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CU Buffs position overview: Offensive line

Group could be strength despite departures

Photo courtesy CU athletics
Junior Colby Pursell, left, is one of the most experienced linemen returning for the Colorado Buffaloes.

Two of Colorado’s top offensive linemen from the 2019 season are in the midst of preparing for the NFL Draft.

The popular coach who made an impact on the group as a whole is now in East Lansing, Mich.

There will be some big changes within the Buffaloes’ offensive line in 2020, but it is a group that could be a strength.

As concerns over the spread of the new coronavirus remain and there is no telling when – or if – the college football season will begin, the Buffaloes are preparing for the 2020 season in hopes it will be played. Over the next couple of weeks, BuffZone will preview each position group for the CU football team. In this first installment, we look at the offensive line.

In previewing the Buffs’ line, it would be easy to focus on what has been lost. Tim Lynott Jr. was a four-year starter who played all 12 games at center last year. Arlington Hambright, who transferred to CU a year ago, played every game at left tackle. Both are now aiming for a shot in the NFL.

The biggest loss for CU, however, was coach Chris Kapilovic. Although he spent just one year in Boulder, Kapilovic was widely appreciated by his players, but he took an opportunity to follow former Buffs head coach Mel Tucker to Michigan State.

Mitch Rodrigue

In replacing Kapilovic, new head coach Karl Dorrell made a somewhat surprising hire with Mitch Rodrigue, a veteran coach with no previous ties to the west and no Power 5 coaching experience.

Dorrell has stressed the importance of hiring great teachers as coaches, however, and he’s a believer in Rodrigue, who has coached nearly 30 years, including stops at Louisiana, Southern Mississippi and South Alabama. After Louisiana went through a coaching change following the 2017 season, Rodrigue spent the last two seasons at Spanish Fort High School in Alabama.

“What coach Rod brings to us is a great amount of experience and the ability to be a great mentor to our players,” Dorrell said. “What you will find out about our coaches is that we will get fully involved with our players, both on and off the field.  He really is an outstanding man, he has an infectious personality and our players will gravitate to him.”

Rodrigue takes over a position group that is loaded with young talent, as well as a good deal of experience.

Kary Kutsch, the lone senior, is back after starting all 12 games at left guard last season. He’s had a good offseason in the weight room and is hoping to be even better than last year.

Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Tackle William Sherman, right, has started 21 games in the past two years for the Colorado Buffaloes.

Junior William Sherman returns after starting all 12 games at right tackle. He was a nine-game starter at left tackle in 2018, but moved to the right side last year when Hambright joined the team. There’s a chance Sherman will return to the left side. Based on his development to this point, Sherman could become one of the better left tackles in the Pac-12.

CU also returns Colby Pursell, a junior who started all 12 games of the 2018 season at center. Last year, he moved to right guard and made five starts while battling illness and injury the rest of the year. A healthy Pursell could solidify the Buffs at center or a guard spot.

The key to CU’s success up front could come with the sophomore class, however.

Kanan Ray, a former UCLA signee, regained his health last year and spent the 2019 season as a backup. He’s got the potential to earn a starting job at guard. Casey Roddick has that ability, as well; he started twice at right guard last year and will battle for playing time.

The sophomore class also features tackle Frank Fillip, who made two starts as a true freshman in 2018. He got a much-needed redshirt year in 2019 and could land a starting spot. Both of CU’s previous two line coaches – Klayton Adams and Kapilovic – were high on Fillip’s potential.

CU also has a lot of talent among its redshirt freshman and true freshman groups. While the youngsters might have to wait their turn, redshirt freshman Austin Johnson could become a major factor at guard or center.

Last year, the Buffs allowed just 1.75 sacks per game (third-best in the Pac-12) and one sack per 19.57 passing attempts (second-best rate in the Pac-12). With a new quarterback, CU would love to have the line produce similar – or better – numbers this year.

Here’s an initial look at the projected offensive line for the 2020 season:

Position: Offensive line

Seniors: Kary Kutsch, 6-5, 310 (12 starts, 764 snaps played, 77 knockdown blocks)

Juniors: Chance Lytle, 6-7, 320 (24 snaps, 1 knockdown block); Heston Paige, 6-5, 300; Colby Pursell, 6-4, 305 (5 starts, 333 snaps, 29 knockdown blocks); William Sherman, 6-4, 310 (12 starts, 836 snaps, 67 knockdown blocks).

Sophomores: Frank Fillip, 6-7, 290 (6 snaps); Josh Jynes, 6-3, 300 (15 snaps, 2 knockdown blocks); Kanan Ray, 6-4, 290 (17 snaps, 1 knockdown block); Casey Roddick, 6-4, 330 (2 starts, 309 snaps, 29 knockdown blocks); John Deitchman, 6-0, 260 (walk-on).

Redshirt freshmen: Austin Johnson, 6-4, 300 (3 snaps); Nikko Pohahau, 6-5, 285; Valentin Senn, 6-7, 290; Jake Wiley, 6-6, 290; Dominick Cate, 6-3, 285 (walk-on).

True freshmen: Gerad Christian-Lichtenhan, 6-9, 325; Carson Lee, 6-3, 315; Jake Wray, 6-5, 300

Players lost: Arlington Hambright, 6-5, 300 (graduated; 12 starts, 831 snaps, 75 knockdown blocks); Tim Lynott, 6-3, 300 (graduated; 12 starts, 833 snaps, 75 knockdown blocks); Hunter Vaughn, 6-7, 310 (graduated; 6 snaps, 1 knockdown block); Jack Shutack, 6-6, 300 (graduated, walk-on; 5 starts, 273 snaps, 32 knockdown blocks).