Back for his fi­nal sea­son, Ir­win leads tal­ented line

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Brian How­ell Cliff Grass­mick, Daily Cam­era

The 19-year-old Jeromy Ir­win who ar­rived in Boul­der in the fall of 2012 prob­a­bly wasn’t think­ing much about 2017 at that time.

If he did look ahead, he cer­tainly didn’t see him­self still wear­ing a Colorado uni­form.

“I’m kind of still in awe that I’m still here in 2017,” Ir­win said this week.

Now a 24-year-old, six­thyear se­nior, Ir­win is back for one last run with the Buf­faloes and grate­ful for the op­por­tu­nity in front of him this sea­son.

“I’m blessed to have an­other year to be here,” he said. “Luck­ily they gave me a hard­ship waiver. That was re­ally im­por­tant to me.”

With Ir­win pro­jected to start once again at left tackle for the Buf­faloes (10-4, 8-1 Pac-12 last sea­son), his ca­reer has been filled with great mo­ments and dif­fi­cult tri­als.

As a true fresh­man — play­ing for then-head coach Jon Em­bree — Ir­win played im­me­di­ately, which is rare for an of­fen­sive line­man.

The next sum­mer, just days be­fore the start of pre­sea­son camp, he broke his foot while do­ing yard­work and missed the en­tire sea­son.

In 2015, Ir­win tore the ACL in his left knee early in the sec­ond game of the year and was done for the sea­son. Miss­ing nearly a sec­ond full sea­son al­lowed him to ap­ply to the NCAAA for the hard­ship waiver.

When Ir­win has played, he’s been one of CU’s best line­men, start­ing at left tackle 11 times in 2014, twice in 2015 and 13 times last year.

The ups and downs of his ca­reer have given Ir­win the de­ter­mi­na­tion to make this last sea­son count.

“It’s changed my per­spec­tive,” he said. “It def­i­nitely hum­bled me in how I can come every day and im­prove on what I’ve done in the past and what I need to im­prove on.”

CU will lean heav­ily on Ir­win this sea­son. He is not only one of the best lead­ers on the team; he’s also one of the keys to an of­fen­sive line that is sup­posed to be out­stand­ing. Coach Mike Mac­In­tyre said this should be the best of­fen­sive line CU has had dur­ing his five sea­sons as coach.

“Peo­ple prob­a­bly feel that way be­cause there’s so many guys that have played,” of­fen­sive line coach Klay­ton Adams said Tues­day. “That’s what you want; you want guys that have played. We’re still mak­ing strides out here. It’s only our sec­ond day in pads, but there’s still a lot of things we need to clean up.”

Ir­win is the el­der states­man of the group, but it’s a crew that also in­cludes se­nior left guard Ger­rad Kough (22 ca­reer starts) and se­nior cen­ter Jonathan Huck­ins (13 ca­reer starts). Sopho­mores Tim Lynott (right guard) and Aaron Haigler (right tackle) are also re­turn­ing starters.

“Yeah, we think we’re a good group, but our at­ti­tude is that we need to get work done,” Ir­win said. “Our men­tal­ity hasn’t changed as in we’re go­ing to run the ball a lot and we’re go­ing to be bal­anced and throw the ball. As an of­fen­sive line, yeah, we have some con­fi­dence that peo­ple have faith in us be­cause it hasn’t al­ways been that way around here.”

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