Time To Experiment

Among other things, spring football is a time for experimentation for the Colorado Buffaloes. This spring that means a couple of significant position moves on the offensive side of the ball.

As it is every spring, themes in Colorado's 15 football practices will include "create competition" and "find the best players." Colorado coaches think two key position moves could help

Nate Solder will get a long look at tackle, after playing tight end his first two years. More eye opening, Kai Maiava will practice at fullback/tight end, after cracking the starting lineup in his true freshman season last fall at offensive guard.

Solder's move seemed inevitable. Tackle is where his body is taking him. The 6-foot-8 player from Buena Vista, Colo., played at close to 270 pounds last year. He's got the frame to eventually play at over 300 pounds and still keep great mobility.

Moving Solder to tackle could ramp up the competition along the offensive trenches. With senior Daniel Sanders entrenched at center, and sophomore Ryan Miller looking to lock down one tackle spot, there are several players expected to compete at guard. They include senior Erick Faatagi, junior Devin Head and redshirt-freshmen Matt Bahr, Blake Behrens, Mike Iltis and even 6-5 Sione Tau.

If Solder takes well to the tackle position, there's a chance he could be in the starting lineup there in the fall. It all depends on his progress.

"Ryan Miller and Nate Solder would look great at tackle (hypothetically), but we need to find out if Solder is our second best tackle," offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich said.

Meanwhile, one of the players not competing at guard — at least at the beginning of spring — will be Maiava. He started nine games at guard in 2007, and played well. Maiava earned first-team freshman All-American status from Scout.com. But at 6-feet tall, Maiava is undersized for the offensive line. And coaches think his quickness and toughness could be an asset in the run game from a hybrid fullback/tight end position.

"That's a place where we need to get better in the run game," Helfrich said. "And I think he can help us."

Maiava's position move isn't just for situational purposes, Helfrich said. They're not looking to use him to blow open a hole at the goal line. It's a full-scale position change. But it's an experiment.

Coaches want to see how well both Maiava and Solder do in the first part of spring at different positions. They'll re-evaluate both moves halfway through spring.

"We need to have a solidified, declared role for those guys midway through spring ball," Helfrich said. "You don't want those guys at practice 14 saying, 'What number am I wearing at practice today?'"

CU opens spring practice March 17. They'll take March 23-30 — the week of spring break — off, then practice the first three weeks of April and conclude with the spring game April 19.


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