After getting a stay of execution by the University of Colorado administration, Coach Dan Hawkins must feel like the luckiest guy this side of Central City. While the 2009 season was marred by a series of bad luck, lackluster performances, key injuries and defections as well as low morale, there were moments, albeit brief, where the Buffs competed on the field and showed the promise fans had of the team starting out each season. Which team shows up will determine the fate of Coach Hawk.
Returning 16 starters, the folks in Boulder expect to improve and have a winning season. Tyler Hansen has won the starting job, but Coach Hawkins has indicated a willingness to put his son Cody under center for a few snaps. How this plays out remains to be seen, but if history is an indicator, it will not turn out well. Here’s hoping that Tyler produces from the start so we can extinguish that thought from the very beginning.
Rodney “Speedy” Stewart and Scotty McKnight lead the backfield and receiving corps respectively. Last year, the lack of overall speed at the skill positions was badly exposed throughout the 2009 season. Stewart needs to reclaim the form he displayed as a freshman in order for the Buffs to be effective. Otherwise, too much pressure will be put on the passing game and CU does not have the arsenal to compete with the top-tier teams of the Big 12.
McKnight is a steady and consistent performer, but in order to maximize his abilities, one of the other talented, though unproven, receivers is going to have to step up and stretch out opposing defenses. If not, teams will stack the line and dare the Buffs to beat them through the air. While an improved offensive line with NFL caliber prospects may be able to blow out some holes for Stewart and create passing opportunities, it will be difficult to consistently produce quality plays if teams always have eight in the box. Besides injuries, finding a deep threat as the number two wide receiver will be the key to Colorado’s offensive success.
The defense could not stop anyone on the ground last year, but with three returning starters on the defensive line, it should be vastly improved. Besides plugging holes, they will have to put more pressure on opposing teams’ quarterbacks in order to help an inexperienced linebacking corps gain the necessary skills and experience to complement them. The defensive backfield is probably the strength of the team. Led by Jalil Brown and Jimmy Smith, the Buffs ranked fourth in the Big 12 in pass defense, which is outstanding considering the pass happy conference and the amount of time they spent on the field. Plus, the punting game did not do them any favors by giving opposing offenses a short field rather than pinning them back toward their own goal line.
After consistently believing the Buffs were going to turn the corner and compete with the elite teams of the Big 12 at the start of each season, fans are right to be skeptical entering the 2010 season. It is easier to be thrilled with an unexpected fast start than be disappointed with early season losses. The bar has been set pretty low for the 2010 edition of the CU Buffs; six wins and bowl eligibility. Anything less and Coach Hawk is gone. It will not be easy. The Big 12 is still one of the top conferences in the country and the Buffs non-conference schedule is nothing to sneeze at. The team has a solid foundation and good, young talent. Now it needs to produce, stay healthy and develop leaders. There are going to be trying moments, but if they are worth their mettle they will succeed. If not, the coaching search begins on November 27th.
About the Author
Written by Brian O'Connor
Graduated from the University of Colorado in 1993 and have been a big fan of the Buffs since the halcyon days of Coach McCartney, Big 8 titles and a National Championship. While I know I'll get nostalgic when the day arrives, I'm hoping that a change of scenery to the PAC 10 will lead us back to the glory days. Until then, I want to see some Buff pride in what will probably be our last year in the Big 12. Beat Nebraska.