Buffs Shorthanded in Offensive Trenches

Only three offensive linemen with extensive experience — including senior All-Big 12 center Mark Fenton — are fully healthy for spring practices. Inside, the Buffalo Sports News continues its preview of CU's spring football with a look at the offensive line. New O-line coach Chris Strausser gives us his thoughts on the situation.

While many members of the Colorado football team have spent the offseason working hard in the weightroom to add weight to their frames, the offensive line remains thin. Not in stature, but in numbers. Uncommonly thin.

Colorado heads into Monday's first spring practice with just 12 offensive linemen on its spring roster. Unexpected attrition in the offensive trenches in recent years (five offensive linemen transferred from the program since 2003) and perhaps not enough attention in recruiting the line in recent years by the former coaching staff have left new offensive line coach Chris Strausser with less players to work with in his first spring at CU than most coaches have.

In comparison, a quick survey around the Big 12 North reveals that most teams are working with significantly more offensive linemen this spring: Missouri has 19 o-linemen on its spring roster, followed by Iowa State (17), Kansas (17), Kansas State (17) and Nebraska (15).

Most troubling in Boulder, however, is that just nine offensive linemen are healthy for spring ball, one of whom is a walk-on, and four others who have yet to play a down.

"It's going to create some challenges for us as an offense, and really even as a defense – just getting the amount of live reps they need with a lot fewer bodies on the offensive line," Strausser told the BSN Tuesday.

Here's a breakdown of who's in and who's out for spring: The Buffs will field, for certain, three down linemen with extensive experience this spring — seniors Brian Daniels and Mark Fenton, and junior Edwin Harrison. Sophomore Daniel Sanders' status is still up in the air for spring practice with a minor knee issue (he had minor surgery on it roughly two weeks ago). The team's other two veterans, Tyler Polumbus and Jack Tipton, will miss spring recovering from offseason surgeries.

Meanwhile, five redshirt-freshmen — Paul Backowski, Jeremy Hauck, Devin Head, Zach Jones and walk-on Tom Grubin — will see plenty of work in the coming weeks.

"Spring ball, ultimately, should be for the young guys," Strausser said. "It's a great time for them to get a chance to really get their feet on the ground and learn what offense we're in. We don't get a chance to do that so much in the fall."

Senior Bryce MacMartin rounds out the roster.

Strausser has begun getting to know the offensive linemen the past month, but mostly through conversations and observing them workout in the weightroom. Like several of the new coaching staff, Strausser hasn't spent much time evaluating the players on film, preferring to wait until he gets them on the field himself.

"The biggest thing is, I don't know the details of what they were being coached. So when I watch them do something (on film), I don't know if they're doing it because that's the way they were coached or if they're doing it just on their own – either doing it well or not doing it well," he said. "The other thing is, we always spend the offseason trying to evaluate what we do as a staff. And for the most part, everyone starts spring with a clean slate. We're not spending a whole bunch of time worrying about what they've done in the past."

Strausser added that while jobs are open across the board on the team, in some cases it's obvious who will run with the first team come Monday. Fenton, the returning all-Big 12 first-teamer, has a hold on the center position, while Daniels is penciled in at one guard, and Harrison at left tackle.

If the team were to scrimmage Monday, Backowski would line up at the right tackle. (Polumbus played tackle last year until he was sidelined with a shoulder injury). The fifth spot, the guard opposite Daniels, will be a battle between Hauck, MacMartin and Grubin.

Hauck may be a swing player, Strausser said, moving between guard and tackle. Head is slated to compete at tackle, and Jones, who moved over from defensive end late last season, will back up Fenton at center.

The Roster
Paul Backowski, R-Fr., T, 6-6, 285*
@Career stats: Has not played.

Brian Daniels, Sr., G, 6-4, 300
Career stats: 32 starts, 34 games played.

Mark Fenston, Sr., C, 6-4, 295
Career stats: 25 starts, 35 games played.

&Tom Grubin, R-Fr., G, 6-0, 285
Career stats: Has not played.

Edwin Harrison, Jr., T, 6-4, 300
Career stats: Six starts, 21 games played.

Jeremy Hauck, R-Fr., G/OT, 6-4, 275
Career stats: Has not played.

Devin Head, R-Fr., T, 6-4, 275
Career stats: Has not played.

Zach Jones, R-Fr., C, 6-4, 270
Career stats: Has not played.

Bryce MacMartin, Sr., G, 6-2, 290
Career stats: Nine games played.

$Tyler Polumbus, Jr., T, 6-8, 285
Career stats: Two starts, 22 games played.

Daniel Sanders, So., G, 6-3, 300
Career stats: Four starts, 10 games played.

$Jack Tipton, Sr., G, 6-3, 295
Career stats: Four starts, 21 games played.

Players lost: Gary Moore, Clint O'Neal.

*Vitals for all players are per CU SID as of March 6.
@ Career stats do not include bowl game appearances.
& Walk-on. $ Out for spring with injury.

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