GET BREAKING NEWS IN YOUR BROWSER. CLICK HERE TO TURN ON NOTIFICATIONS.

X

BOULDER, Colo. - April 5, 2021: Colorado tackle Jake Wiley, left, works against tackle Frank Fillip during the Buffaloes’ spring football practice on Monday in Boulder. (University of Colorado Athletics)
BOULDER, Colo. – April 5, 2021: Colorado tackle Jake Wiley, left, works against tackle Frank Fillip during the Buffaloes’ spring football practice on Monday in Boulder. (University of Colorado Athletics)
PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

During the past year, the Colorado football team hasn’t had much continuity on the offensive line.

There were multiple injuries in the 2020 season that kept the lineup going through constant change. Then, there were injuries in the spring that kept some key players from getting on the field.

If there’s a silver lining, however, it’s that several linemen have gained valuable game or practice experience.

“It’s given us an opportunity to play people at different positions, so that’s been the positive,” offensive line coach Mitch Rodrigue said in the spring.

Leading up to fall camp, which starts Aug. 5, BuffZone.com is previewing each position group for the Buffs. In this installment, we look at the offensive line.

Despite the lack of continuity, the Buffs will go into fall camp feeling fairly confident about their group up front — as long as the key players can stay healthy.

Colorado offensive lineman Colby Pursell during Alamo Bowl walkthrough on Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020.

CU lost left tackle William Sherman to the NFL — he was a sixth-round pick of the New England Patriots on May 1 — but it returns all the other starters from last year.

Frank Fillip started all six games at right tackle and is expected to move into Sherman’s spot on the left side. He was having a good spring before a torn labrum sidelined him for the second half of practices.

“I thought he did a really good job throughout the course of spring with pass protection, run protection,” Rodrigue said. “His knowledge of the position was really good and it was getting better.”

Colby Pursell made just three starts because of injuries but should be a rock at center if healthy. He’s started 22 games over the past three seasons and has emerged as a vocal leader, as well. Rodrigue said Pursell had a “fantastic” spring.

Senior Kary Kutsch should be penciled in at left guard, but he also filled in at center when Pursell was out. He took advantage of the NCAA granting all players an extra year of eligibility. Rodrigue said Kutsch is a “quiet warrior” who benefitted from focusing on one position in the spring.

The Buffs are also expecting to have Casey Roddick back in the fold. He started all six games at right guard in 2020 but missed spring practices with a medical issue. He was one of the Buffs’ most steady linemen last season.

Also back is Chance Lytle (three starts at guard) and Kanan Ray (one start at guard) and both could compete at guard or tackle.

During the spring, the Buffs felt they needed some help on the line, so they picked up a pair of transfers that will compete for starting roles immediately. Max Wray, from Ohio State, could slide into the starting spot at right tackle, while Noah Fenske, from Iowa, provides versatility at guard, center or tackle.

Offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini said when looking at the transfer portal, coaches asked, “’Can we go get a guy that’s gonna make us better?’ I think we did that with Max Wray and Noah Fenske. I think those are two great additions there.”

In addition, the Buffs have several talented younger players, including Josh Jynes, Austin Johnson, Jake Wiley and Carson Lee, who will compete for playing time.

Position: Offensive line

Returners (2020 statistics)

  • Kary Kutsch, Sr., 6-5, 310 (4 starts, 336 snaps played)
  • Chance Lytle, Jr., 6-7, 340 (3 starts, 201 snaps)
  • Colby Pursell, Jr., 6-4, 305 (3 stars, 219 snaps)
  • Frank Fillip, So., 6-7, 295 (6 starts, 470 snaps)
  • Josh Jynes, So., 6-3, 310 (2 games, 94 snaps)
  • Kanan Ray, So., 6-4, 295 (1 start, 4 games, 122 snaps)
  • Casey Roddick, So., 6-4, 335 (6 starts, 460 snaps)
  • Austin Johnson, R-Fr., 6-4, 300
  • Jake Wiley, R-Fr., 6-6, 290 (3 games, 8 snaps)
  • Gerad Christian-Lichtenhan, Fr., 6-10, 330
  • Carson Lee, Fr., 6-3, 320
  • John Deitchman, So., 6-0, 265 (walk-on)
  • Dominick Cate, R-Fr., 6-3, 295 (walk-on)
  • Jack Seavall, Fr., 6-7, 270 (walk-on)

Additions

  • Max Wray, So., 6-7, 310 (Transfer from Ohio State)
  • Noah Fenske, R-Fr., 6-4, 305 (Transfer from Iowa)
  • Edgar Amaya, Fr., 6-4, 315
  • Jackson Anderson, Fr., 6-4, 290
  • Camden Dempsey, Fr., 6-2, 290 (walk-on)
  • Ben Reznik, Fr., 6-7, 300 (walk-on)

Losses

  • William Sherman, 6-4, 310 (Drafted by New England Patriots; 6 starts, 464 snaps)
  • Nikko Pohahau, 6-5, 275 (Transferred to College of San Mateo)
  • Valentin Senn, 6-7, 310 (Transferred to Connecticut; 1 game, 1 snap)
  • Jake Wray, 6-5, 300 (Medical retirement)

2021 outlook: There are some question marks on the line, but this should be a solid group. Most of the unit returns from 2020, when CU averaged a solid 4.62 yards per rushing attempt and gave up just seven sacks (1.17 per game, second in the Pac-12). If healthy, Fillip is expected to start at left tackle, Kutsch at left guard and Pursell at center. Roddick missed spring, but will fight to keep his starting job at right guard. He will have tough competition, including from Fenske, Johnson and Ray, who played well in limited snaps last year. Wray might be the favorite to play right tackle, but Wiley, who held that spot for much of spring, will compete, as well.