Although there weren’t many fans in the Folsom Field seats on Saturday for Colorado’s open scrimmage, left tackle Jeromy Irwin was pleased to play in front of them for the first time in nearly a year.
“It was awesome,” he said. “I miss the field. I never want to sit around and watch. That’s something that’s not very fun.”
Irwin tore the ACL in his left knee during the second quarter of the Buffaloes’ 48-14 win against Massachusetts on Sept. 12, and he missed the last 11 games.
Now a fifth-year junior, he’s healthy, bigger than ever (weighing 300 pounds) and stronger. Irwin is also a microcosm of the entire CU offensive line, which has improved, but isn’t ready for the season opener in less than three weeks.
“I wish there was seven weeks (to go), because I need all the practice I can get,” Irwin said. “(Playing at Folsom on Saturday) was definitely enjoyable, but I’ve got a lot of stuff to work on and there were definitely some learning points.”
Saturday’s scrimmage was the last opportunity for fans and media to watch the Buffs before the Sept. 2 opener against Colorado State. Irwin and his line mates proved that they have gotten better since last year, but there’s certainly more work to be done.
For one, CU has yet to nail down its starting five up front. On Saturday, the Buffs had the same five play the entire day with the first-team offense: Irwin, left guard Gerrad Kough, center Alex Kelley, right guard Tim Lynott and right tackle Sam Kronshage. That’s not necessarily the five favored to start, though.
“There’s definitely still competition,” offensive line coach Klayton Adams said. “I think we’re closing in on about eight guys that are really competing for some jobs.”
The second unit included (from left to right): Shane Callahan, Josh Kaiser, Jonathan Huckins, Sully Wiefels and Aaron Haigler.
“The unit that played with the ones today is a unit I wanted to look at,” Adams said.
Adams said that first group has had good chemistry in camp and that’s key as the Buffs try to find the five that will start.
“That’s what we’re aiming for there is almost telepathy, where those guys they get up and see a look (from the defense) and they can kind of look at each other and know what call we’re in,” Adams said. “I think we’re headed in that direction, but we have a long way to go.”
Adams singled out Kronshage, Haigler, Kelley and Callahan as players who have made a big jump forward from the spring. Fundamentally, Callahan has been a lot better than he was in the spring.
Still, Adams holds his linemen to a high standard.
“To say that any of them have taken the jump that we need to make, I don’t think that’s the case,” he said, “so we’ve got another eight or nine days before we start game prep to really hone in and work on the fundamental stuff.”
Adams coached Saturday from the field, and said it was difficult to give a complete analysis of the line from that vantage point, but he wasn’t satisfied with the push the line was getting off the ball.
“I’m not sure we’re moving the line of scrimmage the way that we need to,” he said. “I don’t think it’s an effort thing. I think it’s a fundamental technique thing that we need to continue working on.”
Irwin agreed, adding that the Buffs need “more explosion” at the line of scrimmage. There were also some issues with shot-gun snaps from the centers.
While the group is not where it wants to be at this point, the Buffs are pleased with the direction in which they are headed.
Irwin believes the line is much better than it was going into the 2015 season. Adams liked the communication up front and said it appeared the line made the right calls most of the day on Saturday.
During the next three weeks, the Buffs will look to solidify their line even more.
“I think there’s still a ton of things we really need to get better at,” Adams said. “We know the scheme, and they’re understanding it even better and better the more we do it, but it’s such a fundamental position.
“Being able to play with the proper technique, and being able to play with your shoulders square all the time, understanding what alignments mean on defense other than just the scheme that we’re trying to play, those are the things we’re really trying to work on.”
Brian Howell: firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.