the beginning of some stability up front for the Buffs. Instead, CU played without starting center Jonathan Huckins and, for the second consecutive week against smaller opposition, the Buffs were forced to make adjustments on the fly.

Tim Lynott shifted from his usual right guard spot to take over Huckins' duties at center Saturday, while Aaron Haigler moved from right tackle to right guard. Left tackle Jeromy Irwin made his first start of the season after being suspended for the first two games and his replacement during that time, Josh Kaiser, took over at right tackle.

In short, heading into a showdown against No. 6 Washington in a rematch of last year's Pac-12 Conference title game, the Buffs still have yet to field the entirety the highly-experienced offensive line they expected to feature in 2017.

Head coach Mike MacIntyre said Huckins did not practice most of the week due to an injury but was available Saturday if necessary.


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"As the naked eye goes, I thought they played pretty well. We had a couple holding calls," MacIntyre said. "We'll look at it. Jon has played guard and center for us, so he can play multiple spots and so has Timmy. We'll diagnose what is best for us to beat Washington and we'll diagnose how healthy we are. It does give us options and good options. (Huckins) could have gone. He didn't practice at all until Friday. He was cleared. If Timmy would have gotten hurt, he would have been able to play. He should be full speed this week."

Irwin's return was a welcome one for the Buffs, who allowed quarterback Steven Montez to be sacked just once after he was sacked a total of seven times in the first two games. And after struggling to open holes in the running game last week against Texas State (91 rushing yards on 41 attempts), CU's offensive line paved the way for 212 rushing yards against UNC on 39 attempts.

"It felt great just being out on the field," Irwin said. "I wasn't on the field much and it's nice to be out there and have a presence. It's going to have to take everybody doing their job. Today we had a lot of penalties that need to be cleaned up. Some of them were questionable, but the refs did a great job. We're going to have to look at film to see what we did wrong.

"It doesn't really matter what people say, it matters how we play. We cleaned up some sacks this week. I had to shake off some rust, but overall as a group when I'm out there it's more of a physical presence."

Pat Rooney: rooneyp@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/prooney07