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Spring Football: Colorado
April 22, 2010
By Wendell Barnhouse | Correspondent

2009: 3-9 overall, 2-6 in Big 12.
Starters returning: Offense (8), defense (7)

After consecutive losing seasons and a 16-33 record in Boulder, Dan Hawkins spent most of spring practice spreading sunshine. That's just the way he is. Hawkins is convinced that the Buffaloes are in position to be successful and competitive in the North Division.

Colorado's last three losses came by a total of 18 points. Hawkins believes the difference in his team's nine defeats was mistakes - penalties, turnovers, missed assignments - at inopportune moments. Eliminating mental and physical errors was emphasized during spring workouts.

With 15 starters returning, the Buffs appear to have the pieces in place to improve. Hawkins and his program are due some good fortune.

Who's missing
Four linebackers - two starters and two reserves - are gone. Steady cornerback Cha'pelle Brown must be replaced. Kicker Aric Goodman finally succumbed to pain in his right hip and underwent surgery in early April. His return for the start of the season is in doubt. Markques Simas, who emerged as CU's top big play receiver, has been suspended indefinitely. If he returns, the best receiving corps that Hawkins has yet to assemble will get an unexpected boost.

Who's new
The Buffs' passing game has struggled the last few seasons without a deep threat or a game breaker (until Simas emerged last season). Michigan transfer Toney Clemons could be the missing ingredient. "I don't think there is any limit on how good Toney can be and what he will do for our offense," junior quarterback Tyler Hansen said. "He can take a short hitch pass, which is an easy throw for a quarterback to make, and take it 30 or 40 yards. Or he can just go deep. We haven't had that."

You'll hear about
The quarterbacks. Junior Tyler Hansen was listed as the starter after spring practice but senior Cody Hawkins, the son of the head coach, remains in the picture. Dan Hawkins says the difference between the two has always been "paper thin." Hansen is more mobile while Hawkins is the better passer. The last two seasons, both have played and the Buffs have won eight games. If Colorado is winning, who plays quarterback won't be an issue. But, if the losses start piling up …

Spring buzz
* Senior wide receiver Scotty McKnight, the most steady and productive player on the offensive side and the team's top pass catcher the last three seasons, missed the last half of spring practice. He tore a small section of ligament in his left ankle and chipped a small piece of left fibula during a practice on March 18. He should be fully recovered when pre-season practice starts.

* Only three scholarship backs are on the roster and two of those - starter Rodney Stewart and Brian Lockridge - were sidelined with injuries. At least two of four incoming freshmen - Cordary Clark, Justin Torres, Tony Jones and Trea' Jones - will need to emerge to add some depth in the backfield.

* Offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau is toying with the idea of using redshirt freshman quarterback Seth Lobato as a receiver. Lobato is 6-5, 215 pounds and Kiesau said Lobato could be "our Kerry Meier" - a reference to the Jayhawks quarterback-turned-receiver who was a prolific pass catcher. "I don't know if he can be that, but we're going to give him a shot and see what he can do," Kiesau said.

* Kiesau, in his first season as the Buffs' offensive coordinator, trimmed the playbook and simplified terminology. The idea is to make it easier to master fewer plays and to not allow lengthy play calls to bog down huddle time. . "We're playing faster because we're not thinking as much," quarterback Tyler Hansen said. "You can always tell when someone's thinking too much because they look slow. Now you don't see that."

Coach speak from Dan Hawkins
"You'd love to make a decision after the spring's over, but it's great for our competition and great for our guys to keep battling. I don't know why (a decision needs to be made now) unless you had a guy who won 10 games, would say, 'Yeah, you're the guy.'"
- On the quarterback battle between Tyler Hansen and Cody Hawkins

"He's a smart kid, good student and a good, solid guy. He's a leader, he's got energy. He's a 4.3 type guy. He's got the full package, he can make plays. The last week of spring practice, he started playing better. He has the potential to really help us."
- On wide receiver Toney Clemons

"We played three sophomores and a freshman last year. We had some guys get some significant snaps and I think we'll have better depth and experience. I think there'll be more coordination on the line this year."
- On the offensive line being better

2010 Schedule
Sept. 4 Colorado State (Denver)
Sept. 11 at California
Sept. 18 Hawaii
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*
* - Big 12 game
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