Looking at the list of offensive linemen at Colorado this season gets William Sherman excited.
“Since I’ve been here in 2017, this is probably the most talented and the most depth that we’ve had on the O-line,” said Sherman, a junior tackle. “I’m excited for guys to compete, because there’s going to be a lot of competition and it’s going to make us a lot better.”
Offensive line improvement has been an ongoing pursuit at CU for several years and Sherman will play a key role in the Buffs taking a step forward this year.
Sherman, a 6-foot-4, 310-pound junior from Allen, Texas, is one of two returning full-time starters to the line, along with left guard Kary Kutsch. Colby Pursell, who started five games at right guard, also returns. Pursell is likely to move back to center, where he started all 12 games in 2018.
Sherman has been CU’s top-graded lineman each of the past two seasons – and he’s done it while playing two different positions. He started nine games at left tackle as a redshirt freshman in 2018, earning All-Pac-12 honorable mention from the coaches.
A year ago, then-line coach Chris Kapilovic moved Sherman to right tackle to make room for graduate transfer Arlington Hambright.
“Coach Kapilovic and I had a talk about bettering the team with me moving to right and Arlington playing left,” Sherman said.
The move worked, as both started all 12 games. Hambright had a solid season and wound up getting drafted in the seventh round by the Chicago Bears in April. Sherman was once again the Buffs’ highest-graded lineman.
This summer, Sherman received recognition from Athlon magazine as a preseason All-Pac-12 second-team choice, and he is eager to get back to the left side of the line, where he can protect the blindside of whoever plays quarterback for the Buffs.
“Once Arlington graduated, I was going to move back to left, so I’m excited to do that and show some versatility, being able to play right and left,” he said. “I’m really excited and with drills and whatnot going on, I’m starting to get back in the groove playing at left tackle and it feels really good.”
There are some adjustments Sherman has to make in moving back to the left, but he doesn’t mind. Whatever helps the team is good with Sherman.
“Really my goal right now is there being no difference at all – just be smooth at right, smooth at left and maybe even be able to play guard if I need to,” he said. “Just being as versatile as possible.
“There definitely are some differences, just getting in the right stance, taking a smooth pass set. I’m trying to just be fluid at both.”
The biggest adjustment for Sherman and the rest of the group is getting used to a third line coach in three years (along with a third head coach in that time). First-year head coach Karl Dorrell hired Mitch Rodrigue to mentor the Buffs’ linemen, but he was hired just a few days before the COVID-19 pandemic caused a cancellation of spring practices.
“It was pretty difficult at first,” Sherman said. “We haven’t really gotten to get on the field with him. So that’s something I’m really looking forward to. In Zoom meetings, he’s old school. He’s very smart, he loves a physical O-line, so I’m very excited to work with him.”
Sherman is also excited about his teammates.
Kutsch, a former junior college transfer, won the starting job at left guard last year and never let it go. He comes in as the lone senior on the line. Pursell moved to guard last year to make room for senior Tim Lynott Jr., but then had an injury-plagued season. Fully healthy, Pursell could be one of the top centers in the Pac-12.
Guard Casey Roddick made two starts and played 309 snaps last season as a redshirt freshman. Tackle Frank Fillip made two starts as a true freshman in 2018 and took a much-needed redshirt year in 2019 to get his body ready for Pac-12 play. Both will compete for starting spots.
Sophomore Kanan Ray, who originally signed with UCLA out of high school, was listed No. 1 at right guard on CU’s pencil depth chart earlier this month. Junior Chance Lytle and redshirt freshmen Austin Johnson and Valentin Senn could compete for playing time, as well.
“I’m excited to see who’s going to take the right tackle spot, who’s going to take the right guard spot,” Sherman said. “(Excited to see) who the best five are going to be because I know it’s going to be a great five when we come out there.”