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By: CUBuffs.com
The availability of left tackle David Bakhtiari is key to this week's potential O-line juggling.
Brooks: Loss Of Harris Will Further Shuffle O-line
Release: September 12, 2011
By: B.G. Brooks, Contributing Editor

BOULDER - Steve Marshall's broken toe is doing quite well, thank you. As for the overall health of his starting tackles, that's the sorest of subjects for Colorado's offensive line coach.

As the Buffaloes begin preparation for Saturday's Rocky Mountain Showdown against unbeaten Colorado State, Marshall is faced with the prospect of having to replace both starting tackles.

Right tackle Jack Harris, a sophomore, could be lost for the season after undergoing surgery on Thursday to repair a fracture in his lower right leg. He was injured in Saturday's 36-33 overtime loss to California.

On the left side, Marshall still is waiting for the status of sophomore David Bakhtiari to be determined. Bakhtiari suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament (MCL) in his left knee at Hawai'i and did not play against Cal.

Possibly complicating matters up front this week, Bakhtiari's replacement, junior Ryan Dannewitz, also sprained a knee in the first half last weekend. But Dannewitz, making his first college start, only came out for one play and finished the game.

Said Marshall: "He basically played the whole game; I was very impressed with that. And he played his butt off."

On the one play Dannewitz missed, freshman Alex Lewis stepped in at left tackle. A January enrollee who participated in spring practice, Lewis wasn't immune to health problems last week either. He was recuperating from a stomach bug that kept him off the Hawai'i trip and cost him almost 15 pounds.

The status of Bakhtiari and Dannewitz will determine the starter at left tackle, but Marshall already knows he must find a new No. 1 on the right side. If Bakhtiari can play, Dannewitz could switch sides. If not, senior Sione Tau likely would open at right tackle against the Rams, who have beaten New Mexico (14-10) and Northern Colorado (33-14).

Tau stepped in for Harris against Cal, playing the first snaps of his career on offense against the Bears.

Marshall also must account for depth this week, and to that end he's ready to remove the redshirts from tackle Marc Mustoe, of Arvada West, and Paulay Asiata, from St. Louis High School in Honolulu. Freshman Stephane Nembot, who transferred from defensive tackle to offensive tackle last week, is scheduled to keep his redshirt.

Redshirt freshman guard Kaiwi Crabb also could factor into Marshall's shuffling if Marshall has to move either starting guard - seniors Ryan Miller (right) and Ethan Adkins (left) - outside to man a tackle spot. Marshall hopes to avoid that, but said having either starting guard ready to play in a back-up role at tackle remains a possibility.

The bottom line, noted Marshall, is "we've got to go with the ones we've got."

Either of Marshall's centers, Daniel Munyer and Gus Handler, could play guard, but the personnel juggling act hasn't come to that - yet.

"Before I make any moves I'm going to see where we are with David and Ryan," Marshall said. "It'll be evolving all week."

After allowing quarterback Tyler Hansen to be sacked seven times in the opener, Hansen wasn't taken down once by Cal and passed for a school-record 474 yards. Marshall said his unit "played much better against a quality defense. We did some things to help (his players) and they helped themselves. They were better technique-wise from week one to week two. And they'll need to be better in week three."

'P-RICH' HONORED BY PAC-12: CU sophomore receiver Paul Richardson was one of three players honored as Bank of the West Pac-12 Players of the Week.

Richardson, of Gardena, Calif., caught 11 passes for 284 yards and two touchdowns (66, 78 yards) against Cal. Ten of his 11 catches earned first downs (school record for a receiver), with 162 of his yards came after the catch. He had 297 all-purpose yards including one rush for 9 yards and a punt return for 4 yards. He set the school record for the most receiving yards in a single game, and third most all-time in Pac-12 history, with the 284 yards (the third 200-plus game in CU history), and tied the CU single game reception mark of 11. It was also his fourth two-TD game, third most ever at CU. Richardson now has six career plays of 50 yards or longer, and his 10 career TD catches have covered 362 yards (3, 60, 62, 4, 3, 50, 15, 21, 66, 78).

The other players honored were linebacker Cort Dennison (defense) and defensive tackle Everett Thompson (special teams), both of Washington. CU placekicker Will Oliver, who kicked four field goals and three PATs against the Bears, was among those nominated for special teams play.

LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT . . .: Whatever punter Darragh O'Neill's marching orders, he's up for the assignment.

Against Cal, which overloaded the right side of its punt coverage team with seven rushers, the CU redshirt freshman was called on to use a left-footed rugby style punt. He averaged 39.5 yards on two punts, with a third punt of 15 yards that officials ruled was partially blocked. O'Neill, who was buried by a pair of Cal rushers, argued that the punt wasn't touched, wanting a roughing penalty.

The previous week at Hawai'i, O'Neill punted conventionally with his right foot and averaged 44.9 yards on seven punts. Through two games, CU's 38.9-yard net punting average is third in the Pac-12 Conference.

CU special teams coach J.D. Brookhart said O'Neill, who appeared in his first college game against the Warriors, is adept at punting with either foot.

"One thing it does now, it makes (an opponent's) punt return team look at us and say, 'What are they going to do? (O'Neill) can go right or left, so we've got to balance this thing up a little bit,'" Brookhart said.

The other half of Brookhart's kicking game - Oliver - connected on all four of his field goal attempts against Cal, making him a Pac-12 best five-for-five for the season. Brookhart said he was particularly impressed by Oliver's 52-yard kick last Saturday, which set a school freshman record.

"I love his demeanor," Brookhart said, adding if Oliver's improvement continues, having him kick from further than 52 yards might be a possibility. "But it has to be the right situation . . . it'll be a coaching decision. Field position is always a factor."

 Oliver also will kick off against CSU. Brookhart said sophomore Justin Castor, who has put one kickoff out of bounds in each of the first two games, has a hip issue and is scheduled to undergo an MRI.

Of CU's return units, Brookhart is more pleased with his punt than the kickoff return team. He called senior Toney Clemons' decision to bring a return out of the end zone on one kickoff "a mistake" and said kickoff return personnel is being reevaluated.

The Buffs are last in the league in kickoff returns, averaging 12.0 yards on nine attempts. Coach Jon Embree said kickoff returns must improve: "We're going to keep looking at different guys . . . we've got to get somebody who has a knack for hitting holes. We didn't always block it cleanly for Ben Kelly (former CU return specialist)."

TIME TO SHARE THE LOAD: Don't count on a tailback ever complaining about getting too many carries in a game. And you won't hear a whisper from senior tailback Rodney "Speedy" Stewart, who has been the only Buffs tailback to touch the ball in the first two games.

Stewart has been CU's main man out of the backfield, carrying 42 times (18 vs. Hawai'i, 24 vs. Cal) for 130 yards and catching 11 passes (4 vs. Hawai'i, 7 vs. Cal) for 184 yards.

Running backs coach Eric Bieniemy loves Stewart's willingness and productivity, but he also realizes there's a durability question that can come into play in a 13-game season.

"I've got to do a better job of being a position coach and managing my position. I've been caught up in being a coordinator," Bieniemy said. "I know I said this last week, but it has to happen. We cannot play that poor kid that many snaps. He won't last.

"I love him to death; he would play twice that many if he could. But that's not fair to him and the players behind him. Those kids behind him have worked their tails off and they deserve to play as well."

Behind Stewart on the depth chart are freshman Tony Jones, sophomore Josh Ford and senior Brian Lockridge.

LOOKING AT THE BIG PICTURE: In the opener, Bieniemy called plays from the sidelines - an unconventional vantage point for most offensive coordinators. Against Cal, he moved to the coaches' booth of Folsom Field's press box level.

The switch upstairs, he conceded, was beneficial.

"It's a different feel," 'EB' said. "You have a chance to see everything. I'm not going to lie, though; I do miss the field. But it gives you an opportunity to see exactly what's going on with everything and get more comfortable - and that's what I need to be doing anyway."

Embree agreed: "I thought it went well. We made some good adjustments during the game and at halftime. I feel good about what we're seeing from up there and getting done. We just have to continue to roll with it. But it was good having him up there and him seeing things. It's different and he has to get used to being up there."

Through two games, Embree said he felt positive "about what the staff has done so far. One of the most important things is you have to be able to make adjustments and find effective ways to answer things that have been hurting you. I feel like both games we've done well, for the most part, in giving our kids some answers to give us some success."

FLAGS, FLAGS AND MORE FLAGS: The Buffs have been penalized 19 times in two games, including drawing a dozen penalties against the Bears. Embree doesn't want to overreact to the flags, particularly ones he called "aggressive" penalties that most coaches view as inherent to the game. He said his players "are trying to do what we're asking them to do. They'll understand and correct those things."

However, drive-killing flags - such as a couple thrown against the Buffs in Saturday's final 2:50 of regulation play for being off-sides and holding - are inexcusable. CU was penalized nine times in the opening half, only three times in the second half - but the late pair possibly prevented the Buffs from winning in the fourth quarter.

CU has the second highest number of penalties (Arizona has 21) in the Pac-12, but the highest total of yards lost (156) due to flags.

"The (penalties) that drive me crazy are the self-inflicted ones - like the off-sides," he said. "On our roughing-the-punter call, we just took a bad angle (and hit the punter). But we can't be off sides and have illegal procedure, we just can't have those."

Contact: BG.Brooks@Colorado.EDU

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