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August 15, 2013BOULDER, Colo. - Patience is a virtue, especially for a young offensive lineman still adjusting to the college game. For redshirt freshman Alex Kelley, however, a sense of urgency has been needed.
The early departure of two players off last year's starting offensive line, and a potential season-ending foot injury to projected top back-up Jeromy Irwin, has left the Buffaloes with little experienced depth up front.
"I kind of always viewed myself as needing to step up but with them (David Bakhtiari and Alex Lewis) leaving, it just multiplied it to a more extreme level," said Kelley, who was named the team's most improved offensive lineman during spring ball. "I realized that I really do need to step up now."
And during camp, as Daniel Munyer works his way back from a leg injury, Kelley has had an opportunity to work extensively with the first-team offensive line at right guard. He has also taken some reps at left guard and center.
"Getting to work with [the first-team] has been incredibly beneficial and those guys have been helping me out every step of the way," he said. "Even if I mess up, they are not down on me. They are just like, 'hey, keep working, you are doing good.' It is encouraging."
If and when a starter on the interior of the line suffers an injury this fall, there is a good chance Kelley will be ushered into action.
Kelley believes his overall raw strength and run blocking are his best attributes. But he admits to being a work in progress, like any well-grounded underclassman would.
"Mentally, I have improved leaps and bounds. I can't even express how much I have improved on that," Kelley said. "But I can still improve immensely on everything, even things I feel are my strengths. I need to keep focused on the little things of being offensive lineman."
Kelley racked up 108 pancake blocks while helping Vista (Calif.) High to a CIF San Diego Section championship in 2010. He verbally committed to Dan Hawkins' staff that October and was one of just two pledges Jon Embree decided to keep on board after the coaching change.
Kelley broke a bone in his foot while running on the beach the summer after signing with the Buffs and ended up grayshirting. He enrolled at CU in the spring of 2012 and then redshirted.
Needless to say, Kelley is anxious to get back out on the field on game day.