August Camp Preview: Offensive Line

While the competition at quarterback promises to be most talked about in August camp, the key to a successful offense will be how quickly the offensive line can come together. The line is anchored by seniors Brian Daniels and Mark Fenton, but some positions will be decided in August as a couple of veterans return after missing spring with injuries.

Biggest Question: How quickly can this group jell? There's a similar concern going into August camp just about every season, but after the spring the Buffs had, it's more pressing than usual in 2006. Injuries have hampered the unit the past nine months.

While senior guard Jack Tipton should be 100-percent after missing spring ball, junior tackle Tyler Polumbus was still slowed with a nagging back issue over the early part of the summer. Sophomore guard Daniel Sanders was in and out of spring ball, then got injured early in the summer, too. The biggest concern is Polumbus. If he can't get and stay healthy, that means redshirt-freshman Paul Backowski will likely start at right tackle. Backowski made good progress in the spring and – in the weightroom – in the summer, but a first-time player at tackle is a scary proposition.

Biggest Answer: The Buffs have two solid players in seniors Mark Fenton and Brian Daniels. Fenton is the reigning Big 12 first-team player at center, while Daniels could contend for a spot on that squad with a stellar senior year.

2-star to All-Star? : Sanders was a late pickup in the 2003 recruiting class, garnering offers from Northern Arizona and the Buffs. He was injured much of his senior season and, reportedly, was too short for more interest. But he showed up in Boulder a little bigger and a lot better than many expected. O-line coach Chris Strausser thinks Sanders has the potential to become a dominant Big 12 offensive lineman, but he needs to prove he can stay healthy – something he has yet to do.

Best Battle: Tipton is going into his fifth and final season in a Colorado uniform and is hungry to leave a mark before he's done. Tipton has consistently put up the biggest strength numbers on the team throughout his career, but that hasn't translated to a ton of playing time. You like a player with something to prove, but Tipton has his work cut out for him after missing all of spring ball, recovering from knee surgery. He'll need to impress Strausser right off the bat in August drills in his effort to unseat Sanders from the No. 1 guard spot opposite Daniels.

Home at Last : After moving back and forth between tackle and guard, junior Edwin Harrison looks to have found a home at left tackle, where he'll be responsible for protecting a new quarterback's blind side. Now with a consistent home, Harrison, one of the strongest players on the team, could be primed for a breakout season.

Win a Spot or Sit: Strausser doesn't like to play a lot of lineman during the course of a season. He prefers to settle on five — occasionally, six — and go with them.

Word from the Coach : If there was a blessing in disguise over the spring with Polumbus and Tipton's injuries it was that it gave youngsters Backowski, Devin Head and Jeremy Hauck lots of reps. ""I expect them to come back stronger than they were in the spring, which will be a bonus. I think they'll play with more confidence because of that. What they've done in the summer in the weightroom has got them up to some of the best (strength) numbers they've had." — Chris Strausser


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