Brooks: Buffs On Track, But Need Time To Refine
BOULDER - The Colorado Buffaloes open the 2010 college football season in just over two weeks, and after Thursday's second scrimmage of fall camp CU's coaches said - what did you expect? - the Buffs need every tick of the time remaining.
Thursday's game-condition work at Folsom Field saw the Buffs run 120 of the day's 141 total plays from scrimmage. Closed to the public and media, the scrimmage was designed to be less situational than last week's. No statistical information from Thursday's work was released by CU.
Coach Dan Hawkins said his team "looked OK, but when you're the head guy, the defense does good and you're mad at the offense . . . when the offense does good, you're mad at the defense. So there were a lot of good things to learn from."
Game-planning begins next week for Colorado State, CU's opponent on Sept. 4 at Denver's Invesco Field. Coaches are expected to set their two-deep rosters after completing their evaluation of the second scrimmage. The final preseason scrimmage is set for Saturday, Aug. 28.
In summing up Thursday's offensive highlights, Hawkins mentioned few turnovers and penalties, and productivity in "some clutch situations and on the goal line . . . I don't know what our stats were running the ball, but it looked pretty good."
FINDING THEIR LEGS? A top camp priority has been improvement in the running game, which averaged just 87.8 yards a game last season.
In Thursday's work, junior tailback Rodney "Speedy" Stewart said, "The holes were crazy . . . even against the first defense, I had a couple of good runs."
Offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau said even though he "likes the progress (of the ground game), it's still a work in progress. We still have two more weeks. Do I think we're game ready? I don't think 100 percent, no. That's why I like having two more weeks to practice and get after it. I don't feel like we're there yet."
Hawkins noticed "more consistency" than the Buffs demonstrated last season, but noted that game situations usually dictate how balanced an offense can be: "Hopefully we'll have closer games and you can be in a little better control that way."
Freshmen tailbacks Cordary Allen, Trea' Jones and Tony Jones took advantage of fellow freshman Justin Torres' absence Thursday to log more work than in the first scrimmage. Torres was one of four freshmen attending orientation sessions; the others were receiver Paul Richardson, tight end Harold Mobley and defensive tackle Dakota Poole, who would have been sidelined regardless with a broken hand.
Allen, a 6-foot-1, 230-pounder, said position coach Darian Hagan "has been telling me to just relax. I think I did that . . . I've learned my plays and got most of my reads and blocking assignments down. That really helped me out."
Junior quarterback Tyler Hansen's critique of the ground game: "I thought it was real good . . . we did some stuff with two tight ends, and it's nice to see that."
Senior Cody Hawkins, Hansen's competitor for the starting QB job, conceded if the Buffs "need a little more help running the ball (from their position), Tyler definitely has the edge there. If you're mobile and they have to account for you, that definitely opens up things in the run game."
Both QBs mentioned the experience and cohesiveness of the offensive line and an upgrade in speed at wide receiver that defenses won't be able to ignore in 2010.
'TP' SETTLING IN: Transfer Travon Patterson (Southern California) accounts for a big portion of the added speed at receiver. He couldn't participate in full pads for the first camp scrimmage, but was in full gear on Thursday.
"I think I did pretty good; I just played my role," he said. "They've put me in great position to show off my talent, and I'm thankful for that. I feel good about everything."
He said he feels comfortable in most everything he's being asked to do: "It's not really that different to me. Just change the words up - it's the same stuff. I caught on the first week I got out here."
"I've been joking with Travon, calling him Brett Favre," Dan Hawkins said. "He's not a had a whole bunch of pops, but he's doing good."
THE QB QUESTION: After enduring what both described as unspectacular starts, Kiesau said Hansen and Cody Hawkins performed well in Thursday's second half. He also said nothing he saw from either player will complicate the decision on naming a starter.
"Not at all . . . they were both efficient," he said. "The one ball we had tipped up in the air was a pick (a Hansen pass tipped and intercepted by linebacker Michael Sipili). But that's a quarterback trying to find a throwing lane. There were no bad decisions from that standpoint. They were both fine."
Kiesau also said there is "never a right time (to name a starter); it's whenever one guy steps up. We're grading these guys every day in practice, in every drill, every 7-on-7, every team (setting) . . . from meetings to practice, to film. When one guy kind of appears and emerges above the other, we'll name a starter."
Hansen told the Boulder Daily Camera earlier this week that he believed he was getting about 80 percent of the work with the first offense. But Kiesau said in the past week, "I've tried . . . to divide it 50-50 and keep them both sharp. We have to keep them both sharp. Whoever the starter is, we're going to need the other guy as well.
"We just can't close the door on the other guy and say, 'You're done, go graduate, see you later.' We've got to keep them both fresh - mentally and physically."
'O' STARTS SLOW: Unlike in scrimmage No. 1, when the Nos. 1 and 2 offenses opened with an 80-yard scoring drive each, Thursday's work began with the 'O' trying to find itself.
Kiesau's explanation: "The reason we started slow was the plays I was calling."
Hansen's explanation: "The first half, we were trying some new things out . . . trying to get some rhythm in things we've had trouble with. We struggled a little, but in the second half, we moved the ball and scored points."
Cody Hawkins' explanation: "The first half we missed on a couple of passes . . . the second half we focused on moving the ball and I thought we were clicking. Both groups moved the ball . . . it really didn't matter (who the QB was), we moved the ball and both wound up going down and scoring in our clutch situations, so that was a really good sign for everybody on the offense."
The lack of first-half rhythm, said Kiesau, stemmed from his wanting to achieve a balance between "a good, hard running game (and) complete balls down the field - just get that balance. It was just something I was trying to do with the offense in the first half. It was better in the second half."
Kiesau called plays from the coaches' booth, while Dan Hawkins made personnel decisions from the field. Said Kiesau: "'Hawk' was saying, 'twos are up, ones are up' . . . we were just kind of rolling like a game. From that standpoint (of running personnel in and out) it was up to him. But we wanted to keep it about a game length."
READING THE 'D': Two of defensive coordinator Ron Collins' camp goals have been limiting big plays and making them - mainly by capitalizing on forced turnovers.
As for limiting big plays - a big problem in 2009 when the Buffs allowed 53 plays of 20-plus yards and 15 of 40-plus yards - Collins said, "We're way beyond where we were last year and as good as at any time last fall. We feel good where we're at."
CU's first scrimmage produced a pair of defensive touchdowns; there were none Thursday. But Collins hinted that had the QBs been "live" in this scrimmage, that might have contributed to his unit coming up with another big play or two.
Collins said Thursday's work should allow a more thorough evaluation of freshmen corners Josh Moten and Jered Bell, who along with freshman safety Terrel Smith have had productive camps. He also said redshirt freshman Paul Vigo "has had an excellent camp" and likely will be the third corner/safety - a role graduated Ben Burney played in 2009.
It apparently will be easier for younger players to emerge in the secondary than up front in Collins' two-deep. "Up front, we've got a pretty good core; it's going to be tough for young guys to break in (there)," he said.
"It was just a little hitch route and he stuttered Ray (Polk, safety) . . . his ankles are still out there I think." - Hansen, on a short pass that receiver Toney Clemons turned into a long TD.
"He rallies every single guy on the team, then he goes out and backs it up with his play." - Cody Hawkins, on Clemons in general.
BUFF BITS: Dan Hawkins said placement contenders Aric Goodman, Marcus Kirkwood and Justin Castor "are in general all kicking pretty good . . . 'Goodie' (Goodman) holds a slight edge there." . . . . One stat that was relayed from the SID department was the fact that the first penalty of the scrimmage did not occur untul the 77th play; only two were called all afternoon, both false starts, bringing the total to just six penalties (four offense, two defense) in the two full scrum sessions (253 plays). Special teams has had only one flag in 47 plays . . . . Former CU placekicker Mason Crosby and his wife Molly, a former Buffs cheerleader, had their first child, a seven-pound, four-ounce son, Nolan James Crosby, last Sunday. Crosby is kicking for the Packers . . . . The Buffs have an afternoon practice scheduled Friday, then finish two-a-days on Saturday. Two days off - but meetings on Sunday - follow, with fall classes beginning Monday. On Tuesday, their new morning routine begins (6:30 a.m. meetings, 8-10 a.m. practice).