Hackett Rising in Buffs Pass Attack
BOULDER - Though it is a powerful ground game featuring names like Chris Brown and Bobby Purify that is making headlines for the No. 16/17 University of Colorado football team (8-3, 6-1 Big 12) as of late, the Buffs have also quietly developed a new weapon--this one through the air.
After battling a nagging knee injury in fall camp that he suffered last April, junior wide out D.J. Hackett has finally come into his own, quickly becoming one of the Buffs' main targets. A transfer from Cal State-Northridge, whose football program was cancelled after 2001, Hackett joined CU this past spring, never really getting into the flow of the offensive scheme due to the injury.
Though he worked his way up the depth chart to the No. 2 "Z" receiver in the fall, the 6-foot-3, 195-pound California native (Ontario) had not played the way he first envisioned when he donned the black and gold--that is, until now.
"D.J. has been playing really well," head coach Gary Barnett stated of Hackett, who reeled in a season-high four catches for 69 yards and one touchdown against Iowa State last Saturday. "I think over the last couple of games, you've really been able to see why we were so excited about getting him here."
"I have felt really good the past four, five weeks," stated Hackett, who actually snagged 53 passes for 778 yards and 10 touchdowns in the Matadors' final season. "I am really starting to feel comfortable in this system and get back to the level I know I can perform at."
With 14 receptions through 10 games, including eight grabs over CU's last three contests, Hackett has totaled 171 yards and two scores this season. Utilizing his height advantage in one-on-one situations against shorter defenders, much like he has in the fade patterns that resulted in his two touchdowns, Hackett has quickly become one of quarterback Robert Hodge's go-to guys.
"He has been outstanding lately," Hodge stated Wednesday after practice. "He is making great catches, running faster and running great routes. If I get the ball close to him, he'll make the play. That is something all quarterbacks love. When you have a guy like that, you can't help but get him the ball."
While Hackett will admit that his knee is finally at full-strength and that he feels more at ease in CU's offense, he believes that it is his teammates who have contributed the most to his recent surge in production.
"I think the biggest difference is the team's confidence in me to get the job done," Hackett continued. "That has really helped me out knowing that they trust in me to make plays.
"Hodge knows, that if he puts it up there, I'll go up and get it."
However, for Hackett, while acrobatic plays and big numbers nice, they are not important. All he wants to do is accomplish the team goal of repeating as Big 12 Champions.
"I will do whatever I can to contribute to this offense," he stated. "If that means I catch more balls, than fine. But I came here to win and play in big games, and that's what we are doing right now."