We’re in the final week of spring ball with the spring game coming up Saturday. It’s a good time for some quality questions in this edition of the mailbag. We start with two from Mark.
Why does it seem that CU uses more walk on players on offense than anyone else in the Big 12, not just starters but total number of snaps?
Why is Dan Hawkins the only coach I have ever heard of that never fires an assistant coach?
Thanks for the questions Mark. I would have to agree that coach Hawkins does seem to be more willing than many or his peers to use walk-ons on game day while some of the players he spent all those hours recruiting sit on the bench. I believe it is because Hawkins believes in rewarding guys for working hard, knowing their assignments and executing correctly in practice. Other coaches do, too, but Hawkins believes the guy doing all the right stuff in practice gives him a better chance to win on Saturdays. I’d have to say that has proven false so far in his tenure. Talent trumps try hard most of the time.
The real issue here is why can’t more of the scholarship skill position players learn the playbook and execute on the practice fields the way the walk-ons do, especially those who have been in the program for months or even years. If it’s not happening, then somebody isn’t getting through to the guy.
In regard to your second question, there are plenty of coaches around the country who are very reluctant to make changes to their staffs. Gary Barnett fired one assistant during his time in Boulder and he looked for ways around doing it. I don’t think Hawkins is unique in this way, but I can understand frustration from fans, who see little or no improvement over a series of years and wonder why assistant coaches are allowed to continue making anywhere from $100,000 a year to about $220,000, a very comfortable living.
My question to you is, why is it that the Buffs roster, who is full of players who have had success at the previous level, who are obviously smarter than the average football player to qualify for CU, are still at a relatively ”remedial” stage in practices, preparation, and playing sound football? Do you sense a disconnect between the players and the coaches, such that the coaches aren’t able to get to any real fine tuning because the team struggles with doing basic things correctly?
Brad from Denver
Thanks Brad. Hawkins’ philosophy with spring ball is that it’s a time to work on fundamentals and the basic concepts of the schemes they use. Spring really is a remedial part of the year because there is no game planning going on. It is a time to introduce new concepts or schemes as well and begin refining them. Hawkins and his assistants don’t see this as a time when things should be running on all cylinders, but more as a time to be making mistakes, fixing them and getting a foundation set for fall camp. I see nothing wrong with that.
When the Buffs are making mistakes left and right during the season, it is a bit perplexing, especially committing more than 100 penalties in 12 games as they did last year. I don’t necessarily believe there is a disconnect, but when it continues to happen late in the year, whatever is being done to fix things isn’t working.
I’ve been looking at the upcoming schedule and, being optimistic, I see this team wining maybe five-six games. Obviously, I’m looking for better results, but is that (5-6 wins and a possible bowl birth) enough to keep Hawkins around for another season? I really hope not!
Also, how is Nick Kasa doing? We need him to have a big year!
Thanks & Go Buffs,
Doug, Cleveland, OH
Thanks for the question Doug. I think Kasa has a bright future and will definitely play quite a bit next fall, but I think he will really become a big factor in 2011 when Marquez Herrod is no longer on the team.
I wrote a blog at the end of November looking at every game next season and predicting the outcome. At that time, I saw the Buffs going 6-6 and making a bowl game, finding a way to win it and producing Hawkins’ first winning season at 7-6. I think that would be enough to keep him around another year but I would not expect him to receive a contract extension. So he would go into 2011 with higher expectations and still facing the possibility of losing his job if he doesn’t meet them. I still see all of that as being possible. However, after watching the first 11 sessions this spring, I am somewhat less optimistic now that the Buffs are a bowl team.
I’ve got a classic chicken-or-the-egg question for you: Should CU fans expect great things from the DL this fall, as according to practice reports, they’ve been whipping the OL across the board? Or should we shutter that the OL is once again going to be the weak link? I know the old adage the D is usually ahead of the O in the spring. But shouldn’t all those Jrs and Srs (9 scholarship upperclassmen OL) be having their way with the Fr and Soph DL? What are we missing?
Los Angeles, CA
Very good questions Matt. I tend to agree that the experience is definitely on the side of the offensive line, and based on what we’ve heard the past two seasons about how significant experience is on the football field, the offensive line should be dominating now. But that is not happening.
It should be noted that players such as Ryan Miller (injury) and Bryce Givens (academics) have missed all or most of spring ball and would probably give the offensive line a different look and success rate if they were healthy and involved. But there are plenty of other guys out there who have been in the program for three or four years now and the fact that they are losing more often than winning isn’t good.
At the same time, let’s give some credit to those defensive linemen and their coach Romeo Bandison. Those guys work hard and Bandison seems to be doing a very good job of preparing them and developing them. That is definitely a part of the team fans should be excited about for the next couple years at least. There are handful of solid young players who should be in the program for another three years.
The quote you are referring to here came from offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau last week, and, yes, it was very surprising to me to hear him say that. I have to assume that he meant to add something more or meant something different than how this sounded. I don’t know how you get through four previous springs without getting something out of spring practices.
Let’s remember that this is the first spring Kiesau has been the offensive coordinator in Boulder. The previous four years, Mark Helfrich was the man in charge of the offense. So I guess Kiesau’s comment is a reflection of his thoughts on the way the Buffs did things under Helfrich. Can’t really come to any other conclusion, unless he simply failed to make his point correctly.
Hey, I know this Pac-10 flirtation has probably iced things a bit, but have there been any rumors regarding how the 2012 schedule will end up? Given that the CSU game is now in Denver as opposed to Boulder, there are now only 5 games slated for Boulder in 2012, one less than what Bohn has stated is the annual goal. What will happen to the Minnesota series? Seems like UNC (the Bears, not the Heels) is interested and would be a logical choice.
Andy in Parker
Andy, I know CU and UNC have been working on a future game, but I don’t know if it will be in 2012. However, I think a game against the Bears is the best bet at this point because it’s easy to get done. They are also talking with several other programs about future games. We reported last summer that the Minnesota series was being pushed to 2020 and 2021.
Thanks to everyone for participating. Let’s do it again after the spring game.
If you have a question for the mailbag, email it to me at email@example.com.