Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Ideally, the Colorado football team would find five offensive linemen who work well together and start every game, thus solidifying the trenches.
In reality, as the Buffaloes (3-0) prepare to face UCLA (0-3) in the Pac-12 opener on Friday, they have nine linemen battling for playing time, and one of the newest members of the group is quickly rising.
Sophomore Kary Kutsch, a transfer from Butte (Calif.) College, came off the bench to play left guard and right guard at times during the Buffs’ 45-14 win against New Hampshire on Sept. 15.
Against the Wildcats, the 6-foot-4, 300-pound Kutsch played 51 snaps. On the season, he’s played 59 snaps, with no penalties, no sacks or quarterback pressures allowed and four knock-down blocks. He’s also been credited with three blocks that led to touchdowns.
“I thought that Kary went out and competed and that’s what you like to see for a guy who’s really getting his first meaningful snaps in a game,” CU co-offensive coordinator/line coach Klayton Adams said.
A late addition to the team, Kutsch signed with the Buffs on May 11. The medical retirement of Isaac Miller opened up a scholarship. CU liked Kutsch’s versatility and ability to help right away.
Kutsch has certainly lived up to expectations to this point.
“Are you going to finish people over the pile? Are you going to try to drive somebody out of bounds? Are you going to be borderline getting penalties?,” Adams said. “Obviously you don’t want to get penalties, but you want somebody with that type of mentality. That’s what you see from someone like Kary Kutsch is the raw material is there. Now we have to bring it together, because the mentality part is definitely there for him.”
Senior Josh Kaiser (left tackle), juniors Aaron Haigler (right tackle) and Tim Lynott (right guard) and redshirt freshman Colby Pursell (center) have started every game, while junior Brett Tonz (left guard) started the first two games. An ankle injury sidelined Tonz against New Hampshire, and redshirt freshman Jake Moretti got the start.
With mixed results up front this season, however, the Buffs utilized the game against New Hampshire to get more players on the field. In addition to Moretti and Kutsch at guard, Will Sherman played 55 snaps at left tackle (with Kaiser moving to right tackle).
CU used the bye week to get some of those young players — including true freshman tackle Frank Fillip — even more first and second-team reps.
“There’s guys that need a lot of good on good reps and that’s what we were able to accomplish in the bye week,” Adams said. “Just being able to get guys opportunities that you can teach off of that are full speed and live and everything is on the line, for our group right now that’s a huge thing.”
Sherman, in particular, has shown potential, but plenty of room for growth.
“Will has a long way to go fundamentally,” Adams said. “Every game he plays he’s going to be able to identify things a little bit faster and react a little bit faster. Right now, Will goes out and puts himself in bad situations and then most of the time it ends up being OK because he’s really talented. We have to put ourselves in better situations and then be able to use our talent there.”
Right now, Sherman’s mistakes have not led to sacks or bad situations for the offense, but Adams said, “There’s so many things that need to be cleaned up.”
Sherman won’t be the only young lineman going through on-the-job training this season.
“It’s just going to be like training camp all the way through the end of the season with some of these guys,” Adams said.
Adams said Tonz got healthier during the bye week and will challenge to get his starting spot back. “Brett’s probably played as good as anybody in the games, and so I’m hoping he can take another jump and go to another level,” he said. … CU has already had 14 different offensive linemen play this season, the highest total since 14 played in 2011. … Colorado will wear gold helmets, black jerseys and black pants against the Bruins. … CU is a 9.5-point favorite, the first time it has ever been favored in a Pac-12 opener. The Buffs are 2-5 in Pac-12 openers. … UCLA enters this week riding an 11-game road losing