Colorado offensive lineman Kaiwi Crabb is taking one for the team this spring.
After starting 12 games at left guard in 2013, Crabb is practicing almost exclusively at left tackle this spring because of a lack of depth at tackle.
Third-year sophomore Jeromy Irwin is considered the most likely player to earn the starting job at left tackle in the fall, but he is out this spring after breaking his foot twice in the past year and undergoing surgery. Another possible contender at left tackle is Marc Mustoe, who is limited this spring after suffering a broken leg in an October game against Charleston Southern.
So it appears the Crabb move outside is just a temporary fix by coaches who already are fans of using spring to experiment.
Crabb looks at it a little differently. If he's going to be out there, why not try to be as good as he can be at the position and give coaches options in the fall.
"I'm confident that I can play tackle," Crabb said. "I played it here my first year, and I did well. But I'm confident I can play any position on the line, center, guard and now tackle and this spring is going to prove that."
Crabb said offensive line coach Gary Bernardi talked to him before spring drills began about moving out to tackle for the 15 spring practices. Bernardi is spending plenty of time working with him on an individual basis.
Crabb, who wasn't flagged for a single penalty last season, according to CU's offensive line statistics, said he was fine with the move because he already feels confident in his ability to play guard and center. In fact, he's hoping to end up at center in his senior season.
If nothing else comes from Crabb playing tackle this spring, at least the program will go into fall practices with a heck of a utility man in the trenches.
Crabb, at 6-foot-3, isn't exactly the prototypical tackle in the modern NFL. Most tackles are at least 6-5 these days and some such as former Buff Nate Solder, are 6-8 or taller. CU right tackle Stephane Nembot is in that mold at 6-7.
"I feel like the most important thing about tackle is having quick hands," Crabb said. "I feel like I have quick hands. I definitely don't have the arm reach that Nate and Stephane do, but I feel like if I have good body position and quick feet and quick hands, then really it's just a game of keeping myself between the end and the quarterback."
CU coach Mike MacIntyre said he wasn't sure how Crab would fare at tackle, but he hasn't seen any red flags in the first three days of spring drills. The Buffs were in pads for the first time Wednesday and will have a light scrimmage on Friday.
"Right now, what I've seen so far, I think he could do it," MacIntyre said. "Now we've got to see as we keep scrimmaging and keep going and putting other things on him, but to me the first three days he has looked very nimble on his feet out there."