No. 7 UW at CU Buffs
When: 8 p.m., Saturday
Where: Folsom Field
Radio: 94.1 FM/850 AM
When Colorado center Jonathan Huckins was injured during the second half of a Sept. 9 game against Texas State, the Buffaloes had to adjust on the fly.
With Huckins out, offensive line coach Klayton Adams decided to move right guard Tim Lynott Jr. to center. It was a move he had contemplated for over a year, but had not made until that moment.
"When it happened at the end of the Texas State game, it was not really planned, and I was excited to watch it happen," Adams said. "He did a good job."
Lynott wound up finishing that game and playing the entire next game — last Saturday against Northern Colorado — at center as Huckins sat out with injury.
"Playing right guard for 16 games, it's kind of weird playing center," Lynott said. "It's definitely a lot more work and a lot more focus in that aspect, because you have to make the calls, snap the ball and block someone. It's a lot of stuff and it's one of the hardest positions, obviously, in football. I just tried to be confident in myself and every time I snap it, just try to go and don't even think about it."
Lynott's shift to center, which may or may not be permanent, has been one of several alternations made to the CU offensive line through the first three games, and the Buffs (3-0) may not be done with their changes up front.
"Until we find the five that are going to do it consistently and play with the best technique and the best effort we have to keep looking for it," Adams said.
The Buffs thought they had it. In fact, the line was supposed to be one of the strengths of this team.
With left tackle Jeromy Irwin, left guard Gerrad Kough, Huckins at center, Lynott at right guard and right tackle Aaron Haigler, the Buffs had a group with 82 career starts coming into the year. All but Huckins were returning starters from last year.
That group has yet to play together, however. Irwin was suspended for the first two games, Huckins missed the UNC game and inconsistent play has plagued others.
As the Buffs open Pac-12 play on Saturday against No. 7 Washington (3-0), the lack of continuity up front is one of the top concerns.
"It's disappointing sometimes, but it's getting better every week and coach Adams is pushing us and pushing us and making us do better," Lynott said. "We have to take a big step this week with Washington."
Already this season, the Buffs have used Josh Kaiser, Isaac Miller and Irwin at left tackle, Huckins and Lynott at center, Lynott and Haigler at right guard, and Haigler and Kaiser at right tackle. Only Kough has remained in one spot.
The line had rough outings against Colorado State and Texas State to start the year, but saw some improvement against UNC.
"I still don't think we're playing at the level that we're capable of playing or at the level that that our expectations are for ourselves," Adams said.
Because of that, the Buffs will continue to move players around until they find five that work well together.
"We've had the same mantra a couple weeks in a row: five guys are going to earn a starting job and it may not be the five same guys as last week and it might be," Adams said. "Those guys understand the idea that if they don't play really well, there's other guys in the group that are capable of playing well."
While finding continuity with one group of five is often the goal, Adams said, "I would rather sacrifice (continuity with the same five) in the name of competition if I don't feel like the guys are giving what we need."
Lynott, meanwhile, has been one of the bright spots up front, at guard and center.
Although he never played center at CU until the Texas State game, he's been on point with his snaps. Including plays that were nullified for penalties, Lynott has delivered 104 shotgun snaps and only four — all in the second half against UNC — caused quarterback Steven Montez to bend down to catch the ball.
If nothing else, the Buffs are developing more versatility up front and know they have multiple players to step in at each spot.
"Sometimes you look at a game and say, 'What do we need out of this position?'" Adams said. "That's kind of been the philosophy for us thus far: 'Hey, what is the right combination of guys to have a chance of beating the team we're playing?
"Sometimes you have to get outside of your comfort zone as a coach to figure out what the guys can do best."