Dave Borbely. The question remains, which players will step forward to make that happen?"> Dave Borbely. The question remains, which players will step forward to make that happen?">

Spring Preview — Offensive Line

If the Colorado offense is to get better in 2004 than it was in 2003, that improvement needs to start with the offensive line. In particular, the Buffs need to redefine a running game that was slowed last year, after being one of the more dominant attacks in the Big 12 the two previous seasons. "Our No. 1 goal is to improve our running game," said offensive line coach <b>Dave Borbely</b>. The question remains, which players will step forward to make that happen?

The Buffs have spent the offseason in the weightroom, focusing on bulking up. Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said it's been a crucial, and effective period.

"Our offensive line … they've had an enormous winter," he said. "The attitude of your football team starts with your offensive line. It affects your offense, obviously, but also your defense. If we're tough and two-fisted, we're going to rush the football, and that's going to help your defense."

Borbely said being able to rush the ball more effectively means the big boys up front have to be able to push people around more.

"I'm looking for us to be a stronger team, a more physical group, a more fundamentally much-improved group," he said.

And if the offensive line is the key to the offense, the center position may be the key to the offensive line, where sophomore Mark Fenton (6-4, 295 pounds) and junior John Guydon (6-2, 290) will vie for the starting spot. Heading in to spring ball, Fenton is listed No. 1. He has some experience after playing most of the Iowa State game last season, subbing for an injured Marwan Hage. Guydon, meanwhile, impressed coaches and players during his redshirt season last fall on the scout team. Guydon will be learning the position, as he's converting from defensive tackle.

"John hasn't played the position, so everything's going to be new for him," Borbely said. "But he's a guy who has great feet. He's a high motor guy and he's smart. I think the transition for him to offense will be a fairly smooth one, even though we're starting him out at the hardest position to play on the front."

But Fenton had a good offseason and may be hard to unseat.

"I'm looking for Mark to make an impact, and I think it's time for him to mature and become the player we think he can be," Borbely said.

The other returner with any experience at center is senior Derek Stemrich, who started at the position last fall before switching to guard. But Stemrich will miss spring recovering from knee surgery. He'll be in the mix at a guard spot in August if he can get healthy.

Sophomore Brian Daniels (6-5, 300) will man the split guard position. Daniels started nine games in 2003 and graded out at 74.6 percent on the line — third best last season, and the highest mark among the returning linemen. His continued maturation will be a key on the inside, and Borbely expects his growth in the system to continue. Junior Gary Moore (6-7, 340) will battle senior Terrance Barreau (6-3, 320) at the other guard spot. Moore played some tackle early, but may be better suited on the inside.

Three players heading into their third season as Buffs — Jack Tipton (6-4, 285), Del Scales (6-6, 295) and Fred Staugh (6-5, 295) — will have the opportunity to vie for backup spots at guard, while Tipton and Scales could get a look at tackle as well. Borbely said it's time for the redshirt sophomores to step up.

"Those are all guys that were on the scout team a year ago that hopefully will develop into being players for us," he said.

On the edges, junior Clint O'Neal (6-6, 285) and senior Sam Wilder (6-5, 285) head into spring as No. 1 at the tight and split tackles, respectively. Pushing O'Neal will be redshirt freshman Edwin Harrison (6-5, 300), a player for whom Borbely has high hopes.

"I think Edwin's a real talented guy," Borbely said. "We're going to start him out at strong tackle. He'll start out with the second unit there, and we'll see what he can do. He's an impressive young guy: He's strong, he's a good run blocker, he's excellent on the edges in protection. He's just got to learn the system, and learn how to play. I'm really excited about him."

Backing up Wilder is redshirt freshman Tyler Polumbus, who came to Boulder slimmed down after playing a season of basketball a year ago this month. Standing 6-foot-8, Polumbus has steadily put on weight and is in the neighborhood of 275 pounds these days.

And 275 pounds is what Wilder played at in 2003 after moving from defensive tackle to offensive tackle in fall camp. Wilder should be an anchor on the line after starting every contest a season ago. Word is, Wilder has put on 20 pounds.

"Sam's got to get bigger, which he's done," Borbely said. "He's got to get stronger. He got tossed around in that position a little bit a year ago partly because he wasn't fully sure what to do, and partly because he trained all summer to be a defensive player. He really played the position a little lighter than I would like to have had. I don't need him to be gargantuan, I just need him to be bigger and play the position tougher. He'll be able to do that."

And Wilder is one of 13 seniors on the squad this spring.

"I expect him to really step up as far as being a leader," Borbely said. "I think he's done a very good job of that so far this offseason.

"I expect him to be a much improved player," Borbely continued. "A year ago he got thrown into the fire and every day and every game was a new learning experience for him. I think that in and of itself will help him tremendously."

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