It's been a long time since Jake Moretti has been able to practice full time and even longer since he's played in a game.
The former Pomona High School star is finally on his way to doing both, however.
During Colorado's annual spring showcase on Saturday at Folsom Field, fans got their first look at the former four-star recruit, who lined up at left tackle with the Buffaloes' starting offense.
"Jake's a dog," quarterback Steven Montez said. "He's going to be something special for us, definitely, up front. He's very dominant."
Throughout the spring showcase, the Buffs' offense and defense took turns having their good moments. And, while there's not a lot that can be gleaned from the spring scrimmage, the fact that Moretti participated and lined up with the first team offense is a big deal for CU.
During his career at Pomona, Moretti showed signs of being a dominant player in college, and he originally gave his verbal commitment to perennial power Ohio State.
A knee injury kept him from playing as a senior in 2016, however, and he wound up deciding to stay close to home and play for the Buffs. He arrived on campus in January 2017, but leg injuries prevented him from practicing last spring and last fall.
This spring, the Buffs have eased him back into football shape, considering he hasn't played a game since 2015. Saturday was just his third practice in team drills.
"We've been bringing him along," head coach Mike MacIntyre said. "He's passed every test so far and the little bit I saw him out there today, he looked pretty good. Hopefully he'll keep going because he's extremely talented and we would love to have him out there playing.
"It's exciting to see it, not only as a coach, but I'm really more excited for the kid. For all he's been through, I'm really excited for the kid."
MacIntyre said Moretti's father and high school coach were at practice this week, and added, "You can see the glow in their eyes just thinking he's having a chance to play. It's exciting."
It's exciting for the players, too, as Moretti could have an immediate impact on the offensive line. The 6-foot-4, 280-pound Moretti, along with other freshmen, aren't available for interviews, but there was plenty of praise for his potential, especially from Montez.
"I remember watching him against (339-pound defensive tackle) Javier Edwards," Montez said. "He pushed him off the ball, pushed him off the boards. That alone was very impressive.
"When he's on the field, he's a mean dude. You kind of want that from your O-line. You don't want your O-line to be soft. I think he gives us definitely a nice sharp edge."
Montez may like Moretti more than most, because if Saturday was any indication, Moretti could be the man protecting Montez's back next season.
Junior Aaron Haigler has practiced most of the spring at left tackle, but has spent his career to this point playing on the right side (guard and tackle). Haigler lined up at right tackle with the first unit Saturday.
"If Jake Moretti keeps coming on, Jake is more comfortable at left," MacIntyre said. "Especially with his knee injury, it's better for him to be on the left than on the right. Aaron can play both (sides) and he can play guard. We'll just have to see how that comes along."
The Buffs also have senior Josh Kaiser, who didn't participate in the scrimmage, at tackle. Moretti's development gives the Buffs another option, however, and he may be their best option by the time the fall rolls around.
Getting Moretti on the field wasn't the only good to come out Saturday.
Receivers Laviska Shenault (two touchdown catches), Tony Brown and Juwann Winfree all made nice plays in the passing game and running back Alex Fontenot had a couple of good runs.
On defense, safety Kyle Trego and linebacker Carson Wells had interceptions, while defensive lineman Terrance Lang and linebacker Nate Landman made a couple big plays.
"I thought today went well; zero injuries, which you always want in a scrimmage situation," MacIntyre said. "We got a lot done with all the referees here in all different phases, so I was excited about that. There was big plays made on both sides of the ball. I was pleased with the overall effort of the guys out there."