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CU Buffs’ O-line off to good start with first-year coach Kyle DeVan

Plenty of work ahead, but linemen, DeVan building relationship

BOULDER, CO, March 30, 2022: Offensive line coach, Kyle DeVan, center, talks with Jackson Anderson (56), Jack Seavall (51) and other linemen during the University of Colorado Boulder football practice on March 30, 2022.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
BOULDER, CO, March 30, 2022: Offensive line coach, Kyle DeVan, center, talks with Jackson Anderson (56), Jack Seavall (51) and other linemen during the University of Colorado Boulder football practice on March 30, 2022.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

When he was hired in December to coach the Colorado Buffaloes’ offensive line, Kyle DeVan knew he first had some work to do off the field.

The group had learned from two different coaches during a difficult 2021 season. For some of the linemen, DeVan is the fifth position coach they’ve had in Boulder.

“I think any time you go through a coaching change and really it’s been a couple of them in my room, especially for the older guys, you’ve got to be conscious of it and understand you’re not going to come in – at least in my opinion – and just change shop and say, ‘This is how we’re going to do it’ and be like a dictator,” DeVan said. “I want them to understand this is us, this is we and this is how we’re going to do it and couple that with getting them to buy in and trust that I have their best interests in mind.”

While the process of improving the line is ongoing, DeVan is off to a good start with his group. Several of CU’s linemen have expressed their appreciation for DeVan, while also bonding through adversity.

CU head coach Karl Dorrell fired line coach Mitch Rodrigue seven games into the 2021 season. The group spent the rest of the time learning from interim coach William Vlachos. Then, DeVan was hired.

“We’ve had so much stuff happen to us and this is my fifth coach, sixth coach, something like that,” center Austin Johnson said. “Coaches matter, but to a point, we have really just been able to stick together as a group and come together and that’s all that matters. I love the boys. I love the boys in the group.”

It all starts with DeVan, though, as he was hired to help a group that struggled throughout 2021. Knowing the task in front of him, DeVan didn’t spent time watching everything the Buffs did in 2021.

“When I got hired I sat down with coach (Dorrell) and kind of went through everybody, went through our personnel,” said DeVan, who was the line coach at Arizona from 2019-20 and an offensive analyst at Michigan last season. “To be honest with you, there’s a lot of people that come in here and tell you they watch every play from every game here before. I don’t believe in that because now you have a vision of a player that was being coached and being taught by somebody else. So I watched it and I had an idea and then I wanted those guys to show me who they are and who they want to become.”

From there, DeVan has started with fundamentals. His approach, he said, was to first teach the Buffs’ linemen to block a man standing in front of them. Then, they began to work on blocking the defender as he moves.

“It’s all progression based,” he said.

CU has talent on the line, but it will take time to come together. On Saturday, the Buffs held an open scrimmage and the line was OK, but struggled at times. It’s still very early in the process with DeVan, but right guard Casey Roddick believes it has been a solid start.

“I think if I were to grade it out, it would be an 80,” he said of scrimmage. “I think it was a really good day, though.

“The continuity between all of us has grown exponentially ever since last season, so it’s gonna be really nice.”

Roddick is one of three returning starters, along with tackles Jake Wiley and Frank Fillip. Alabama transfer Tommy Brown has been playing with the first team at left guard, while Noah Fenske and Johnson have rotated at center.

The process of finding the best group of five starters and filling out a depth chart might go late into preseason camp in August, but the first few months of the process have been positive.

“The more we got to know each other through January and February, the more we built that trust and that relationship,” DeVan said. “Now, they’re starting to see the stuff that I teach is favorable to some of them. Obviously, it might be a little bit different than what they learned in the past, but I’m trying to figure out what makes each individual special. They all have talent. You don’t play in the Pac-12 without some type of talent, so I’m trying to get the most out of each individual kid.”

By doing that, the ultimate goal is fairly simple.

“We want to own the line scrimmage,” DeVan said. “We want to win up front and they have to learn how to do that. They’re buying into the way I teach things, the way I coach things. I really like where we’re at right now.”

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