Colorado’s offensive line makeover for 2024 is well underway. And, the Buffaloes have another hole to fill on the coaching staff.
On Saturday, sophomore center Van Wells announced his intentions to enter the transfer portal when it opens on Monday.
Also, BuffZone confirmed through multiple sources that edge coach Nick Williams is leaving the program. According to a source, Williams is leaving the Buffs to join the staff at Syracuse.
Wells is the second starting offensive lineman to announce transfer intentions in the past two days, joining left tackle Gerad Christian-Lichtenhan.
“I want to say thank you to all the coaches who gave me the opportunity to play here at CU,” Wells, who has two years of eligibility remaining, wrote on social media. “I appreciate all the love and support I received these past 2 years from the CU staff and most importantly the CU fanbase.”
Wells played 11 games, with 10 starts, this season, but left his last game on crutches after an injury early in the finale at Utah on Nov. 25. In 740 snaps, Wells had a grade of 67.9 on Pro Football Focus, the second-best among CU linemen.
In 2022, as a true freshman, Wells played in 11 games with eight starts. It was the most starts by a true freshman lineman at CU since 2007 when Kai Maiava also had eight.
Throughout the season, CU’s offensive line struggled, allowing a school-record sacks, while the Buffs had the worst rushing offense in the country (68.9 yards per game).
Following a 28-16 loss to UCLA on Oct. 28, when the Buffs gave up seven sacks and had just 25 rushing yards, CU head coach Deion Sanders called out the offensive line.
“I think we have some guys that are gonna be good with a little seasoning,” he said after that game. “But overall, we just don’t have the fight and the passion to do what we want to do. … The line has to improve.”
Sanders added: “The big picture, you go get new linemen. That’s the picture and I’m gonna paint it perfectly.”
Now, there’s no question the Buffs will have a much different line than this past season.
Starting guard Landon Bebee has exhausted his eligibility, while Christian-Lichtenhan and Wells are now on the move. That leaves guard Jack Bailey and tackle Savion Washington left, as far as starters go. Both of them transferred to CU from Kent State to follow offensive coordinator Sean Lewis and line coach Bill O’Boyle.
Earlier this week, Lewis took the head coach job at San Diego State and it’s unlikely O’Boyle will return. With that, it’s unclear if Bailey and/or Washington will return to CU.
For now, there have been no reports of O’Boyle’s departure, but Williams is the third coach confirmed to be leaving the Buffs. In addition to Lewis, tight ends coach Tim Brewster resigned last Sunday and joined the staff at Charlotte.
Williams, 33, was one of CU’s best recruiters and a highly-regarded young coach in the profession. Popular with the players, Williams brought energy and intensity to the field and the recruiting trail for the Buffs.
Earlier this week, Syracuse hired Georgia defensive backs coach Fran Brown as head coach and Williams will head east to join his friend. Williams spent the previous two seasons as an analyst at Texas A&M. Prior to that, he worked for three years at Georgia, his alma mater.
On Saturday night, Williams posted a thank you message to Coach Prime.
“Thank you for your unwavering guidance and support during my journey with CU football,” he wrote. “You have selflessly dedicated a significant portion of your life to helping athletes and coaches such as myself. I sincerely appreciate all the time and effort you have put into me and my career. I am forever grateful for all the advice and endless encouragement you have given me.
“Your direction and wisdom has made me a better coach and better man. I don’t think I can ever thank you enough.”