Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre and offensive line coach Klayton Adams have consistently lauded the potential of Will Sherman. So much so the 290-pound tackle from Allen, Texas, almost had his redshirt burned a year ago.
Instead, Sherman spent a year in the background while cultivating the skills that made getting him on the field as soon as possible so tantalizing. However, when the time finally arrived for Sherman to make his Buffaloes debut during the second half of the season-opening rout of Colorado State, Adams experienced a momentary pang of uncertainty regarding the prospect in whom he'd been so confident.
"He got in at the end of the Colorado State game, and he immediately busted something," Adams said. "It wasn't really in a meaningful snap and you start going, 'Oh shoot, maybe he's somebody who's going to get nervous during games.
"Then he gets thrown into the Nebraska game, right into the mix the heat of the battle when we're trying to win the game, and he played pretty good. I think he played in a lot of big games in high school coming from Allen, and I think he thrives in those situations. That's what we've seen so far."
As the No. 21-ranked Buffs prepare to host Arizona State Saturday in a key Pac-12 Conference South Division battle (2 p.m., Pac-12 Network), the continuing emergence of Sherman and true freshman Frank Fillip gives Adams the hope some stability is finally in store for an offensive that has enjoyed little so far despite the Buffs' 4-0 start.
At the outset of the season, uncertainties up front on both sides of the ball arguably were among the top question marks the Buffs needed to address. While the defensive front has displayed marked improvement, it has been more of a mixed bag on offense. The Buffs generally have moved the well in an attack that has performed with admirable balance (the Buffs average 205.5 rushing yards and 284.3 passing yards per game), quarterback Steven Montez often has been under duress. CU quarterbacks have been sacked 13 times, including seven at Nebraska, and the Buffs have utilized three different starting lineups along the offensive line in the past three games.
Sherman received his first career start at left tackle last week against UCLA, and he is one of six CU offensive linemen who have played at least 175 of the Buffs' 300 snaps. Fillip also saw his most significant playing time against the Bruins, logging 25 snaps after seeing just 12 through the first three games.
"With freshmen, the key is they that have to keep getting better every single game because they have a bigger jump to make than some of the older guys do," Adams said. "(Sherman's) raw ability puts him in position to be successful a fair amount. The more he gets comfortable schematically, and is able to react rather than having to think about things all the time, and the better technique that he continues to play with, I think he has a chance to be a really good player. But just like every player, he has to understand that every week is a growing opportunity."
Sherman has taken that last message to heart. While the Buffs certainly need his production now, while sporting a No. 21 ranking and aiming to make a run in the Pac-12 South, Sherman understands he still has a long way to go to turn into a much-needed anchor for an offensive front that has endured significant shuffling since the start of 2017.
"Every week I think I've gotten better," Sherman said. "There is still a long way to go but I think I've taken big strides since the beginning of fall camp. We're trying out new pass sets now, and it's something a little different than what I was used to in high school. It's not as vertical. That's something we're really trying to stress in order to give Montez more time to make plays."