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Brooks: The Notebook's Empty; Kick It Off Already

Sep 3, 2010

BOULDER - Emptying the notebook, the tape recorder and quite possibly the brain pan . . . short stuff left over from the long run-up to the Rams:

'TP' KNOWS RIVALRIES: Travon Patterson (aka 'TP') spent his first four years of college at Southern California and will take his final year of eligibility at Colorado, where the receiving corps and return game are truly glad he's aboard.

Patterson hasn't played in or seen a CU-Colorado State game, but he's no stranger to intense rivalries - read: USC-UCLA. I asked him this week about that L.A. love-fest (not).

"A lot of guys from both schools went to high school in LA or nearby," said Patterson, of Long Beach. "That brought an intensity to the game, city bragging rights. Guys here have told me that in this state, you go either here or Colorado State. I can see the same kind of intensity; I've been told that (the Rams) will bring it."

Got a favorite USC-UCLA memory?

"Sure . . . We had this song that we listened to in the hotel before the game, and we all jumped up and down when it played. On the field a couple of years ago at UCLA, either during a timeout or between quarters, the same song started playing and we all did the same thing we did at the hotel - jumped up and down. UCLA players thought we were disrespecting them or their field. They rushed the field, but nothing happened . . . it was still pretty intense."

DON'T SELL THEM SHORT: Former CU assistant Bob Simmons attended a mid-week practice and commented on the size - actually, the lack thereof - of most of the Buffs running backs. But, as Simmons pointed out, you don't have to be a monster to play like one.

His Exhibit A was Eric Bieniemy, who at 5-foot-7, 190 pounds rushed for 1,628 yards in CU's national championship season (1990) and still stands as the school's career rushing leader (3,940 yards).

Bieniemy, though, was "a different cat," noted Simmons, recalling that in pass protection drills Bieniemy routinely would call out Kanavis McGhee as the outside linebacker/defensive end he wanted to block one-on-one. Never mind that Bieniemy gave up almost a foot in height and about 65 pounds to McGhee.

"He'd point to McGhee and say, 'Get your big butt over here,'" recalled Simmons, McGhee's position coach. "And when Kanavis got there, Bieniemy would usually block him."

Current running backs coach Darian Hagan, who played with Bieniemy, has told his "Baby Backs" the same story about pass protection. Said Hagan: "I tell them all the time that (pass protection) is just a 3.5-second fight . . . that's all they've got to do."

MOVEMENT UP FRONT? It might not happen next week or this month, but offensive line coach Denver Johnson's quest to get his five best players on the field could result in a personnel/position shuffle.

On Saturday, Johnson's starting five interior linemen likely will be Keenan Stevens (center), Ryan Miller and Ethan Adkins (guards) and David Bakhtiari and Nate Solder (tackles). Mike Iltis (left guard) and Shawn Daniels (center) also figure to play.

Over the long haul, when right tackle Bryce Givens (ankle) returns to 100 percent, Johnson might toy with the idea of having Givens play tackle while Bakhtiari moves inside.

At the moment, that plan is just a gleam in Johnson's eye; he understands the importance of continuity among his bunch. Still, he's always looking to upgrade.

THREE, TWO, ONE . . . : Senior receiver Scotty McKnight needs three catches to become CU's career receptions leader (he has 165, Michael Westbrook made 167). McKnight has made at least one catch in the last 37 games (including the postseason) and posted high games of 8, 6 and 11 receptions over the past three seasons. His 37-game streak is the best in the NCAA among this season's returning receivers.

So, chances are good that McKnight gets his three catches in the opener, collects the record and moves on . . . right? Not so fast.

CU's receiving corps is deeper and more talented than at any time during McKnight's career. By no means is he an afterthought in the Buffs' passing plans, but there are other options now and additional opportunities for big plays.

First-year passing game coordinator/receivers coach Robert Prince wants to spread the ball among his guys, and it appears that will be possible. McKnight's record might take awhile - or maybe not if everything clicks.

HANDS, HOPS AND SO MUCH MORE: Paul Richardson, one of the receiving corps' two late additions (Patterson was the other), was a couple of days late in starting practice, awaiting clearance from the administration.

Once he got on the field, hardly a practice passed that didn't include a "wow" moment - courtesy of the athletic 6-1, 175-pound Richardson.

He told me he's settled in comfortably with his teammates, likes his surroundings and has his eyes on the Invesco Field end zones. Like Patterson, he knows a little about rivalries; his father, Paul Richardson, Sr., was a UCLA receiver and Paul Jr. was raised in Gardena, Calif.

CU upperclassmen have briefed him on what to expect Saturday, but he admits he needs to be there to get the real feel. Mostly, though, he's simply glad to have landed where he did and have an opportunity to play.

And he's demonstrated he can do that. Junior quarterback Tyler Hansen believes Richardson "will be one of those guys who's here for three years . . . he's really good."

SAVOR THE MOMENT, KID: Saturday will mark Hansen's first start against CSU, but over the past two seasons he's opened in nine games. So he's got the cred to pass on some advice to CSU freshman QB Pete Thomas, who makes his first college start Saturday.

"Enjoy it," Hansen advised. "There's only going to be one first game, first college game of your life. There's only one first one. Win or lose, whatever happens, smile and have fun."

Hansen, more composed and attuned to his position's responsibilities this season than in the previous two, added, "It's exciting for him . . . it's something new. For me I was a little nervous; it'll be hectic for him. I look forward to talking to him after the game and picking his brain a little bit and seeing what he thought about it."

A NICE BUS RIDE BACK TO BOULDER IF . . . : The Buffs don't join a game that's already in progress (start fast, fellas), run the ball successfully (29 yards on 21 rushes doesn't qualify), protect Hansen and avoid allowing big plays.

QUOTABLE QB

"I don't really look at it as pressure. It's a must win. . . I guess that's pressure, but I don't really think of it as that. Just to get off on the right foot - if you get a win against your rival, that's great. But the first game of the year is so important. If we were playing whoever, it would be a big game, just because it's our first game.  If we can get a win, then maybe go to Cal and get a win - a road win, finally - I feel like we can really get this thing going and get some momentum." - Hansen

LAST AND SHORT: Senior placekicker Aric Goodman should be accustomed to Invesco's day-glo green goal posts. Coach Dan Hawkins had the uprights on CU's practice field painted the same garish color . . . . The Buffs visited Invesco last Friday evening, giving those players who'd never been in the Broncos stadium a chance to unburden themselves of the "oohs, aahs and look-its" before game day . . . . Per custom, the Buffs will spend Friday night at the Broomfield Omni Interlocken Resort. CU is by no means alone in headquartering off campus on the night before home games. According to recent research by the Des Moines Register, only six of 120 major college football teams don't use hotels before home games . . . . Hawkins is 2-2 vs. CSU and 2-2 in openers at CU.   

Contact: BG.Brooks@Colorado.EDU