Colorado's Jake Moretti still hasn't played a football game in nearly three years, but the redshirt freshman offensive lineman continues to turn heads with the relentless work he's putting in to get ready.
With fall camp set to begin Aug. 1 and the season opener against Colorado State scheduled for Aug. 31, Moretti is on track to be a key contributor to the offense.
"He's getting better every day," CU head coach Mike MacIntyre said. "What he's shown this spring, we feel like he's going to be an excellent player. It's been encouraging. It's been hard on him as he's fighting through all of that, but he's extremely talented."
Moretti hasn't played since his junior year at Pomona High School, in 2015. He injured his knee just before his senior year in 2016. He then signed with CU and enrolled early, in January 2017. He sat out last season as he continued to rehabilitate his leg.
Moretti finally got on the field toward the end of spring drills in March and played a few series at left tackle with the first-team offense in the spring showcase. Since then, he's been a star in the weight room.
"He's a dog you have to chain down," strength and conditioning coach Drew Wilson said. "He's been great."
Moretti recently squatted 525 pounds, the best number for a CU offensive lineman and one of the best on the entire team.
"I stopped him because I have never seen him squat any more (than that)," Wilson said. "He'll work. He's always asking me what more he can do and some days and I'm like, 'Nothing. Go do treatment and take care of your knee.'"
The 6-foot-4 Moretti weighs around 290 pounds, and Wilson said the Buffs will likely keep him around 290-295 this season.
MacIntyre said that while hopes are high for Moretti, the Buffs need to get into fall camp to find out how his knee holds up to the daily grind. Wilson said there are days when Moretti's knee is "cranky," so he tries not to push him too much.
"Every day he comes in and I'm just like, 'Jake we take what today gives us,'" Wilson said.
Moretti isn't the only key piece to the offensive line that's battling back from injury.
CU's most experienced lineman, junior Tim Lynott, continues to recover from a torn Achilles that ended his 2017 season two games early. MacIntyre said Lynott was running and lifting Wednesday morning and added, "Timmy's way ahead of schedule."
Lynott had started 24 consecutive games - 20 at right guard, four at center - before his injury on Nov. 4 at Arizona State.
With Lynott's experience and Moretti's potential, they might be the two main keys to the offensive line. Although both are coming off injuries, Wilson and MacIntyre are impressed with how they've worked to get back.
"We don't have any concerns about them being ready," MacIntyre said. "As far as being ready for fall camp and playing in the games, they should both be ready to help us."
On Tuesday, CU announced that offensive linemen Dillon Middlemiss and Grant Polley wouldn't be with the team this year. Middlemiss, a junior, will end his football career and focus on graduating, while Polley, a redshirt freshman, will take the year off from football and school for personal reasons.
Asked about how that impacts CU's depth, MacIntyre quickly responded, "We're good."
Of course, the progress of Moretti and Lynott contributes to that confidence, but the Buffs do still have 15 offensive linemen on scholarship for this year.
Aside from Moretti and Lynott, the Buffs are confident in senior tackle Josh Kaiser, junior guard/tackle Aaron Haigler and junior Brett Tonz as veterans leading the group.
Wilson said Haigler hit a personal record in the squat at 485 pounds this spring and that Haigler told him, "I'm moving better and I feel stronger."
Officially a Buff
Running back Travon McMillian, a graduate transfer from Virginia Tech, was accepted into CU's Masters of Science in Organizational Leadership program and has started classes.
McMillian rushed for 2,153 yards and 16 touchdowns, while adding 35 catches for 351 yards and seven touchdowns, during three seasons at Virginia Tech.
He has one season to play with the Buffs and is expected to compete for the starting job this fall.
With the departures of Middlemiss and Polley, the Buffs are down to 83 scholarship players - two below the NCAA maximum. MacIntyre said he doesn't have plans at this time to add any junior college or four-year transfers and said those scholarships could be awarded to walk-ons. ... Freshman offensive lineman Kanan Ray continues to recover from a knee injury that kept him out of spring. He has not been medically cleared to play, but is making good progress. "He might have to redshirt; I'm not sure yet," MacIntyre said. "He's doing everything he can and getting better and better every day. We just want to make sure he's completely ready." ... Freshman nose tackle Jalen Sami injured his knee late in spring and MacIntyre said, "If we don't have any setbacks, he should be ready to go."