In the trenches
Left tackle: Aaron Haigler, Jr.
Left guard: Brett Tonz, Jr.
Center: Colby Pursell, Fr.
Right guard: Tim Lynott, Jr.
Right tackle: Josh Kaiser, Sr.
Left tackle: Jake Moretti, Fr.
Left guard: William Sherman, Fr.
Right guard: Dillon Middlemiss, Jr.
Right tackle: Hunter Vaughn, So.
Others to watch:
Redshirt freshmen: G/T Chance Lytle; G/C Heston Paige; G/T Grant Polley
True freshmen: T Frank Fillip; G/C Josh Jynes; G/T Kanan Ray; G Casey Roddick
Walk-ons: C/G Justin Eggers, Jr.; T Jack Shutack, Jr.
With several key players not on the field this spring, Colorado co-offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Klayton Adams has yet to get a look at his full complement of tools up front.
As the Buffaloes wrapped up spring practices last month, however, Adams came away feeling good about the foundation being set.
"I'm really excited about it," he said. "I think I made the comment going into spring this is as excited as I've been to go into a camp and it lived up to it. It's been fun to watch those guys improve.
"Hopefully I feel even more excited about training camp (in the fall). I'm pretty sure I'll be excited about it going into the summer, too."
Although Colorado's offensive line will be a work in progress into the fall, this spring was an important developmental step for several of the Buffs.
Juniors Aaron Haigler and Brett Tonz shared the Joe Romig Award, presented to the team's most improved offensive linemen in spring. Both are potential starters in the fall, with Haigler spending much of the spring at left tackle and Tonz at left guard.
Adams had plenty of other candidates for the Romig Award.
Junior Dillon Middlemiss had his best spring in Boulder. He spent the spring mainly at right guard and has put himself in position to compete for a starting role.
Josh Kaiser — the lone senior on the line — continued his steady improvement, as well. He won the Romig Award a year ago and keeps getting better.
Redshirt freshmen Jake Moretti, Colby Pursell and William Sherman also took significant jumps this spring, and another redshirt freshman, Chance Lytle, continues to prove he'll be a factor going forward.
Seeing so many players get better up front was great news for the Buffs, but the road ahead is still a long one.
"We've gotten bigger and stronger and more physical," Adams said. "I think we understand things better. We're just not where we want to be. We want to be a great group and we're a long ways from that."
Going forward, the next step is to get healthy.
Junior Isaac Miller, a part-time starter last year, will not play next season as he continues to deal with chronic knee issues, but several others should be added to the mix in August.
Junior guard/center Tim Lynott, a fixture in the starting lineup the past two years, continues his rapid recovery from an Achilles injury and is expected to be ready to go by the summer.
True freshmen Kanan Ray and Casey Roddick both sat out of spring with knee injuries, but are expected back in fall.
The Buffs are hoping another redshirt freshman, Grant Polley, will be ready to compete in the fall, too. Because of injury and illness, he sat out last season and lost a bunch of weight. He was listed in the spring at just 250 pounds on his 6-foot-4 frame.
"Hopefully he can put himself in a position where he can compete for a job because he's a very talented guy," Adams said.
So is Moretti, a highly-touted prospect coming out of Pomona High School a year ago. After a long battle with injuries, he finally got onto the field for team drills toward the end of spring and looked impressive at times.
Moretti's continued develop could be significant for CU. Barring any setbacks, Moretti could be in line to start at left tackle, and he brings a nastiness that the Buffs have lacked up front in recent years.
"Jake has legitimate rage," Adams said. "He definitely does. We have to get him healthy so he can do things all the time."
Incoming freshman Frank Fillip could compete for playing time, too.
Regardless of which five linemen take the field on Aug. 31 against Colorado State, Adams said this is a group that has to play with a tougher mindset.
"Everybody can be tough and physical on practice No. 1; everybody can be tough and physical when you're running out behind Ralphie," Adams said. "But, I want the guy that's going to be tough and physical on the fifth overtime or at the end of the three-hour practice.
"That's what you have to do be a great offensive line; you have to have five of those type of guys."
It may be August or September before the Buffs find out if they have that, but they at least came away from spring encouraged.
"I do feel a lot better about that group than coming into spring," head coach Mike MacIntyre said.