Countdown to signing day: Offensive line

Top in-state recruits have eluded CU this year, but the Buffs go into 2012 hoping to have the pieces in place for a solid offensive line.

When it comes to offensive linemen, the 2012 recruiting class may be one that Colorado and its fans look back on with regret.

They're already wondering how so many top linemen got away.

This was a year in which the state was loaded with top-flight offensive line recruits, yet none of them are coming to Boulder.

Current seniors Paul Thurston (committed to Nebraska) and Shane Callahan (Auburn) are four-star recruits. Alex Kozan (undecided, but going out of state), Joey O'Connor (Ohio State) and Arthur Flores (San Diego State) are all three-star recruits that were heavily recruited by CU and others.

The recent news that Paulay Asiata, a four-star linemen in the 2011 class, is leaving the program was another big blow to the unit, which is already going to be without six departing seniors.

What's left is a solid group that needs to grow up quick, but it's also a group that lacks depth, as CU could have just 10 offensive linemen during spring ball.

The good news for CU is that three primary starters from 2011 are back. David Bakhtiari, who will be a junior, had a very good year at left tackle. Ryan Dannewitz, a senior-to-be, played well at right tackle. And, Gus Handler, who will be a junior, played well after winning the full-time job at center.

Beyond that group, the Buffs lack depth and experience, but they are excited about one newcomer in particular. Stephane Nembot, a redshirt freshman who was a prized defensive end recruit in 2011, switched to offensive line last fall and showed great promise on that side of the ball. At 6-foot-8, 280 pounds, he's got the potential to be CU's next lineman and he could challenge for a starting role this fall.

Redshirt sophomores Daniel Munyer and Kaiwi Crabb, both listed as centers, got valuable playing time, even if it was on a limited basis. Munyer at least got three starts in while he battled with Handler for the starting job.

The Buffs will be looking for big things out of Jack Harris, who will be a junior. He made a big impression at spring ball two years ago and began last season as the starting right tackle, but injuries have hampered his career. He missed the final 11 games last season with an ankle injury. The good news is that Harris graded out at over 80 percent in both of his starts, proving that when he's healthy, he's good.

Alex Lewis got the start at left tackle in one game as a freshman last season, but wound up with just 48 snaps on offense. He will look to play a bigger role and compete this year.

Sophomore Marc Mustoe, who has yet to play, and freshman center Alex Kelley, who enrolled at CU this month, will also compete during spring ball.

Considering coach Steve Marshall's desire to cross-train his linemen to learn different positions, there should be plenty of competition at each spot.

As for the 2012 recruiting class, the Buffs may look back with "what ifs" about the ones that got away, but the coaches are excited about the two they expect to sign this week.

Jeromy Irwin, a three-star tackle from Cypress, Texas, and Gerrad Kough, a two-star guard from Pomona, Calif., both bring good size to the line and both expect to compete for playing time when they arrives in the fall.

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