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BOULDER, CO, March 30, 2022: Offensive linemen, Tommy Brown, left, and Travis Gray, during the University of Colorado Boulder football practice on March 30, 2022.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
BOULDER, CO, March 30, 2022: Offensive linemen, Tommy Brown, left, and Travis Gray, during the University of Colorado Boulder football practice on March 30, 2022.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

A week into preseason camp, the Colorado Buffaloes have yet to solidify their starting group on the offensive line.

The Buffs are, however, developing their depth.

“We do have depth, which is good — really a good thing,” head coach Karl Dorrell said. “That’s one of those areas, among many, that in the past we just didn’t have enough quality depth from our first team to our second team. I would say that’s completely changed.”

Tackles Frank Fillip and Jake Wiley and guard Casey Roddick are returning starters. When healthy, Alabama transfer Tommy Brown will likely start, as well. Meanwhile, Noah Fenske and Austin Johnson are battling for the starting job at center.

“I kind of look at them as 1A and 1B, because they’re competing for that spot,” said Dorrell.

Behind that group, Dorrell said several players are playing well in camp.

Arizona transfer Lucas Eckardt and junior college transfer Alex Harkey are “progressing really well,” Dorrell said. Sophomore Gerad Christian-Lichtenhan is the third tackle, while true freshmen Travis Gray and Van Wells are playing well.

“It’s good to see that second unit is really not much different than that first unit,” Dorrell said. “Guys are starting to emerge and you’re starting to see some versatility up front.

“I feel strongly that we have that depth. We have more pieces there than we’ve had in the past.”

Getting healthy

The Buffs have several players who have missed the first week of camp with injuries, but some of that group is close to returning.

Dorrell said Brown and receiver RJ Sneed, a Baylor transfer, could be on the field by the end of the week. Both are currently working with director of football sports performance Shannon Turley during practices.

“They’re really close,” Dorrell said. “They’re running, pushing sleds, doing change of direction drills. We’re trying to just make sure that they pass that last level of movement skills first before we put them back in gear, but they’re close.”

Also close to returning is cornerback Nigel Bethel Jr., who had a season-ending knee injury midway through 2021 and missed spring practices.

Outside linebacker Joshka Gustav, who was injured in November, was nearing a return in summer before a setback.

“He started having a little bit of flare-ups and some swelling,” Dorrell said. “We’re concerned about why. … He’s turned a corner, but every now and then when he turns the corner and he comes back the next day, he has some swelling. We’re just trying to figure out what that is.”

Overall, Dorrell said the Buffs are in good shape with their health.

Big week

The Buffs will have their first scrimmage of camp on Saturday. That makes this a big week as they prepare for that practice.

“We’ve got some work to do to really showcase what we are at that midway point of camp,” Dorrell said.

Now seven practices into camp, Dorrell said the staff is looking for “development with the retention of the information we’re doing each and every day and that can we perform it at a level that meets the standard that we’re looking for.”

Thursday is the last day of installing the schemes, Dorrell said, and after that, “We start really refining the depth chart and kind of seeing who’s competing and who is close, who is doing this and doing that.”

Notable

Tuesday was a competitive practice. Dorrell said the defense won the red zone drill, while the offense got the upper hand in the third down drill. … The Buffs are taking Wednesday off before returning to the field on Thursday. … Senior running back Alex Fontenot has been impressed with true freshmen backs Anthony Hankerson and Victor Venn. “They’re gonna be really good,” Fontenot said. “By the time they’re seniors, they’re gonna shock some people by how good they are.”

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