2010 Colorado Preview
Colorado RB Rodney Stewart
Can Colorado turn things around before going off to the Pac 10, or will there be a change at the top after another disappointing season? The veterans are in place, like RB Rodney Stewart, and there's enough talent to hope for more production on both sides of the ball. Check out the CFN Colorado Preview.
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Yes, Dan Hawkins really is a good football coach.
Head coach: Dan Hawkins
5th year: 16-33
10th year overall: 69-44
Off. 28, Def. 26, ST 1
Lettermen Lost: 22
Ten Best Colorado Players
1. CB Jimmy Smith, Sr.
2. DE Marquez Herrod, Sr.
3. RB Rodney Stewart, Jr.
4. WR Scotty McKnight, Sr.
5. OT Nate Solder, Sr.
6. SS Anthony Perkins, Jr.
7. WR Toney Clemons, Jr.
8. CB Jalill Brown, Sr.
9. LB Michael Sipili, Sr.
10. S Parker Orms, RFr.
Sept. 4 Colorado St (in Denver)
Sept. 11 at California
Sept. 18 Hawaii
Sept. 25 OPEN DATE
Oct. 2 Georgia
Oct. 9 at Missouri
Oct. 16 Baylor
Oct. 23 Texas Tech
Oct. 30 at Oklahoma
Nov. 6 at Kansas
Nov. 13 Iowa State
Nov. 20 Kansas State
Nov. 26 at Nebraska
The 16 wins in four seasons doesn't cut it, even with a hamstrung program that had to pick itself up off the mat after the end of the Gary Barnett era, and now there are no excuses. Hawkins has had a full recruiting cycle to get his guys in place, he has been given a new lease on life with a fifth season, when most coaches would've been canned by now, and he has a ton of returning experience to work with. Now the wins have to come.
Colorado doesn't need to win the Big 12 North for Hawkins to stick around, but it does need to go bowling, it has to show more life on offense, and there can't be so many different problems week after week after week. A lack of consistent production on both sides of the ball has been the hallmark of the Hawkins era, and there have been just enough big moments to show that the potential is there to start winning on a regular basis.
Yes, Dan Hawkins really is a good football coach. Now he has to prove it.
With the program going off to the Pac 10, the temptation will be there next year to start fresh and begin the new era with a different coach with different ideas, but this year it'll be up to Hawkins to show that he can be the guy who can be the right fit.
Step one will be to get the offense moving. The Buffs haven't been able to keep up in most firefights over the last few years, and that has to change with seven returning starters, a good-looking receiving corps, and everyone back on an offensive front that was a disaster throughout 2009. The attack has to find one thing it can do consistently well, and it has to do it faster. Under Hawkins, the offense has been flat, often plodding, and way too mistake prone. In a Big 12 with so many high-powered attacks, the Buff attack hasn't been close to up to snuff.
Seven starters are back on a defense that hasn't been special and hasn't been good against the more talented offenses, but overall has been decent considering the pinball machine numbers the Big 12 attacks have put up over the last few seasons.
The Big 12 North isn't going to be all that strong with the No. 3 spot there for the taking behind Nebraska and Missouri, and Colorado needs to rise up and grab it. Hawkins has the experience and the urgency, but there's a question whether or not he has the talented team to overcome the brutal schedule. Yes, Dan Hawkins really is a good football coach, but that won't matter if he doesn't win this year.
What to watch for on offense: Don't think, just throw … or run. Second-year offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau will try to settle down the highly inefficient attack by simplifying the plays to let the players just play rather than to have to think so much. With so much returning experience, there's no reason to not be on the same page compared to the last few years, and there's no reason to not be able to go on more long drives. After giving the ball away 31 times last season, only Hawaii and Miami University turned it over more, there can't be so many drives that fizzle from mistakes. An easier offensive scheme should settle things down.
What to watch for on defense: The emergence of the linebackers. The linebacking corps was supposed to be a major strength last year, and while it was fine, it was hardly as special as it potentially could've been. This year, only one starter, B.J. Beatty, is back, but there's tremendous promise at the other two positions with big Michael Sipili certain to be a big-time tackler in the middle and Jon Major a tremendous prospect on the weakside. With three starters back up front and the secondary expected to be one of the team's best areas, the linebackers won't have to do it all, but they should put up some nice numbers.
The team will be far better if … it scores 30 points. 33 teams averaged 30 points per game or more last season, and while just four of them were in the Big 12, the league had seven teams that averaged 28.4 or more per game. Over the four years under Dan Hawkins, Colorado has gone 11-3 when scoring 30 or more and 5-30 when scoring fewer. Considering the Buff defense has allowed 30 points or more 22 times under Hawkins, and the team has won just two of them, the offense has to pick up the pace.
The schedule: The Buffs have to beat rival Colorado State in the opener in Denver or it could be a rough, rough start to the season with a trip to California and a date with Georgia to deal with. If that wasn't enough, the Big 12 opener is coming off the date with the Dawgs and is at Missouri. The games against the South come in a three-week midseason span hosting Baylor and Texas Tech and with a trip to Oklahoma. Forget about any hope of winning the North with road games at Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska, but the schedule has just enough winnable games to get to a bowl game. There's no excuse to not beat Colorado State, Hawaii, Baylor, Iowa State, and Kansas State at home and come up with an upset to get to six wins.
Best offensive player: Junior RB Rodney Stewart. Only 5-6 and 175 pounds, Stewart has had a hard time staying healthy, suffering a knee injury two years ago and being banged around last season, but he's the team's most dangerous offensive weapon when he's right running for 127 yards and two scores in the win over Wyoming and finishing with five 100-yard games in 2009. In the eight wins over the last two seasons, Stewart has run for 100 yards or more in five of them.
Best defensive player: Senior CB Jimmy Smith. The senior has the tools to be a good nickel back or second corner at the next level. He's 6-2 and 210 pounds with 4.4 speed, it's all there to erase one side of the field, and with 13 career broken up passes with three interceptions and 96 tackles, he's a proven playmaker. If teams start to stay away from him, the rest of the secondary has the experience to pick up the slack.
Key player to a successful season: Junior QB Tyler Hansen. Cody Hawkins is the better passing option, but he has been given more than a few chances and the team hasn't produced with him under center. Hansen is more of a sparkplug with his running ability and his playmaking skills, but he has thrown way too many interceptions, seven in his work over the second half of last year, and he finished with just 61 net rushing yards and a touchdown.
The season will be a success if … the Buffs make a bowl game. This isn't going to be an easy year with no sure-thing, gimme wins, and forget about making run in the North with road games at Missouri, Oklahoma, and Nebraska, but that doesn't diminish the expectations. If this isn't a positive season with a bowl finish, there will be a new era starting in Colorado football next year.
Key game: Oct. 23 vs. Texas Tech. It's an interdivisional game, but it's vital coming at the end of a run of four home games in five and coming just before a two game road stretch at Oklahoma and Kansas. The Buffs have won the last two games in the series and have won five in the last seven. It's not a stretch to suggest that CU isn't going bowling if it doesn't come away with a W.
2009 Fun Stats:
- Tackles for loss: Opponents 81 for 467 yards – Colorado 68 for 285 yards
- Time spent in the lead: Opponents 444:13 – Colorado 165:18
- Penalties: Colorado 107 for 907 yards – Opponents 85 for 791 yards
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