May 4th

Buffs lose one … pick up two

One down …

The Colorado athletic department has indefinitely suspended junior linebacker Brandon Gouin from the team after Gouin was cited for allegedly buying four kegs of beer for a Boulder High senior campout over the weekend. The campout was for over 200 seniors, including Gouin’s brother, a senior at Boulder High.

In a prepared statement, Dan Hawkins stated, “Brandon and our team fully understand our standard, ‘Excellence with Class’ … We vigorously educate our student athletes on a regular basis regarding the high standards we expect from our team members. Brandon will be disciplined accordingly.”

With the indefinite suspension, Gouin will not be allowed to play, practice, or work out with the team.

Gouin, a junior this fall, originally enrolled at the Air Force Academy in 2007, where he used his red-shirt season. Gouin walked on to the Colorado program, sitting out the 2008 season under NCAA rules. This past fall, as a red-shirt sophomore, Gouin saw action in six games on special teams. Gouin registered one tackle and two knockdown blocks in those six games.

But two coming on board …

The Colorado men’s basketball team has four scholarships to give this spring, and Tad Boyle signed his first official recruit as the head coach at Colorado when 6’7″ small forward Andre Roberson signed a letter-of-intent. Roberson, who weighs in at a stick-like 190 pounds, is from San Antonio. “He’s 6’7″, he’s long, and he’ll probably grow some more,” Max Ivany, Roberson’s AAU coach was quoted as saying. “Colorado got a heckuva player.”

Roberson was being recruited by Tulsa, Texas, Penn State, Clemson and UCLA, though he only had offers from CU, Penn State, and Tulsa. “In the end I had it narrowed down to Colorado and Penn State,” said Roberson. “They are both very good schools.”

As a senior, Roberson averaged 15 points per game, as well as 12 rebounds. “I have good instincts, and I am pretty good on the defensive end,” Roberson told BuffStampede.com. “I need to improve my shooting and hit the weight room and get bigger.”

The second player signed by the men’s basketball team is a transfer from Utah, Carlon Brown. A 6’5″ guard, Brown averaged 12.6 points per game and 4.1 rebounds per game for the Utes last season. Under NCAA transfer rules, Brown will have to sit out the 2010-11 season, and will have only one season to play in Boulder. Brown is seen as a replacement for senior Cory Higgins, who will be a senior this fall, as well as possibly for Alec Burks, who may opt to go pro after his sophomore season.

“That was a very attractive piece to the puzzle, because one of them might be leaving, and one of them is definitely leaving,” Brown said of Higgins and Burks. “So it will be a lot easier for me to come into a situation where I won’t be overshadowed, and can make an impact on the team.”

With Brown definitely not a candidate to play in 2010-11, and Roberson a candidate to red-shirt and gain some weight, the Buffs are still in search of some immediate help, especially inside. Majok Majok, a 6’8″, 225-pound forward from Northfield, Massachusetts, took an official visit the same weekend as Roberson, and ranks Colorado high amongst his list of choices. Majok also has offers from Harvard, Fordham, and St. Louis. Two other options who have at least expressed an interest in the Buffs are 6’8″, 190-pound power forward Kevin Noreen, from Minneapolis, the 17th-ranked power forward prospect in the country (who also have offers from schools like Indiana, Marquette, Oklahoma, UTEP, and Washington State), and junior college center Guy-Marc Michel, a 7’1″, 270-pounder from Idaho. Michel is also entertaining offers from  Gonzaga and Rutgers.

Two quarterbacks out – for two CU non-conference opponents

Two quarterbacks who may have seen playing time against Colorado this fall will not be suiting up for their teams …

Georgia, which comes to Boulder October 2nd, will be without the services of quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who was dismissed from the team after being charged with two counts of misdemeanor sexual battery. Mettenberger, a red-shirt freshman, was sentenced to two year’s probation, $2,000 in fines, and community service for inappropriate behavior in a Remerton, Georgia, bar on March 7th.

Mettenberger had been battling Aaron Murray for the job of replacing departed quarterback Joe Cox. Mettenberger’s dismissal leaves the Bulldogs with only two scholarship quarterbacks, in Murrany and junior Logan Gray. It was Gray who was the backup to Cox last season, but was considering transferring after being named a backup to Murray on the spring depth chart. If Gray does transfer, Georgia will be down to Murray and true freshman Hutson Mason, who will not be in camp until this fall.

The other school who is going to fall practice without a potential starting quarterback is Colorado State. The Rams will be without the services of senior Jon Eastman, who is transferring to Sioux Falls University in South Dakota. Eastman, you may recall, was a transfer from Snow College, and was in competition for playing time last season. Eastman saw action in six games in 2009, completing 62 percent of his passes, throwing three touchdowns and two interceptions in posting 494 yards through the air.

Despite his senior status, Eastman was not looking to be the starting quarterback for Colorado State in the season opener against Colorado in Denver. The job will now fall to either redshirt freshman Nico Ranieri or true freshman Pete Thomas (who did participate in drills this spring).

 

 

April 29th

More expansion blather

“It’s not the elephant in the room anymore,” said Big East commissioner John Marinatto at the BCS meetings last week, speaking of conference expansion.

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany tried to stem the tide of speculation about expansion with his “There are no announcements here” pronouncement, but, with little else going on in the world of college football, the speculation has proceeded apace.

In one of the more interesting – if bizarre – articles penned on the topic, CBS Sports.com senior writer Dennis Dodd came up with a re-drawn map of the college football world, wherein five “Super conferences” are born. Of interest to Colorado fans, Dodd does not see the Buffs heading west to be a part of a “Pac-16”. Instead, Dodd sees UNLV and Wyoming as teams joining the Pac-16 North division, with San Diego State, Air Force, BYU and Utah joining the Pac-16 South. Aside from the known issues of having UNLV (gambling) and BYU (no Sundays) keeping those teams from being serious candidates, the addition of San Diego State seems to be a stretch (why would the existing members of the Pac-10 want to elevate a MWC team to the status of an equal – in prospect rich San Diego?), and the chances of Wyoming joining seem outlandish at best (the Cowboys have a vocal contingent, but in terms of a fan base and national appeal? Not so much).

As for Colorado, Dodd sees the Buffs staying put, in what is left of the former Big 12. According to Dodds’ map, the new SEC will include Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas A&M, while the Big Ten takes Missouri.

The remaining seven members of the old Big 12 – Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa State, Baylor, Texas Tech and Kansas State will be joined by Colorado State, New Mexico, Tulsa, Tulane, and five Texas schools – Rice, Houston, TCU, UTEP, and SMU.

So, what do you think?

First blush – Nebraska would completely dominate this conference. Granted, Tulane plays in the Superdome, SMU could potentially play some home games in the Cotton Bowl or the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium, and Rice could play some home games in the Houston Texans’ stadium, but no other team in this 16 team “Big 12” could compete with Nebraska in terms of stadium capacity or athletic department budget. No new markets would be added to the Big 12 (with the exception of New Orleans, but Tulane is not exactly a hotbed for college football), and it is not like Texas and Oklahoma fans would keep their alliances with the old conference, and Missouri would be lost to the Big 10.

Such a move would be very tough on Colorado, as the new “Big 12” would be the weakest of the Super Conferences.

Still, it’s fun to speculate. Here’s a link to the Dodd article, along with the maps of the re-drawn conferences … http://www.cbssports.com/collegefootball/story/13281267/future-of-ncaa-football-five-super-conferences?tag=pageRow;pageContainer

The above being said, Dodd also reported that a BYU move to the new Pac-16 is very unlikely. The reason? Not religion or Sunday games, but academics. Seven of the ten Pac-10 schools are members of the Associaion of American Universities (AAU) as well as being rated “very highly” by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education. Utah is only on the Carnegie list; BYU is on neither.

One school which just happens to be on both prestigious lists? Colorado.

Asked if BYU’s academic situation would be a detriment in joining the Pac-10, Dodd quoted a Pac-10 source as saying, “That would be a keen observation to make”.

Another view …

A link to an interview with the Athletic Director of the Memphis Tigers was posted on AllBuffs.com, which shed a different light on expansion. In the interview, http://ncaabbs.com/showthread.php?tid=433045, Memphis Athletic Director RC Johnson was quoted as saying that his belief was that the Big Ten would expand to 14 or 16 teams, with or without Notre Dame; that of the Stanford and UCLA AD’s, one was for expansion of the Pac-10, while the other was opposed (no indication as to which school was in favor and which was opposed); that while the Big Ten would be “looking east”, Missouri was definitely in the running to be invited; and that the Pac-10’s primary expansion targets were Texas and Texas A&M, with the Aggies interested, and the Longhorns not interested.

Still more …

John Henderson of the Denver Post (no friend to the Buffs) nonetheless is reporting that Colorado is certainly in the mix for Pac-10 expansion. The main reason? “This isn’t just football”, according to Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott. “Looking at it from a business perspective, first and foremost, what’s going to add value: TV; a football championship game,” Scott said. “But there does need to be compatability to our conference, and of paramount importance is academic compatibillity”. The article … http://www.denverpost.com/sports/ci_14979982 notes that Colorado faculty actually has more joint research projects with Pac-10 schools than it does with Big 12 schools.

“There are very good schools in the Big 12,” said Colorado chancellor Phil DiStefano. “When the faculty looks at the Pac-10, they see places where our faculty and their faculty do interact, and where we compete for students, both undergraduate and graduate.”

At least two of the Pac-10 football coaches see Colorado as a good fit. “I think it’d be a great university,” Oregon State coach Mike Riley said of Colorado. “It’s a historic program … By perception, it seems like our kind of school.” Added Oregon coach Chip Kelly, “When you think of Colorado, it’s one of the ‘haves’ of college football.”

And here we were, grousing all these years about how academics at Colorado has been an anchor, weighing down the athletic department’s chances of success on the field.

Now it may be those very same high academic standards which will help get Colorado into the Pac-10! …

 

April 24th

 Colorado alumni on NFL rosters on the decline

Breaking News! There are fewer Buffs in the NFL than there used to be …

Okay, you already knew that. But just how bad has it gotten out there?

In the first four years of the Big 12, 1996-1999, Colorado had more players in the NFL than any other Big 12 school, and was ranked in the top four nationally. As late as 2002, Colorado remained in the top ten nationally, and was second in the Big 12.

Now, it’s hard to find Buffs on active NFL rosters, and most of those who are still playing are at or past their prime. At the end of the 2009 season, there were 22 former Buffs on NFL rosters. Punter Mitch Berger, most recently of the Denver Broncos, had seniority, with 15 NFL seasons played. The 22 players listed was down slightly from the end of the 2008 season (23), but down more significantly from the end of the 2007 season, when there were still 28 Buffs playing in the NFL.

The drafts have not been kind to Buff fans the past few seasons. While it is true that the reduction of the draft from 12 rounds to seven had some impact, it has been years since the move to seven rounds, and most Colorado fans would acknowledge that there has been a lack of draft-worthy talent on the CU roster each fall. In 2009, it wasn’t until the seventh round, when linebacker Brad Jones was selected by the Green Bay Packers with the 218th overall pick, that Colorado avoided a shutout.

The last time an NFL draft was conducted with no Colorado players selected was the 2005 draft. It was no coincidence that the 2005 draft came five years after the 2000 season, when the Buffs went 3-8, the worst record posted by Colorado since 1984. It should also not come as a surprise that the only other year when no Buff had his name called in the past twenty years came in 2001, four years removed from the Buffs’ 5-7 campaign in 1997, the first losing season for Colorado since 1984.

So, here we are in 2010, four years removed from the awful 2-10 campaign in 2006, and five years from the ugly mess which was the final days of the Gary Barnett era. With four straight losing seasons in the books, and recruiting classes under Dan Hawkins in the middle of the pack (or lower), Buff fans will have to get used to lonely draft days. True, there will be anomalies, such as in 2008, when Colorado had two second round picks in linebacker Jordon Dizon and defensive back Terrence Wheatley, as well as next April, when cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Jalil Brown will lead the Buff class of prospects. Until or unless, however, Colorado earns more “W’s” in the fall, Buff fans will be subject to more NFL drafts like this one every spring.

Ready to wince?

Below is a list of teams which had more draft picks in the 2010 draft than Colorado:

Appalachian State; Arkansas State; Brown; Buffalo; Central Arkansas; Central Michigan (2); The Citadel; Colorado State; Eastern Illinois; Florida Atlantic; Fordham; Hillsdale; Indiana (Pa.); James Madison (2); Kent State; Louisiana-Lafayette; Massachusetts; Middle Tennessee State; Missouri State; Montana (2); Morehouse; Murray State; Ohio; South Carolina State; South Dakota State; Southern Illinois; Troy (3); Weber State; West Texas A&M;  and William & Mary (2).

Take your time – read through the list again. Colorado had fewer draft picks than such notable football powers as Brown, Central Arkansas, The Citadel, Eastern Illinois, Fordham, Hillsdale, Indiana (Pa.), James Madison, Missouri State, Morehouse, Murray State, South Dakota State, West Texas A&M, and William & Mary!

There is a CU at the Game hat in it for you if you can, without looking, name the team nicknames for the above schools. Two minutes … go!

Yeah. Me, neither.

Adding insult to injury, 3-9 Colorado State had a draft pick, as did lowly Iowa State. In fact, Colorado was the only school in the Big 12 not to have a player drafted in the 2010 NFL draft.

Several Buffs were signed as free agents after the final pick of the seventh round … tight end Riar Geer was signed by the Denver Broncos; tight end Patrick Devenny will try to find a roster spot under former USC head coach Pete Carroll in Seattle; and four year starter at long-snapper Justin Drescher was signed by the Atlanta Falcons. Cornerback Ben Burney and linebacker Jeff Smart, meanwhile, have been invited to try and make the lineup of the Cleveland Browns, while linebacker Marcus Burton will take his talents to tryouts for the New York Jets.

I would like to finish on a high note, but I can’t think of any positives to take out of any of the above … It is what it is, and it will be hard for the Colorado administration to spin it otherwise.

April 23rd

Basketball contracts at the bottom of the Big 12

Jeff Bzdelik was the lowest paid head coach in the Big 12 last season.

Tad Boyle will be making less …

On Thursday, the Board of Regents, without discussion or public input, approved five-year contracts for new basketball coaches Tad Boyle and Linda Lappe. Both coaches have base salaries of $161,000.00, with Boyle’s guaranteed salary about $590,000.00/year, with Lappe’s guaranteed salary coming in at $286,000.00/year. Their predecessors each earned more, with Jeff Bzdelik guaranteed $750,000.00, while Kathy McConnell-Miller earned $361,000.00 last season.

When compared to their peers in the Big 12, the Buffs’ coaches are falling even further behind.

Research done by the Omaha World-Herald revealed that the average men’s head coach earned about $1.3 million last season, with Kansas coach Bill Self leading the way at $3 million, followed by Rick Barnes at Texas, with $2 million. Frank Martin, who led Kansas State to an Elite Eight appearance (and a raise) worked for $760,000.00, just ahead of Bzdelik’s $750,000.00.

Now Boyle will have to get by on $590,000.00, but there are incentives, including up to $34,000 for academic progress of team members; $33,000 for something labeled “welfare and development of student-athletes”, up to $33,000 for outreach programs; and up to $250,000 if the Buffs post such meaningful goals as a winning season, tournament participation, and tournament victories. If Colorado wins the national championship, Boyle stands to earn an additional $250,000.00.

Linda Lappe’s numbers run parallel to Boyle’s, but on a smaller scale. For example, if the Colorado women’s team wins the national championship under Lappe, she will receive an additional $50,000.00. Overall, Lappe’s guaranteed salary of $286,000 comes in at about half of the average paid to other women’s coaches in the Big 12.

While the Buffs may or may not be in better hands under Boyle and Lappe, the athletic department is closer to running in the black. In addition to the savings in salaries paid to the two new coaches, Colorado is owed a $500,000 check from Jeff Bzdelik for leaving early in his contract (apparently, it will come from Bzdelik himself, as the athletic director for Wake Forest decreed that “Wake Forest does not pay buyouts”. Conversely, Colorado owes Northern Colorado $25,000 for buying out Tad Boyle’s contract.

Sounds like the Buffs are netting over a half million dollars in trading Bzdelik and McConnell-Miller for Boyle and Lappe.

Money which could be of some use in eight months or so ….

April 19th

Tad Boyle named as new head basketball coach

Former Northern Colorado head coach Tad Boyle has been named as the next men’s head basketball coach at Colorado.

Boyle went 56-66 in four seasons at UNC, but did compile a 25-8 record this past season. A native of Greeley, where he won a state championship in 1981, Boyle played for Larry Brown at Kansas, where he was captain for the Jayhawks on the 1984-85 team. Boyle coached high school in Boulder and Longmont before accepting a job on the staff at Oregon, joining former Kansas teammate Mark Turgeon on the staff headed by Jerry Green. After three years in Eugene, Boyle moved with Green to Tennessee, before re-joining Turgeon at Jacksonville (Ala.) State. Two years later, the pair moved on to Wichita State, where Boyle helped the Shockers earn three NIT bids and one NCAA bid (in 2006, when Wichita State advanced to the Sweet Sixteen).

In 2007, Boyle took his first collegiate head coaching job, at the University of Northern Colorado. The Bears were new to basketball, having just three years under their belts, going 0-8 in 2003-04; 8-21 in 2004-05; and 5-24 in 2005-06. Boyle not only had the task of inventing a program in his hometown, he had to do it in a new conference. In 2006-07, Boyle’s first season, the Bears joined the Big Sky Conference, and did not fare well, going 4-24 overall (2-12 in Big Sky play). The 2007-08 season was better, with the Bears posting a 13-16 record (6-10). In 2008-09, the overall record dipped, to 14-18, but the Big Sky record rose to 8-8. This past season, with a roster of his own, Boyle led the Bears to 25-8 overall record, going 12-4 in Big Sky Conference play. A Big Sky tournament loss to eventual conference champion Montana kept UNC from earning an NCAA berth, but the Bears did get an invite from the College Insider Tournament (one rung below the NIT), defeating Portland, but losing to Pacific in the second round.

One of the major concerns about hiring Tad Boyle was that he was not named Steve McClain. The Buffs’ assistant was a player favorite, and stayed behind rather than join Jeff Bzdelik at Wake Forest. There were rumblings amongst the returning players that if McClain wasn’t hired, they would consider transferring. While that remains a possibility, Boyle took on the issue head on – at 8:15 a.m. Monday, Boyle, less than 12 hours after he had been offered the position of CU head coach, and before he had been announced to the public as the new big man on campus, was in the Coors Event Center, meeting his new players.

Will Colorado become a stepping stone school, one where coaches mark time in Boulder, hoping to get a better job later? Not according to Boyle. “This is it. There’s no doubt,” Boyle said. “I remember Mark Turgeon and I talking when I was with him at Wichita State. He said, ‘Where do you want to be ten years from now?’ I told him I wanted to be the head coach at the University of Colorado.” Boyle continued, “This is absolutely a dream job for me; it’s a destination job. Being a Colorado guy, growing up in this state, playing high school basketball and coaching here, to be at the flagship university. I’m humbled and honored.”

Boyle knows a top priority is trying to fill three spots in the recruiting class of 2010. “We’re going to salvage what we can salvage, and there will be some opportunities to get involved with some players,” Boyle said. “I just don’t know how many at this point.”

Looking for the downside? How’s this … Colorado, under athletic director Mike Bohn, has now made five major hires. They have come from Boise State (football), Tulsa and Metro State (women’s basketball), and from Air Force and Northern Colorado (men’s basketball). Not only is Colorado hiring from “lesser” programs, but the Buffs are going down in stature. The last two hires have come from Division II and Division 1-AA schools.

For now, let’s give Boyle the benefit of the doubt. The makeup of the 2010-11 team, both in terms of retained players (will anyone transfer?) and new players (can Boyle get the Buffs a center?), will go a long way in determining whether the Buffs will improve upon the 15-16 record posted in 2009-10 …

 

April 17th

Top three candidates for CU men’s basketball position interviewed

The first candidate to be interviewed for the head coaching position at Colorado was the hometown favorite, Steve McClain. The associate coach under Bzdelik met with the search committee on Thursday night, followed Friday by Northern Colorado head coach Tad Boyle, and on Friday night by former Metro State head coach Mike Dunlap. If Dunlap gets the job, he will be the second Metro State hire for the Buffs in a week, joining Linda Lappe, who came to the CU women’s team on Monday.

All three candidates have well-known supporters. Steve McClain has the backing of former Buff star – and current Denver Nugget star – Chauncey Billups. “First of all, I think Bzdelik did a great job of getting that program off to a good start to where it needs to be, getting some good players in there like Cory and Alec,” Billups said. “My only concern would be that if they don’t stay in house with McClain, and those guys leave, now your back at ground zero again … I think (hiring McClain) is probably the best thing at this juncture.”

University of Northern Colorado head coach Tad Boyle has the backing of his former coach at Kansas, Larry Brown. Boyle also has the backing of Texas A&M head coach Mark Turgeon, who rebuilt the programs at Jacksonville State and Wichita State with Tad Boyle as his top assistant. “Tad is the best assistant I’ve ever had,” Turgeon said. “He was like a co-head coach when I had him, and he helped me build two programs … Tad is ready to take a program to the next step, and he knows how to build a program.”

Mike Dunlap, meanwhile has the backing of Denver Nuggets head coach George Karl, for whom Dunlap was an assistant. Dunlap, who is currently an assistant at Oregon, has the support of his former athletic director, Joan McDermott. “Mike would be the absolute best, and I’m not exaggerating” said McDermott, who witnessed Dunlap’s leadership in taking Metro State to two Division II national championships. “Mike is a great motivator. His players play hard and graduate. He’s tough, but the kids love him. He’s the smartest guy I know.”

It sounds that, if nothing else, the Buffs under Jeff Bzdelik made enough progress that the job of head basketball coach at Colorado has some cache. The question remains, though, as to whether the next coach can take Colorado to the next level. “One of the most refreshing things about this experience,” said athletic director Mike Bohn, “is the intensity of interest from the media and on the national landscape.” Bohn, however, is aware that the interest can be fleeting. “It’s the type of interest we want to feel consistently here with our fan base and our student base.”

The announcement may come as early as Monday, as the clock is already ticking on the 2010 recruiting class. Two recruiting visits scheduled for this weekend, by Majok Majok and Gorgui Dieng (bios below) were postponed pending the naming of the new head basketball coach.

April 16th

NCAA approves four rule changes – one of which is sure to change the outcome of a game

Just when you thought it would be a good time to shift your focus from Colorado football to the NBA/NHL playoffs, golf (well done, Phil!), or the start of the baseball season, the NCAA has recaptured our attention.

Four rules changes were approved by the NCAA’s Playing Rules Oversight Panel this week. The first two of which we can dispense with quickly:

Eye black messages – Starting in 2011, players will no longer be allowed to use eye black containing symbols or messages, a trend which got a great deal of airtime last season as 2007 Heisman trophy winner (and 2009 Heisman hopeful) Tim Tebow was often shown on the sidelines with his message-of-the-week.

Television monitors in the coaches’ boxes – All ready in place in most stadiums, it will become a mandatory rule in 2011 that coaches’ boxes have television monitors.

Worthy of greater comment were the other two rules changes:

Wedge blocks banned – Citing safety concerns, the NCAA has followed the lead of the NFL in banning wedge blocking on kickoffs. Wedge blocking will be defined as having two players stand within two yards of one another, shoulder-to-shoulder, even if there is not contact between the teams. The penalty will be a 15-yard walkoff against the offending team.

NCAA studies have shown that 20 percent of all injuries occuring on kickoffs result in concussions, and that the elimination of the wedge will improve player safety. “On kickoffs, you have a lot of steam on both sides, and you usually have what is called a ‘wedge buster’ “, said Grant Teaff, executive director of the American Football Coaches Association. “This will eliminate some of that.” The NCAA feels so strongly about the rule, that it will not have to wait until 2011 for implementation – it goes into effect this fall.

Of course, one man’s “wedge” is another man’s “blocking scheme”. “We all need to look at the meaning of a wedge block, and clearly define it,” said Texas coach Mack Brown. “If we have a clear set of rules on that and the officials can call it consistently, we can prepare our players differently on kickoff return blocking.”

Taunting to cost points – Easily the most controversial of the rules changes – and the one most likely to affect the outcome of a game – is the new rule against taunting. The rule against a player taunting or show-boating on the way to the endzone is already in place. However, the current penalty –  a 15 yard walk-off on the extra point or kickoff – will now be considered a “live” penalty, with the 15-yard penalty assessed from the point of infraction … with the touchdown erased from the scoreboard.

“Just run it into the end zone. How hard is that?”, asked Indiana coach Bill Lynch. “It is a team game, and that’s what makes it such a great game.”

Of course, the issue which will give the talking heads a great deal to chew on is the interpretation of the rule. The NCAA will not implement the rule until 2011, giving players and coaches time to adjust. “This gives the players a year’s notice that we’re going to be tougher on sportsmanship,” said Dave Perry, the NCAA’s national coordinator of college football officiating. “Last year it was mentioned that this could be a possibility.”

Perry went on to predict that the penalty would be called “very rarely”.

We’ll see.

It is not too difficult to imagine a frightening scenario … Home team down five points, clock running out with the highly ranked visitors just trying to keep possession. Suddenly, the visitors make a mistake … FUMBLE! … The home team’s linebacker scoops up the ball, running his heart out down the sideline. With the home crowd screaming its approval, the linebacker gets caught up in the moment, holding the ball aloft as he scores the game winner as time expires … But, wait! FLAG on the play! The home town hero turns into a goat as he is called for taunting, a 15-yard penalty assessed. The flustered home team loses by five.

You know it will happen. Perhaps it will not come in that dramatic a scenario; perhaps it will not be a game-changing play – but it will happen.

Yuck.

April 15th

Buffs still have visits planned for this weekend

“We have to respect the importance of moving quickly,” said Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn with regard to hiring the next men’s basketball coach. “For the last three days, we’ve tried to do as much work as possible without compromising Jeff’s leadership in the event he had stayed.”

Now the Buffs have to find the “right fit”, and do it quickly. At least two prospects, Majok Majok and Gorqui Dieng (no, I didn’t make those names up!) are still scheduled to make official visits this weekend. Majok Majok is a 6’8″, 230-pound power forward from Northfield, Massachusetts. Majok is looking at Colorado, Oklahoma, St. Louis, Minnesota and Boston College. Last week, Majok indicated that he liked the prospect of playing in Boulder because, “Colorado plays in a big conference, and their coach (Bzdelik) is a big time coach”.

Sigh.

The other known prospect slated to make an official visit this weekend is Gorgui Dieng is a 6’10”, 210-pound center from Huntington, West Virginia, who has offers from Louisville and Marshall, as well as interest from Maryland and Marquette.

At present, Colorado has no commitments for the Class of 2010, and has three open spots.

Short list of candidates

While the short term needs of filling the Class of 2010 are pressing, the long term value of the “perfect fit” will serve Colorado for years to come. Here are some of names being discussed most frequently:

Steve McClain, 48, Colorado Associate head coach. McClain is the name heard most often, and is certainly supported by the existing players. McClain continues on with the recruiting of the next class, and has been recruiting Majok and Dieng. Before coming to Boulder to join Bzdelik’s staff, McClain was the head coach at Wyoming for nine seasons, winning almost 58% (157-115) of his games. If McClain isn’t hired, there is the possibility that some Buff players will transfer, but again, this hire is supposed to be about more than 2010.

Mike Dunlap, 53, Oregon Associate head coach. Dunlap has ties to the area, having lead Metro State to Division II national titles in 2000 and 2002, going 248-50 in his tenure in Denver. Dunlap also served as an assistant coach for the Denver Nuggets (’06-’08) before taking on the position of associate head coach at Arizona (’08-’09) and Oregon (’09-’10).

Tad Boyle, 48, Northern Colorado head coach. When the UNC Bears joined the Big Sky Conference, Boyle took over as head coach. This past season, he led UNC to the most wins, 25, in school history. As a collegian, Boyle played for Larry Brown at Kansas (I didn’t like him then – I was an undergrad at CU when Boyle played for the Jayhawks – and am not sure he would be a good candidate now. If CU ever got good under Boyle, he could be lured away by a more traditional basketball school).

Jay Humphries, 47, Reno Bighorns head coach (NBA D-League). While I have sentimental reasons not to favor Tad Boyle, the opposite holds true for Jay Humphries, who was a star in Boulder when I was a regular at the Coors Event Center. Humphries, though, has no collegiate coaching experience. After 11 seasons in the NBA, Humphries served as an assistant for the Phoenix Suns and in the Chinese CBA before leading the Reno Bighorns to a 28-22 record this past season.

Randy Bennett, 47, St. Mary’s head coach. If Colorado wants to get a mention on ESPN, this would be the hire. A 183-103 record for St. Mary’s over Bennett’s nine seasons, including three trips to the NCAA tournament in the past six campaigns, makes Bennett a hot coaching prospect. Bennett’s previous stops as an assistant include St. Louis, Pepperdine, San Diego, and Idaho.

Or … it could be Bobby Knight!

Okay, I was just thinking of a Texas Tech double-header. The Buffs take Bobby Knight this spring, then Mike Leach this winter …

… dare to dream!

 

April 14th

Colorado had “no competitive spirit” before Jeff Bzdelik came to Boulder

What do you do when you are the Athletic Director of an ACC school, the most basketball oriented of the BCS conferences, when you fire a coach who went 61-31 over the last three seasons, only to hire a new coach who went 36-58 at a non-basketball school?

How do you justify the firing of a coach with three NCAA appearances the past three seasons, in favor of hiring one who went oh-for-three?

Trash the new coach’s old school, of course.

Wake Forest Athletic Director Ron Wellman has been crucified in the college basketball blogs over his hire of Jeff Bzdelik. Wake Forest is deep within the bowels of college baseketball’s Mecca, North Carolina. Yes, college basketball is big in Indiana and Kentucky, but when you have Duke, North Carolina, and North Carolina State as your next door neighbors, you have to take your basketball seriously. Now the Demon Deacons have brought in an outsider to coach – and an unsuccessful one at that.

“If you look at his career, it is a storied career, I believe … Colorado was a very difficult job,” Wellman explained. “Anybody in college basketball will tell you about the challenges at that particular time …”.

Ouch.

But it gets worse.

Bzdelik then piled on his former employer, pointing out that when he arrived in Boulder, Colorado had a low APR, a collective 2.0 GPA, and “no competitive spirit.”

Zing.

“The Colorado job had very little tradition at all and poor facilities,” Bzdelik said, though he did add, “Now, they’re a great place.”

There were rumors that Wellman’s hire of Bzdelik was a “buddy hire”, as the two have known each other since both were at Northwestern in the 1980’s – Wellman as the baseball coach; Bzdelik as an assistant basketball coach, but both men denied that their long history was a factor in the hire. “I followed his career because I knew him and was interested in him,” Wellman said, “But this isn’t the hire of friendship, I can assure you of that, because we weren’t friends.”

Other than the obvious – moving from a football school to a basketball school – Bzdelik did have another good reason to move to the east coast. His daughter, Nina, is a sophomore at Wake Forest, and last winter the Bzdeliks had to make an emergency trip to Winston-Salem when their daughter became ill. You can’t blame a father for wanting to be closer to his daughter.

Time to move on.

Jeff Bzdelik at least had the Buffs pointed in the right direction, though he did fall short of post-season play this past season. An overtime loss to then #1 Kansas, a string of victories to close out the regular season, and a well-stocked, talented young team give Colorado fans hope for the future …

… even if it is without the coach with the unpronounable name (at least he’ll be at home in the land of Mike Krzyzewski).

So …

What’s next for Colorado?

Or, better stated – Who’s next?

Colorado’s search committee will be headed by senior associate athletic director Tom McGrath, and the reports are that the search committee has already been in touch with former Buff, and current Denver Nugget, Chauncy Billups, as well as Nuggets head coach George Karl and Charlotte Bobcats head coach Larry Brown.

An early favorite is assistant coach Steve McClain. To his credit, McClain declined an offer from Jeff Bzdelik to join the staff at Wake Forest, preferring to stay and pursue the head coaching job in Boulder. The players have indicated a preference for McClain, including star Alec Burks, who indicated he might leave if another coach were to be named (an aside – this does not appear to be a likely scenario. Burks has already indicated that he believes he needs another year before he declares himself ready for the NBA. If he transfers, he would have to sit out a year. For a player who might be NBA ready a year from now, sitting out the 2010-11 season does not seem like a viable option).

Colorado does have a little extra cash to work with to entice it’s next hire. Bzdelik had a $500,000 buyout clause in his contract. Interestingly, it would appear that Bzdelik is footing that particular bill himself. “We do not do buyouts, no”, Wake Forest athletic director Ron Wellman said when asked about paying off Colorado. Not that $500,000 will lure a big name, but every little bit helps …

The worst part about the departure of Bzdelik is, of course, the timing. April 14th is the first day of a crucial recruiting period, and the Buffs are in dire need of a big man (even during the late-season winning streak, the Buffs were being out-rebounded by double digits every game). “That’s probably one of the most frustrating pieces of this transition, the timing of how it relates to recruiting,” Mike Bohn, CU’s athletic director said. “We do have a recruit coming in this weekend, and we’ll try and take advantage of the great work that the staff has continued to do, despite Jeff’s departure.”

Stay tuned. The next Colorado basketball coach can take the nucleus of talent left by Jeff Bzdelik and make the Buffs into NCAA tournament participants (especially if the field is expanded to 96 teams!), or can sink the men’s program back into obscurity.

It will be an interesting to see how it unfolds …

April 13th

Buffs pick up 2nd 2011 commitment

This past weekend, there was at least one observer at the Spring game who came away impressed.

After taking an unofficial visit to Boulder to watch the Buffs, Dexter Foreman, a three-star quarterback from Alvin (Texas) Manvel committed to Colorado. “It was a stellar campus and is one of the top business programs in the country,” Foreman told SuperPrep.com. “It is also a great quarterback situation there. They run the spread style offense I have been wanting, and the coaches have mad love for their players.”

Still, it is ten months to signing day, so Colorado fans cannot put Foreman in the “strong verbal” category. Asked by BuffStampede.com if he would take other visits, Foreman replied, “I am not disrespectful. If a family invites you to dinner, you want to come. So I would show them respect to go on all those visits if I get offered from other schools to see if there is a better opportunity there … Who is to say that one might not be better? But right now I’m pretty stuck on Colorado.”

Okay, how about a more positive quote? “Colorado was the first school to offer, and they stuck with me, so I knew there was something about them,” Foreman said. “It is a big relief off my shoulders.”

Foreman is 6’2″, 210-pounds, and to date has only other offer is from Tulsa. Foreman does report, though, that he is being recruited by Baylor, Houston, Miami, Texas A&M, Kansas, and Minnesota. Last season, Foreman had 843 yards passing, four touchdowns and five interceptions. “I admit that I had a bad season this past year”, Foreman said. “I am not going to blame it on all the injuries on our offensive line. I still could have done better … I know I am going to have a ‘Superman season’ my senior year.”

For now, anyway, Foreman is being reported as the Buffs’ second 2011 commitment, joining junior college center – and former high school CU commit – Shaun Simon, who re-committed to the Buffs just after signing day in February.

Bzdelik all but gone

Wake Forest has called a press conference for Wednesday morning, and it isn’t to announce plans for this year’s graduation ceremonies. Colorado coach – soon to be former Colorado coach – Jeff Bzdelik is to be introduced as the next head coach of the Demon Deacons.

The post-mortem tomorrow night …

April 12th

Linda Lappe named women’s basketball coach

The last hot dog wrapper from the spring game still swirls around Folsom Field, but we have to quickly move on …

Linda Lappe was named Monday as just the seventh women’s basketball coach in Colorado history. Lappe agreed to a five-year contract, the terms of which have not yet been disclosed. Lappe replaces Kathy McConnell-Miller, who was not retained after five seasons with the Buffs.

Lappe is 30, the youngest women’s coach at a BCS conference school, and the third youngest overall, behind only the coaches at Sacramento State and Missouri-Kansas City (Just 30 years old! This means that Lappe was born the same year I hit Boulder as a freshman! Damn, I’m getting old!). Still, it is worth noting that Ceal Barry, the most successful women’s coach in CU history, was only 28 when she took the job in Boulder. The search committee, headed by Ceal Barry, conducted what was described as a “nationwide search”, but it seems as if Lappe was the first and only serious contender for the position.

Lappe was a two-year captain and All-Big 12 conference honorable mention selection for Colorado. She was in Boulder from 1998-2003, played in 115 games, averaging 7.8 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 2.0 assists. She helped the women’s team earn three consecutive NCAA appearances, including an Elite Eight run in 2002, and a Sweet Sixteen spot in 2003. Lappe was also a three-time first team Academic All-Big 12 honoree.

“I know there are people out there who don’t think I can do it, who believe I’m too young for this, and I totally understand that,” Lappe said. “But there are a lot more who believe in me … And I know I can do it. It’s an opportunity to coach where I graduated, to work on the same court where I played, to compete in the Big 12 conference.”

After graduating with a business administration degree, Lappe latched on as an assistant at Drake University (2004-06), and Colorado State (2006-07). Lappe was then hired for her first head coaching job at Metro State in Denver, guiding the Roadrunners to an overall record of 50-36. In each of her three seasons, Metro State finished in the top three in the eastern division of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.

What was Mike Bohn and the search committee looking for in a new head women’s basketball coach? “We needed somebody with a competitive drive, a competitive spirit that represents this University, that represents our alumni, that represents the community,” Bohn said. “I also asked them to find someone who was disciplined, someone who was focused, someone that was a consistent leader in how they run their team, and to have a team that recognizes discipline is very important.” Then there was more: “Someone who is not afraid to recruit the best in the country, that is a very tall order,” Bohn said. “I also said that we better find a coach with high energy, passion, excitement, someone that loves to come to work every day and is excited about what we are doing”.

Hmm, nothing about actually winning games …

My initial impression:

The positives – Lappe is familar with Boulder, with the high school coaches in the state, and with the potential (and limitations) of Colorado’s women’s basketball program. She also has her former coach, Ceal Barry, on campus to help sort out the ins-and-outs of coaching in the Big 12.

The negatives – C’mon, let’s be honest. A 30-year old, with three years of head coaching experience? At Metro State? (and not particularly successful ones at that – 50-36). The Buffs are coming off four losing seasons in five tries under McConnell-Miller. Anyone believe Lappe will be better at luring national players to Boulder?

The real positive (for the true cynics, myself included) – The Lappe contract, which will not be released until it is approved by the Board of Regents, cannot be a bank-breaker. The Colorado athletic department will get off cheap with this hire, freeing up more dollars for the next men’s basketball coach and, perhaps, the next football coach …

April 8th

Spring game lineups set – Toney Clemons first pick

The Gold team, captained by quarterback Tyler Hansen, linebacker B.J. Beatty, center Keenan Stevens, and defensive back Jalil Brown, won the coin toss for picking players for Saturuday’s spring game, and selected wide receiver Toney Clemons. The Black team, to be led by quarterback Cody Hawkins, center/guard Mike Iltis, linebacker Michael Sipili, and defensive back Jimmy Smith, had the next two picks, and chose left tackle Nate Solder and running back Quentin Hildreth with their picks. The first two picks were logical, with the teams taking likely starters this fall. However, there was a method to the madness in taking red-shirt freshman Hildreth with the third overall pick – the walk-on is about the only healthy running back in camp this spring. With their second pick, the Gold team selected red-shirt freshman Parker Orms, who has played well at nickel back this spring.

“The coaches weren’t allowed in the room (for the draft), but they were listening,” Hansen said. “It was kind of interesting, because there were so many scenarios”.

The trash talking began almost immediately. “I’ll admit it, we were organized than their team,” Hansen crowed. “Jalil and I had it planned out. We had our lists.” Retorted Cody Hawkins, “They didn’t prepare their own draft list. They had Zach Dickson (from football operations) do it. We were authentic … Like any good, solid franchise, we went with a left tackle with our first pick.”

Coaches were also getting into the spirit of the competition. Offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau, working with the Black team, wore all black on Thursday, while new wide receivers coach Robert Prince met secretly with Gold quarterback Tyler Hansen to work on their gameplan. The Gold team will have some “tricks up their sleeve”, Hansen said.

“I like this format,” Gold captain B.J. Beatty said. “This brings the team together, and I think this is a tool we can use to do that. It will be competition that will help strengthen us.”  Added Black captain Mike Iltis, “We are taking it very serious … At the same time, we’re still teammates.” Gold team captain Jalil Brown was not as gracious. “I am hoping that it not going to be close at all,” Brown said. “I am hoping (we win by) at least two or three touchdowns, so we’ll be able to shut them up entirely.”

Yes, that was a Cody quote you noticed …

Insisting that his decision not to speak with the local media had nothing to do with negative press for himself or his father, Cody Hawkins did answer a few questions when discussing the draft. “I don’t want it to be about me,” Cody said. “I don’t want the focus to be on me. I want it to be on the guys. I have talked long enough. It is time for me to shut up and make some plays, and let the guys who are playing talk.”

Format for the Spring game

The Buffs will play four 10-minute quarters on Saturday, with conditions similar to a regular game, with a few notable exceptions. There will be no kickoffs, with the ball placed either at the 20-yard line (if the receiving team is ahead) or the 35-yard line (if the receiving team is behind). The punts will be live, including rushing the punter, but there will be no punt returns, with the ball dead where it is caught (not that Buff fans would notice the difference from 2009). Red-shirt freshman Zach Grossnickle will punt for both teams. Quarterbacks will be fair game for oncoming rushes, but kickers will be allowed a free shot at making their kicks. A regular game clock will be utilized.

Kicker Aric Goodman out

Senior kicker Aric Goodman has not practiced for the past two weeks, and he may be out much longer. Goodman will undergo surgery on his right hip, and his return for the fall remains a question mark. Goodman indicated that he expected to be fully healthy for the fall, but that the surgery will dictate his return. “It kind of depends on when they go in and what they find,” Goodman said. “They won’t know until they actually get inside.” Goodman realizes that he is missing quality time this spring and summer. “It sucks not being out there (with my teammates). I’m going to do all I can in the off-season to be there in the summer and in the fall.”

 Pick your offensive line

The search continues for the “best five guys” to start along the offensive line this fall, and it will be interesting to see how the spring game lineups fare. On the Gold team, the offensive line will be David Bakhtiari (left tackle), Eric Richter (left guard), Keenan Stevens (center), Blake Behrens (right guard), and Ryan Dannewitz (right tackle). Gus Handler and Sione Tau will act as backups. For the Black team, the offensive line will consist of Nate Solder (left tackle), Ethan Adkins (left guard), Mike Iltis (center), David Clark (right guard), and Jack Harris (right tackle). The backups for the Black team will be Shawn Daniels and Scott Fernandez.

With just a handful of running backs available – Rodney Stewart is not expected to participate, leaving the load to be handled by Corey Nabors and Quentin Hildreth – there will be little in the way of gaudy rushing statistics Saturday. It will be interesting, though, to see which line does a better job of protecting their passer.

 The games within the game … 

April 7th

Riddle still looking for answers

Last Thanksgiving, Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn shocked (and angered) many in the Buff Nation when he announced that head coach Dan Hawkins would be retained for a fifth season. One bone thrown to the howling masses was that there would be a review of all of the coaches, with the unspoken promise that there would be changes in the coaching staff. None occurred, other than the defection of defensive backs coach Greg Brown to Arizona.

One coach many are surprised to see still wearing black and gold this spring is tight ends / special teams coach Kent Riddle. Under Riddle last season, the Buffs were 113th in the nation in net punting, and 117th in punt returns. Senior punter Matt DiLallo, in his four years as a starter, went backwards in net yardage each season. The field goal kicking … well, you know the story.

Still, Riddle kept his job.

“The kicking game is definitely not where we need it to be,” Riddle told BuffStampede.com this week, after the kickers went one-for-six in field goal attempts in last week’s scrimmage (Grossnickle one-for-four; Kirkwood zero-for-two – Aric Goodman, who went 10-for-18 in 2009, has had hip trouble and did not participate). “We’ll for sure add (2010 recruit) Justin Castor, and we’ll add a couple of other guys and really have a competition.”

Let me get this straight. Kent Riddle is in his fifth year as special teams coach, and the University of Colorado will be, in essence, holding open auditions for kicker? In August?

But wait, there’s more … more excuses, that is.

“Some of these guys (this past week) were terrible, but there are also some other things going on. We’re having to have one holder spin between righty and lefty (Kirkwood kicks left-footed), and that loses some of the continuity … and we’ve had some snap issues.” (Guess we didn’t see the graduation of four year snapper Justin Drescher coming). “We might have six guys here in the fall, but we are going to find a guy who can put it through the uprights.”

There … don’t you feel better. All we need to do is have six guys competing – three weeks before the opener – then we’ll find a kicker.

Other Riddle quotes of note:

Asked if Brian Lockridge and Arthur Jaffee were the front-runners for the kick returning jobs this fall, Riddle responded: “Yep, and neither one of them was available for the scrimmage last Friday. Rodney Stewart, Toney Clemons, Parker Orms, Quentin Hildreth, we’re rolling a bunch of guys through there, and they all have a chance. And, for the most part, those are the same guys on punt returns.”

 Want to defend Riddle? Well, apparently the Colorado coaching staff is very democratic when it comes to the demise of the Buffs’ special teams play. Riddle is merely the special teams “coordinator”, not the only coach. “Everybody helps coach on each unit,” explained Riddle. “(Running backs) coach Darian Hagan works with the punt returners, (wide receivers coach) Robert Prince does the kick returners, (linebackers coach) Brian Cabral helps with the wedge on kickoff and one of the sides on punt, (head coach) Dan Hawkins does the other side on punt, and (defensive backs) coach Ashley Ambrose coaches the outside guys on one side on punt, and Robert Prince on the other side.”

Too many cooks spoil the broth ….? Too many chiefs, not enough indians …. ? Pick your favorite cliche.

 April 6th

Quotable Quotes:

Time for Kiesau to get nervous

In an interview with Kyle Ringo for BuffaloSportsNews.net, offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau was asked if he was nervous calling plays last season, his first year ever in that position. “Last year, and I don’t know why, I was never worried about game day and calling plays,”  Kiesau said. “I just wasn’t nervous about that. You know, the first game obviously a bit jittery, but I wasn’t nervous at all.”

Considering Colorado was 113th in the nation in rushing, 104th in the nation in total offense, and 92nd in the nation in scoring, it might be nice if coach Kiesau would be at least a little bit nervous this fall. 

After all, his job is on the line.

Tyler Hansen wants a starter named this spring

Echoing sentiments held by many in the Buff Nation, Tyler Hansen would prefer it if the coaching staff would name a starter at quarterback coming out of the spring game. “I think it would be better to name a starting quarterback for the summer, just so everybody knows and you can get into that leadership role early,” Hansen told BuffStampede.com. “I am going to trust the coaches, but I would like to have a starter named going into the summer.”

So would most Buff fans, Tyler (assuming that Hansen is the one named the presumptive starter).

Also from Hansen: When asked about what coach Kiesau was stressing this spring, Hansen replied, “Completion percentage. We have some real good receivers, as you can tell, but the biggest thing is to get completions, give those guys a chance to make plays. That is the biggest thing we are stressing this spring, right now and into the summer. Just get those guys the ball as fast as possible.”

Andre Simmons needs to develop a sense of urgency

Wide receiver Andre Simmons remains an enigma. The senior to be came to Boulder last summer as a junior college transfer who was going to be the savior for the below average wide receiver corps. Instead of taking the Big 12 by storm, Simmons largely disappeared. He played in all 12 games in 2009, but had all of two catches – a 44-yarder in the opener against Colorado State, and then a three yard catch eight games later against Texas A&M. This spring, Simmons has missed some practices, dealing with what he was only willing to describe as “personal problems”. According to Simmons, those issues are “out of the way”, and Simmons believes he is now poised to have an impact.

Simmons indicated this week that he is not concerned about being listed as third string on the depth chart. “That’s just coming from (how) we have a lot of receivers and a lot of talent,” Simmons said. “It’s just spring ball. You use the chance to move everybody around and find the right positions.”

“It’s just spring ball”? Simmons is a senior, coming off a season with only two catches, and he has been missing practices this spring. “Just spring ball” doesn’t seem like the appropriate quote. Something more along the lines of, “It’s my final chance to make an impression. I need to be a leader. I need to show the coaches and my teammates I am the player they thought they were gettting; a player they can rely on.”

Okay, maybe that’s just me …

 

April 5th

Spring Game format altered

Instead of the usual “first team offense v. second team defense and second team offense v. first team defense” format usually seen in spring games, Colorado has adopted a new format for the Spring game on Saturday. On Tuesday, it was announced that the White team, coached by running backs coach Darian Hagan, would be captained by Tyler Hansen, Keenan Stevens, B.J. Beatty, and Jalil Brown, while the Black team, coached by offensive line coach Denver Johnson, would be captained by Cody Hawkins, Mike Iltis, Michael Sipili, and Jimmy Smith. The captains will pick the teams, which will square off in four 10-minute quarters on Saturday.

Some allowances will be made. For instance, in order to avoid one team loading up at a particular position, once a team takes a starter at a position (e.g., Nate Solder), the other team will automatically get the backup (Ryan Dannewitz). Also, where the Buffs are short players, such as at running back, one player may be asked to play for both teams.

“For the first time since I’ve been here, we’ve got enough guys that we can (run this format)”, Dan Hawkins said. “I think you get some competition going, and they have a lot of fun with it. And, probably, for them, there’s a lot more intensity and excitement that way, because they’ve been going that other format – they do that every day here.”

Some players will not be on the field come Saturday. Previously injured and out are wide receiver Scotty McKnight, offensive linemen Ryan Miller and Matt Bahr, and defensive lineman Nate Bonsu (all expected back this fall). Also being held out will be offensive linemen Bryce Givens and Maxwell Tuioti-Mariner, kept out so that they can concentrate on academics. “They’re doing a nice job with their schoolwork, and we’re trying to keep them on pace doing that kind of thing,” Hawkins said. Receivers Will Jefferson and Markques Simas, as well as linebacker B.J. Beatty, who missed Friday’s scrimmage and Monday’s practice, but are expected to play this weekend. Running back Rodney Stewart will participate in drills, but may be held out of the game itself.

For those attending, Healthy Kids Day will begin at 11:00 a.m., for kids eighth grade or younger, with the kickoff of the Spring game slated for 1:30 p.m. The latest forecast calls for a beautiful day in Boulder, with a high of 72 and “passing clouds”. Enjoy!!

Backups getting Writeups

While the Tyler v. Cody battle rages on – and will likely not be decided until mid-August, the Buffs’ third-string quarterback, Nick Hirschman, is getting some reps. A true freshman (or should I say, “High school senior”?), Hirschman enrolled in January in order to be able to participate in spring practice, and it is seemingly paying off. “I just think I need to learn a little bit more before I step in there with guys who are a little more talented,” Hirschman said. “(But) the hardest part, definitely, has been protections, audibles, and all that – just all the terminology and things you have to know. It’s a lot of hours with the playbook, just sitting there and reading it over.”

Offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau has identified areas he wants Hirschman to work on. “A big windup, like a pitcher, and he dips his head, his head goes forward,” Kiesau said. “I have to get him a little more straight up when he separates and delivers the ball. He’ll do it.”

One sign that Hirschman has made significant progress – his competition for third-string quarterback, red-shirt freshman walk on Seth Lobato, has been seen experimenting at wide receiver. With only Hawkins, Hansen, Hirschman and Lobato on the roster, Hirschman has apparently instilled confidence in the coaching staff. Still, few, including Hirschman, see him earning playing time in 2010. “If the team needs me to red-shirt, I will do that, 100 percent,” Hirschman said, allowing, “If they need me to come out and play, or be a role player, I’ll do that.”

Another third-stringer turning heads this spring is red-shirt freshman walk-on Quentin Hildreth. With the defections of Darrell Scott and Demetrius Sumler, the Buffs find themselves woefully thin – and inexperienced – at the  running back position. With only two other backs in camp this spring, and with one of those backs, Rodney Stewart, being shielded from many of the contact drills, Hildreth is taking advantage of his opportunities.

“He has had a great camp, he really has,” Dan Hawkins said of Hildreth. “He has tremendous, tremendous vision. And he has got great ‘quicks’ and can make people miss … Clearly to me, he is one of the guys that has kind of stuck out in this camp as really improving his stock.”

Hildreth, who has yet to earn a scholarship, has one important area to work on, according to running backs coach Darian Hagan. “Coach (Hagan) tells me every day that if I want to get on the field, I need to become a better pass blocker,” Hildreth said. “Playing smarter in that aspect, I think, will ultimately get me a scholarship.”

Hildreth also gave credit to an unlikely source, senior running back Corey Nabors. A junior who has seen little playing time, Nabors has nonetheless taken time to work with Hildreth. “Corey is kind of like my second coach, He shows me everthing, really,” Hildreth said. “Whenever I have a question about something, he is always the guy that is going to help answer it for me.”

 Thumbs up to Hirschman and Hildreth for their efforts this spring … and a shout out to Corey Nabors for being a team player!

April 4th

“Charting” the quarterbacks

New ESPN blogger David Ubben was in Boulder last week, and he has filed several reports on ESPN’s website concerning the Buffs. Ubben last week had the “scoop” on Cody Hawkins, being the only reporter allowed to interview the senior quarterback (learning, amongst other notable tidbits, that Cody visited his sister in Oregon and his brother in Idaho over spring break). Ubben has now posted a story about the Colorado quarterback controversy, detailing “The Chart”.

What is “The Chart”?

A listing of every throw, from every practice, made by Cody Hawkins and Tyler Hansen this spring. “They have everything charted out, from Practice One to the first scrimmage,” Cody Hawkins said. “You can go down and if you want to review the whole practice, they have guys who that’s specifically their job, their charting us.”

Everything is recorded – completion percentage, touchdown passes, touchdown drive percentage – and the all-important category of interceptions.

“You’ve got statistics in front of you that say, ‘Hey, this guy’s doing better than you’, on this day, but tomorrow I’m going to come out here and I’m going to do a lot better,” Tyler Hansen said. “It definitely adds a lot more competition to it … You’re definitely going into practice saying, ‘Every play matters’. You’ve got to be 100 percent focused on every play, because every rep goes into your official score.” [These quotes were obtained before last week’s scrimmage, when both quarterbacks suffered mightily – zero points on any drives outside of goal line drills. Here’s guessing that neither quarterback was too excited about checking out “The Chart” from last Friday].

The cynic in me sees “The Chart” as just another path to justify giving Cody Hawkins the start against Colorado State. Career interception record be damned. Overall won/loss record be damned. Cody is better because “The Chart” says so.

I really hope I’m wrong on this …

Help for special teams on the way

If you are a regular at CU at the Game, you know that I had a fondness for a 2009 senior, Justin Drescher. Unknown to most Buff fans, Drescher was nonetheless a four-year starter for Colorado. Drescher was recruited as, and played all four years as, short-snapper and long-snapper. He was just the third long-snapper in Colorado history to hold the position for four years, joining Chris O’Donnell (1988-91) and Greg Pace (2002-05). Drescher was recruited solely for the purpose of being a long-snapper, and, with the exception of one snap in four years, performed his duties admirably.

I was reminded of Drescher after last week’s scrimmage, when I read that one of the five missed field goals was due to a botched snap. Joe Silipo, a senior in 2010, is slated to take Drescher’s place.

Or perhaps not …

BuffStampede.com is reporting that Ryan Iverson, a 6’1″, 218-pound linebacker from Newport Beach, California, has committed to coming to Colorado as a preferred walk-on. Iverson is being recruited solely for the purpose of being the Buffs’ new long-snapper. None other than Chris Rubio, called a “Well-respected long snapping guru”, has tabbed Iverson as the 12th-best snapper of the 2010 recruiting class (don’t laugh, Iverson may be the highest rated position recruit of the Buffs’ 2010 class).

Iverson also played linebacker in high school, recording 78 tackles. Iverson believes that his experience on the field will help his chances to make the Buffs at long snapper. “My snaps have good zip on them, and I also have the ability to run downfield and make a play,” Iverson said. “A lot of long snappers are fat and slow, but I can move. I am pretty athletic.”

If everything works out for Iverson, he will be offered a scholarship. “It is going to be a competition, and whoever ends up being the starting long snapper is going to get the scholarship.”

Here’s hoping it works out for Iverson and the Buffs. Even if Silipo earns the job this fall, he is a senior, and it would be beneficial to have the position pre-filled for 2011.

April 2nd

Difference of opinion

There seems to be a decided lack of cohesion amongst the Colorado coaching staff when it comes to the state of the Buffs’ rushing attack. Colorado ranked 113th in the nation in rushing last season, gaining a paltry 87.9 yards/game. This spring, with only two scholarship running backs on campus, the emphasis has been more on the passing game. One practice drill eliminated has been the 9-on-7 drill, which seems to have caused a rift amongst the offensive coaches.

The Daily Camera is reporting that this spring Colorado is not using the  9-on-7 drill, where nine members from the offense, playing without wide receivers, takes on the defense, playing without defensive backs. Kyle Ringo states in his article that former CU head coach Bill McCartney felt the drill helped build team chemistry and toughness, and that the drill was used often by Gary Barnett, but has not been utilized by Dan Hawkins.

“I have no idea,” running backs Darian Hagan said when asked why the drill was not being used this spring. “I don’t know why we don’t do them. We’re doing a little inside work, but we’re not doing the full-scale, get after it. I don’t know. That’s something, like I said, I’ve mentioned it and I think we should do.”

Second-year offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau disagrees. “I just think right now it’s not a drill we should emphasize,” Kiesau said of the 9-on-7. “We only have X amount of time and X amount of practices, and if we take ten minutes to do that, we could be doing something else that could make us a little better … I’m not saying it’s a bad drill. It’s a great drill, but it would have been even better last year …”

Asked why the Buffs didn’t use the drill more last year, when it would have been “even better”, Kiesau said, “Because we were trying to instill a running game …” before catching himself. Kiesau then re-stated his answer. “I just don’t like (the 9-on-7 drill). Just a personal opinion.”

For those Buff fans who remember when Colorado won with a “running downhill” strategy, the latest statements from the offensive coordinator are troubling. First, because the move away from a rushing attack to a pass first option now appears to be complete, at least in the mind of Eric Kiesau. Second, because there seems to be a real disconnect amongst the coaching staff, which does not bode well for those hoping against hope that Colorado can piece together an offensive attack.

“Nowadays, everybody has gone away from all that physicality stuff,” Darian Hagan said. “Everybody is chucking the ball all around the field. I don’t want to be a team, and hopefully we won’t be a team, that is going to chuck it all around the field.”

Here’s betting the latest coaching staff meeting wasn’t all that much fun …

 Coming Saturday: An in-depth look at the notes and quotes from Friday’s scrimmage.

Coming Sunday: One of Dan Hawkins’ stated goals for this spring was improved play in the trenches, particularly from the offensive line. We’ll take an in-depth look at both the offensive and defensive lines, and see how they have been progressing.

 

April 1st

Returning backs seeing double duty

Colorado only has two running backs on the current roster – juniors Rodney Stewart and Brian Lockridge – who have carried the ball in a CU uniform, but that hasn’t shielded them from seeing time as kick returners. Lockridge has been returning kickoffs, while Stewart is on the short list (no pun intended) of candidates to return punts.

“I’m loving it,” said Brian Lockridge of the opportunity to return kicks. “You get used to it after awhile, and you know where to hit it. I’m not like a punt returner, where you have to be more shifty. Kick returning is mostly one step, cut, and go.” Last season, Lockridge took over for Darrell Scott as the main kick returner for the Buffs, taking back 30 kicks for 699 yards, a 23.3 yard average. Included in the totals is a 98-yard kick return for a touchdown against Oklahoma State. This fall, Lockridge has set a goal of meeting or beating the four touchdowns scored by Brandon Banks of Kansas State last season. “That’s a good goal to have,” Lockridge told the Longmont Times-Call. “Hopefully, I can beat him this year.”

Working with Lockridge on kick returns is junior defensive back Arthur Jaffee. Other than Darrell Scott, Jaffee, with six returns for 144 yards, was the only other Buff to have more than two kick returns last fall. Lockridge believes the tandem is set. “We’ll be back there (when the season starts),” said Lockridge.

Starting running back Rodney Stewart, meanwhile, has been a regular with the punt return team. “Hopefully, I’ll return punts this year a lot,” said Stewart. “That’s up to (special teams) coach (Kent ) Riddle if he puts me back there.” While Colorado fared well overall in kick returns (21st overall), the Buffs were miserable when it came to punt returns. Colorado had only 100 punt return yards all season, ranked 117th in the nation.

The issue may arise, if either Lockridge or Stewart is injured, as to whether added exposure of the Buffs’ only experienced tailbacks was a wise choice. Running backs coach Darian Hagan is willing to take that risk. “I don’t think we can, you know, try and shelve guys or hide guys for the sake of doing whatever,” said Hagan. “I think we need to play our best guys … Anytime we can get the ball in their hands, we need to do it. I don’t think we need to worry about a guy getting hurt.”

While Stewart and Lockridge are potential starters as returners, the field remains open. In addition to Arthur Jaffee, a number of Buffs, including wide receivers Toney Clemons, Jason Espinoza (who led the team in punt returns in 2009), Scotty McKnight, and running back Quentin Hildreth are options for returning kicks.

Buffs again looking at loss of scholarships

No, it’s not an April Fool’s joke … Colorado’s APR (Academic Progress Rate) continues to lag, as more players leave the team (Steven Hicks the most recent) academically ineligible. The loss of the likes of the likes of Lynn Katoa, Devin Head, and Erick Faatagi not only hurt the Buffs in terms of depth and talent, but also cost the team down the road. Colorado played with only 80 scholarship players last year, instead of the maximum of 85, due to poor APR scores.

An article posted by a Michigan blogger http://mgoblog.com/content/apr-schools-potentially-trouble-next-year puts Colorado at #11 in terms of schools in trouble of losing scholarships after grades are announced for this spring. Colorado, which has posted an APR of 918, 893, and 935 the past three years, would need to post an APR of 954 in order to achieve a 925 average (not likely, with the continued attrition seen this past season). According to the blogger’s calculations, there are only three BCS schools – Washington State, Mississippi, and Minnesota – in worse shape than Colorado. No other Big 12 team was listed amongst the 21 teams believed to be in danger of losing scholarships.

While Buff fans cannot hold head coach Dan Hawkins 100% responsible for the loss of scholarships, it can also fairly be noted that those who defend the retention of Dan Hawkins most often point to his leadership and the molding of his charges as amongst his strongest attributes.

March 31st

So what did Cody say to ESPN?

As noted yesterday, senior quarterback Cody Hawkins has placed an interview embargo upon the local media, not talking to those who are “attacking his dad”, as Dave Plati put it. However, Cody did speak with ESPN blogger David Ubben.

So what did we learn from Cody?

Funny you should ask …

Hawkins revealed that he spent spring break visiting his sister in Oregon and his brother in Boise. “I personally feel rejuvenated,” said Cody. “Some people spend spring break going crazy and come back needing a break. But I got to sit back, relax a little bit and get ready to roll for spring ball again.”

Feel enlightened?

Clemons makes an impression

ESPN blogger Ubben also got Cody to talk about transfer Toney Clemons. The junior wide receiver is being counted on this fall to help the Colorado passing game earn some respect, and Cody believes that will happen. “(Clemons) is a great leader for everybody on our team, and I think he’s really helped our wide receiver group find an identity and play with a little bit of swagger” said Cody Hawkins. “He’s a guy who really encourages a lot of competition. He’s very, very, confident, but he’s not cocky.”

Ubben’s take on Toney Clemons: “While far from a world-beater just yet, physically, he’s every bit of 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds. Great size and athleticism. By the end of the spring game, quarterbacks Cody Hawkins and Tyler Hansen should know just how much they can count on the Michigan transfer once the season arrives.”

Another observation from ESPN’s David Ubben: “Nate Solder is big”.

Good to know.

Goodman out

Senior Aric Goodman, placekicker for the Buffs the past two seasons, has not practiced this week. Goodman was scheduled to see a doctor Wednesday for what CUBuffs.com described as an ailing hip. In his stead, walkon Marcus Kirkwood has been making an impression. Kyle Ringo is reporting on Scout. com that Kirkwood has a good chance at earning the responsibility of handling kickoffs, and has “at least a chance of winning the place kicking job”.

If the name Marcus Kirkwood is not familar to you, you are not alone. Kirkwood is a junior walk-on with two years of eligibility remaining. He went to Faith Christian High in Arvada before attending Concordia College (I’m assuming the one in Moorhead, Minnesota, though there are others – there is no official bio of Kirkwood on the Buffs’ website). Kirkwood is 6’6″ tall, and, get this, kicks lefty.

Program Notes – (In addition to your daily updates!) …

 March 30th

Cody’s not talking to local media

Well, it’s official – Cody Hawkins is not granting interviews to the beat writers covering the Buffs. “Cody is not talking to reporters he feels have been attacking his dad,” Colorado media relations director Dave Plati was quoted as saying. The Daily Camera, Denver Post, and Longmont Times-Call all requested interviews; all were given the same response.

There are several ways to take this. Sure, Cody is free to speak – or not speak – to anyone he chooses. Still, as has happened all too often in the Dan Hawkins’ era, CU handled it badly (much like waiting until after the ground breaking of the new basketball practice facility to announce the firing of Kathy McConnell–Miller. The Colorado women’s team’s season ended March 11th. It took almost three weeks to review her five year career? Why not get it over with before the ceremony, avoiding the awkward “she’s on spring break” excuse?). Cody could have simply said, “I want to concentrate on getting ready for the season”, or “I don’t want to distract the team with quarterback controversy”? Why did Dave Plati have to say “attacking his dad”? It makes it all the more personal, and all the more … what’s the word I’m looking for … whiney? Petty?

Oh, and did you notice that Cody did give an interview to an ESPN blogger?

Just another day at the Boulder zoo …

Medical report

Some good news on the medical front … When we last saw senior wide receiver ScottyMcKnight, he was being assisted off the field during last Thursday’s scrimmage. Quarterback Tyler Hansen was quoted as saying that McKnight had a broken fibula, but that was not the case. “It was a lot less severe than we thought,” said McKnight, indicating that a ligament in his ankle detached from the bone and took a small piece of bone with it. Still, with less than two weeks left in spring practice, there is little reason for the senior to take any more chances this spring. McKnight indicated that, “I’ll probably tamper it down and not really go the rest of spring ball, and then hit things full speed for the offseason.”

The news may not be as good for defensive back Anthony Wright. Last season, Wright was injured jumping a fence, suffering a partially torn ACL. Wright did play last season, at wide receiver, catching exactly one pass (a 42-yarder against Toledo). On Monday, coach Hawkins indicated that Wright’s future may be in doubt. “We’ll see,” said Hawkins. “We’ve got to see what’s going on with his knee and how that comes around.”

For those of us cheering for Maxwell Tuioti-Marinier to make a quick and successful return to the starting lineup, things are not going as well as planned. MTM “tweaked his knee” during the scrimmage on Thursday, and did not participate in practice on Monday. Not a huge deal, except for the fact that MTM needs all the reps he can get. Having played only a handful of downs over the past two seasons, Tuioti-Mariner has not been able to get back into the flow. “(MTM’s) terribly behind,” said offensive line coach Denver Johnson. “I don’t think his knee is back to 100 percent. So it may be the fall before he is really back in the mix.”

Another personal favorite, wide receiver Kendrick Celestine, has also suffered an injury. Celestine, who left the team in 2008, but worked his way back (literally) onto the team, suffered a broken right ring finger on the second day of practice. “That made me drop a couple of balls, (and that) kind of upset me,” said the junior wideout. “The first two weeks were okay, but I didn’t do anything as good as I can. I’m really going to try and step it up.”

 

March 29th

Buffs losing a defensive back?

The Daily Camera’s Kyle Ringo is reporting on Scout.com that sophomore defensive back Steven Hicks has left the team and school. This has not been confirmed by the school, but Ringo indicates that he has heard the story from several players.

Hicks red-shirted in 2008, and did not take the field in 2009. He is currently listed on the roster as being academically ineligible, which is the worst news. Hicks would have been buried deep on the depth chart of the Buffs’ defensive backfield, but the Buffs can’t afford to take any more APR hits. The Academic Progress Rate cost Colorado five scholarships this past season, and if Hicks leaves school academically ineligible, it could cost the Buffs next spring.

Mile High Showdown on the lowdown

It is being reported that the Colorado/Colorado State game at Invescon Field will be played at noon on Saturday, September 4th. That’s not the news, however. It is also being noted that the game will be shown only on the Mountain Network, the home network for the Mountain West Conference.

While it will be a disappointment that the CU/CSU game will not be shown on a network with greater coverage, this should not be too great a surprise. Colorado was 3-9 last season, and has four straight losing seasons. Colorado State, meanwhile, enters the game on a nine game losing streak, also finishing the 2009 season with a 3-9 record.

Two 3-9 teams, with little no national storyline (if Colorado was playing its first game with a new head coach … never mind). Not a shock that the Buffs are being relegated to the back page.

Perhaps it will help get the attendance over 50,000 …

McConnell-Miller will not return as women’s basketball coach

In on of the worst kept secrets of the past week, the University of Colorado on Monday made it official – Kathy McConnell-Miller will not be back as coach of the CU women’s basketball team. Any remaining doubts about the rumors ended last week when the University turned dirt on the new basketball/volleyball practice facility. Everyone was there – the chancellor, the athletic director, the volleyball coach, the men’s basketball coach – but no women’s basketball coach. Officially, McConnell-Miller was with her family on “spring break”, but no one was fooled. McConnell-Miller was 65-88 in five seasons at Colorado, 20-60 in Big 12 play. This past season, the Buffs opened 11-3, but lost 12 of the past 13 games to finish with four losing seasons in five tries.

No terms of the buyout have been announced. So far, all the University is stating is that the parties hope to reach an agreement in the next few days, and that athletic director Mike Bohn will comment “at the appropriate time upon resolution of those issues.”

March 26th

Colorado chancellor is looking for “improvement”

Count Colorado chancellor Phil DiStefano amongst those who are expecting more on the field next fall from the Buffs’ football team. The question remains, however, as to whether another losing season will put an end to the Dan Hawkins’ experiment. “I’m not looking to make a change, but I think this is the year for him as coach,” DiStefano told the Daily Camera. “He has great experience. He has great records wherever he’s been … what he needs to do is win.”

Of course, the almighty dollar might stand in the way. The $3 million buyout of Dan Hawkins’ contract is widely considered has having been a major stumbling block in letting the four-year head coach go last fall. The buyout drops to $2 million after this season, but there are other considerations. DiStefano will announce next week that the University of Colorado will be facing a $10 million budget cut next year, and the athletic department will share in the cutbacks. “I think you always have to take a look at the economics and look at budget issues,” said DiStefano, “but it’s one piece of a total picture.”

With a buyout of CU women’s coach Kathy McConnell-Miller in the offing, the Colorado athletic department may not be able to absorb another payoff to rid itself of another losing coach come December.

Where are those “Colorado Pride” guys when you need them? (Hopefully, they, like the Pac-10 officials looking to lure Colorado to the new Pac-12, have gone underground, and will wait until they have something to announce before going public … Dare to dream!).

Katoa sentenced

Former Colorado Buffalo Lynn Katoa was sentenced Thursday to six months of work release at the Boulder County jail, plus three years of probation, as a result of his failure to live up to the terms of his three year deferred sentence received in 2008.

A short recap. A five-star recruit for Colorado in 2008, Katoa enrolled in January so as to get a head start on his promising career. Katoa never made it even to spring practice, though, being arrested for hitting a man on the head with a rock. Katoa entered a guilty plea, but his record would have been cleared if he stayed out of trouble (Katoa was cut from the team for being academically ineligible). Instead of turning his life around after his arrest, Katoa violated the terms of his release by failing to adhere to his substance abuse treatment and monitoring. He has also been arrested twice since. “The violence in his life doesn’t seem to have stopped,” argued Boulder County prosecutor Debra Welsh.

Katoa had been attending a junior college in Arizona when he was arrested in February. His stated desire was to have his probation terminated so that he could return to Utah and play for Weber State of the Big Sky Conference.

Such a waste …

 {Program Note – Coming Sunday: a look at non-conference opponents the Big 12 will be facing – “From Nacogdoches to Brookings to Lake Charles”, the Big 12 searches high and low for non-conference victories}

 

March 25th

First of Bohn’s Big Three out?

On a day when the Colorado basketball programs finally had a day to bask in the sun, it is being reported that one of its coaches is on her way out.

Colorado broke ground Thursday on its new basketball and volleyball practice facility. The $10.8 million project will allow the Colorado’s men’s and women’s basketball teams, as well as the Buffs’ women’s volleyball team, to practice without fear of being booted from the Coors Events Center when a concert or finals take over the gym. In order to avoid conflicts, CU coach Jeff Bzdelik has conducted practices at 8:00 a.m. Former CU head coach Ricardo Patton bused his teams to local high school gyms.

It was a proud day for the Colorado athletic department, and everyone was on hand … except the women’s basketball coach, Kathy McConnell-Miller. The official line is that McConnell-Miller is out of town on spring break, and Athletic Director Mike Bohn would not confirm the rumor that a buyout of McConnell-Miller’s contract is being negotiated. Still, Bohn did indicate that the “process” of evaluating the program is ongoing, and the ouster of McConnell-Miller is being reported by numerous sources.

McConnell-Miller went 65-88 in five seasons in Boulder, including four losing seasons. The one winning campaign was in 2008, when the women’s team earned a bid to the WNIT, making it as far as the semi-finals. The past two seasons, however, Colorado went 11-18 and 13-17, finishing both seasons with 3-13 Big 12 records. This past season, the Buffs looked to be primed for a post-season run. A 12-6 start to the season, including a 2-2 Big 12 record, made the WNIT look like a consolation prize, as an NCAA berth was a possibility. Instead, the women’s team crumbled down the stretch, losing 12 of the final 13 games of the season, including a 72-65 loss to Baylor in the Big 12 tournament.

For Colorado football fans, this development has meaning. It took until the fifth season, but Athletic Director Mike Bohn was finally willing to pull the plug on a failed experiment. McConnell-Miller had success at a lower tier conference, resurrecting a moribund Tulsa program. The Golden Hurricanes had gone so far as to drop the women’s basketball team, so Tulsa’s 38-23 record the last two seasons of the McConnell-Miller reign was quite impressive. Unfortunately for the Buffs and their fans, the women’s basketball team under McConnell-Miller remained perennially young, and could not put together any sense of consistency (sound familar?).

McConnell-Miller did well at a mid-major, but couldn’t field a competitive team at a BCS school.

After five seasons, Bohn has seen enough …

… This fall will be Dan Hawkins’ fifth season …

March 24th

Pac-10 title game … with ten teams?

CBSSports.com writer Dennis Dodd is reporting that the Pac-10 is exploring the possibility of conducting a championship game … without expanding.

Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott let on that he has spoken with the commissioners of the Big Ten and the Big East about the feasibility of a Pac-10 championship game with less than the NCAA-mandated 12 conference members. “That’s a possibility,” said Scott. “Initially it doesn’t make much sense, but I’ve had a couple of conversations …”.

To make it work, the Pac-10 (or the Big Ten, with 11 members, or the Big East, with eight) would have to petition the NCAA to amend Bylaw 17.9.5.2 (c), which requires conferences conducting championship games have 12 members. If any of the three conferences make such a pitch, it would likely pass, according to Dodd.

For now, the Pac-10 is moving slowly on the issue of expansion. Preliminary talks about a new television contract (beginning in 2012) has only gotten as far as the Pac-10 presidents hiring a consultant firm. That may be bad news for Colorado, which is looking at a July 1st “tell ’em that you’re leaving” deadline.

Best case scenario: The lack of stories on expansion is intentional. A month ago, Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott started a firestorm of speculation after merely hinting that the Pac-10 is looking into expansion. Commissioners and athletic directors from coast-to-coast were forced into making comments. Having learned their lesson, the Pac-10 has gone quiet, is still actively pursuing expansion, but doing it beneath behind closed doors.

What happens next? Missouri is asked to join the Big Ten, giving the Pac-10 reason to make a move, and giving Colorado political cover to bolt for the Pac-10. Conferences re-align nationwide, with negotiated deals making it easier for schools like Colorado to buy their freedom. Colorado joins the newly formed Pac-12 in 2012.

Worst case scenario: Nothing happens. Missouri isn’t asked to join the Big Ten, and the Big 12 stands pat. Even worse: Missouri, Texas and/or Nebraska are asked to join a the Big Ten to form a mega Big 14/16 conference. Utah and BYU join the Pac-12, leaving Colorado to scramble to find a home. The Buffs wind up in a diluted Mountain West Conference. Colorado gains annual rivalry games with the Front Range schools, but is knocked from the national stage and becomes an after-thought in big-time college football.

March 23rd

Buffs don’t quite pick up 2nd “bonus” win

Well, if you can’t beat ’em … get the NCAA to take away their wins.

For the second time in the Dan Hawkins’ era, a Colorado opponent has had wins “vacated”. The NCAA on Tuesday denied Alabama its appeal of a ruling which vacated 21 victories between 2005 and 2007 for widespread violations involving free textbooks. The final ruling vacates the Crimson Tide’s ten wins in 2005, all six wins in 2006, and the first five victories in 2007, when the violations were discovered. Unfortunately for Buffs fans, the ruling does not cover Alabama’s 30-24 victory over Colorado in the 2007 Independence Bowl.

Alabama joins Florida State in the CU opponent’s “vacated” wins Hall of Shame. The Seminoles had to vacate a number of victories for violating NCAA rules, including a 16-6 victory over Colorado in 2007. Opponents of Florida State don’t get to count the games as forfeited wins, however, and you would be hard pressed to find any mention of the “losses” in the Florida State media guide. [UPDATE: It was reported Wednesday that Florida State spent $172,000.00 in attorney’s fees appealing the NCAA’s decision in the Seminoles’ case. Florida State spent $102,000.00 in taxpayers dollars and $70,000.00 in booster donations trying to preserve for Bobby Bowden 12 of his career 389 wins.]

Still, Alabama did not go down without a parting shot. “The Appeals Committee acknowledged that their decision in our case is not consistent with the NCAA’s prior textbook and ‘vacation-of-wins’ cases, which was the heart of UA’s appeal,” said Alabama President Robert E. Witt. “Despite that acknowledgement, however, the Appeals Committee did not find an abuse of discretion.”

Makes you wonder what the Alabama President would have had to say if the NCAA had inflicted a penalty that actually mattered …

Hawkins trying to get some answers

Colorado head coach isn’t using his spring break to jump out of airplanes or check out the beach. Coming off of four straight losing seasons, and his head coaching career tied to one statistic this fall – victories – Hawkins is checking out other teams’ camps.

Hawkins opened his week on the campus of BYU in Provo, Utah, checking out the Cougars. Hawkins and BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall became good friends through their association with Nike, which recently hosted a week-long event for college football coaches in Hawaii. Mendenhall invited; Hawkins accepted.

In 2009, BYU was ranked 17th in passing offense, 21st in total offense, 11th in scoring offense … 21st in rushing defense, 28th in total defense, and 29th in scoring defense. And, oh yeah, finished 11-2.

Take your pick from the above numbers. There is much to gain from observing what is going on in Provo …

March 22nd

All quiet on the Front Range

With the University of Colorado in Spring break, the Buffs are out of their pads until Monday, March 29th. A chance to reflect upon the first two weeks …

… The NCAA allows 15 practices in the spring. To date, the Buffs have had seven, including the scrimmage on March 18th. There will be three practices the week of the 29th, leading up to the second scrimmage on April 2nd. The final week of practice will see three more practices, leading up to the Spring Game on April 10th.

… The kicking game may be left entirely to a red-shirt freshman. Zach Grossnickle handled all of the punting in the first scrimmage, and performed well on his field goal attempts. Grossnickle connected on all four field goal tries, hitting from 32, 34, 38, and 32 yards, while incumbent starter Aric Goodman went one-for-three, hitting from 26 yards out, but missing from 33 and 37. It may turn out that Grossnickle’s main competition will not come until this fall, when true freshman Justin Castor enrolls.

… The Buffs are without a true fullback on the roster, but many are being tried in case the need arises. Linebackers Derrick Webb, Tyler Ahles, and Jon Major have all been given a look at H-back/fullback this spring. Ahles played fullback during his high school career at San Bernardino, California.

… Former quarterbacks are doing well in their new roles. Former quarterback recruits Josh Moten (2009 recruit, enrolled in January), and Clark Evans (2009 recruit, red-shirted last fall) are doing well at positions other than quarterback. Josh Moten has been working as a defensive back since arriving on campus, and coach Dan Hawkins brushed off the statement made by Moten last summer that the Carson, California, recruit would be given a shot at the quarterback position. Whether by design or not, Moten, at 6’0″, 190 pounds, is already looking at playing time in the deepest unit on the team … Clark Evans, meanwhile, his making an impression as well. Practicing with the quarterbacks last fall, Evans is now working with the tight ends. “I feel comfortable at tight end. I just running around, having fun,” said Evans after collecting five receptions in the first scrimmage. While noting that he will likely have to gain another 10 to 15 pounds before he can be effective at the position, Evans is working on making the tight end position his own. ‘Coach Kiesau told me during winter conditioning that I was going to make the switch,” said Evans, “so I worked all winter on becoming a tight end and working on my footwork.”

… More reflections throughout the week, as the Buffs heal up from the first half of spring practice …

March 19th

McKnight suffers leg injury

Senior wide receiver Scotty McKnight suffered a broken fibula during Thursday’s scrimmage, and will miss the remainder of spring practice. Forced out-of-bounds after a catch, McKnight ran hard into a railing and had to be helped from the field. McKnight later returned in a boot and crutches.

The broken leg is not the first broken bone for McKnight while wearing the black-and-gold. During the first day of spring practices in 2007, McKnight broke his ankle. The Buffs’ record-setting wideout returned to play every game that fall, leading the team with 43 catches.

[Note: complete scrimmage coverage will be posted later on Friday]

March 18th

Quarterbacks “still competing”

Junior quarterback Tyler Hansen may not have yet officially won the quarterback battle, but he has won one competition this spring … best answer to a question.

When asked why the defense has seemed to get the best of the offense during the first two weeks of spring practice, Hansen had the answer:

“It’s because they cheat”.

Okay, Hansen was kidding. But he was serious about getting the offense in gear. “We’re starting to get in sync with the receivers and get a good connection going,” said Hansen. “The passing game has really flourished the last couple of days.” Hansen has not been able to meet his stated goal of getting through all of spring practice without throwing an interception – he has thrown one in six practices – but he does seem to be taking on the look of a starting quarterback. Hansen has stated that he hopes the coaches will name a starter by the end of spring practice, but he understands that may not happen. “I guess we’re still competing, and everything lies on every rep, I guess,” said Hansen. “So I’ve just got to go out there and do good on every play, and play through your reads and be smart. Right now we’re still competing.”

Interesting enough, senior Cody Hawkins has avoided the press so far this spring, ignoring or refusing requests for interviews …

And what about Nick Hirschman?

After senior Cody Hawkins and junior Tyler Hansen, the quarterback roster consists of only walk-on redshirt freshman Seth Labato and true freshman Nick Hirschman. Rather than stay in high school for the remainder of his senior year, Hirschman graduated early, just to be able to participate in practices this spring. So far, Hirschman has been pleased with his decision. “The way I looked at it, I could stay at home and stay at home with my friends, and not get the football knowledge that I could have here,” said Hirschman.”Or I could come here, start learning stuff, get in great shape, and start experiencing college life … and being able to adjust to that has really helped out a lot.”

While Hirschman understands that he has two upperclassmen who have started games above him on the depth chart, he has not completely resigned himself to a red-shirt season in 2010. “I am an athlete. I’m out here because I want to compete,” said Hirschman. “All of us have that sort of confidence and swagger in ourselves that we feel like we could go out there and play. It’s just the way we are wired. I would love to play this year, but whatever decision gets made at the quarterback spot, I know that is the player that gives us the best chance to go out and lead us to a lot of wins.”

Buff fans, you have to like what we are seeing out of the presumptive starter at quarterback in 2012. 

[Complete coverage of Thursday’s scrimmage will be posted around noon on Friday]

March 17th

Good update on two MIA O-linemen

One of the most important areas of focus this spring for the Colorado football team is the development of a cohesive and powerful offensive line. Buff fans thought the team was well on its way towards that goal last fall, but injuries and suspensions – not to mention a lack of a deep threat, along with inconsistent quarterback play – conspired to mire Colorado in the depths of the NCAA when it came to running the football. Colorado finished 113th in the nation in rushing, gaining less than 90 yards per game. Amongst BCS conference schools, only Texas Tech, Washington State, and Duke suffered through more futility at handing off the football.

Two players who did not see any action in 2009 are looking to help change that sad fact.

The player most Buff fans are familiar with is Maxwell Tuioti-Mariner, who played as a true freshman in 2008 – starting in just his second game as a collegian. MTM tore his ACL during winter conditioning in 2009, and missed the entire season. A third year sophomore (MTM was granted a medical red-shirt for 2008, missing all but three games that season with another torn ACL), Tuioti-Mariner is anxious to live up to his potential. “Just sitting down and watching everyone else play, it made me want to hit even more,” MTM told the Longmont Times-Call. “Not being able to play underneath the lights on Saturday really made me feel left out … It’s time to start playing again.”

Not so fast, says Colorado offensive line coach Denver Johnson. The second-year assistant coach – who had never coached MTM on the field until this spring – thinks it will take more time. “There’s quite a little bit of a mental hurdle to get over there,” said Johnson. “He’s still a little tentative … He’s still playing with a little hesitation.”

Another Buff lineman, who also sat out all of the 2009  season, is not as well known as MTM. This is partly due to the fact that he didn’t play in 2008, either – or in 2007, for that matter. Junior Sione Tau has had a checkered past with the Buffs. A 2007 recruit, Tau red-shirted the fall of 2007. After adding 15 pounds to his frame his freshman year, Tau was in line to compete for playing time at tackle, but was ruled academically ineligible after the summer session, and had to sit out the entire 2008 campaign. Tau never made it to the field of play in 2009, either, sitting out the year for violating team rules.

With only two years of eligibility remaining, and nary a down of playing time under his belt, Tau is looking to be a contributor in 2010. “I really missed playing,” said Tau. “I’d be at work watching the guys play (Tau, to make ends meet, worked security in bars last fall), and there was nothing I could do to even help the team.” Back on the team since January, Tau has a good attitude, just wanting to be a part of a successful offensive line. “Whether it’s third string or anything, I don’t care. It’s just being back and helping the team that really matters to me.”

The issue with Tau isn’t agility, it’s balance … as in balancing on the scales. Last week, Dan Hawkins was quoted as saying that Tau “could lose 10-20 pounds”, a sentiment echoed by Denver Johnson. “He still has a way to go to be in the kind of physical condition we’d like him to be in,” said Johnson, who also acknowledged that Tau could be a significant contributor this fall. “He can move his feet,” said Johnson of Sione Tau. “He’s a big, strong guy”.

For Tau, four years removed from his last playing time, as Hawaii’s top offensive lineman recruit in 2006, it’s now or never.

Orange Bowl “MVP” moving onward and upward

Quick, name the MVP of the 1991 Orange Bowl, when Colorado earned its first national championship in football, with a 10-9 victory over Notre Dame?

Eric Bieniemy? Nope.

Mike Pritchard? No.

The referee who threw the clipping flag during Raghib Ismail’s punt return for a touchdown in the final minutes? Cute answer, but no.

Okay, if you said backup quarterback Charles S. Johnson, you would be correct. Johnson, subbing for the injured Darian Hagan, led the Buffs on it’s lone touchdown drive, was named the Orange Bowl MVP.

Now, can you name the real MVP of the game?

Remember, the Buffs won the game, 10-9. How did the Irish get to nine points? Three field goals? No. Notre Dame scored on a two-yard run by Ricky Watters midway through the second quarter, giving the Irish a 6-3 lead. The extra point, though, was blocked by sophomore defensive back Ronnie Bradford. The block turned out to be the point which gave Colorado the victory … and the national championship.

Why mention this game in March, almost 20 years after the fact? Well, it was announced this week that the very same Ronnie Bradford this week was named as an adminstrative assistant for Cal coach, Jeff Tedford. After a stellar career in Boulder (1989-92), Bradford was selected in the 4th round of the 1993 NFL draft by Miami. Bradford never played for Miami, however, being traded to the Denver Broncos before donning a Miami uniform. Bradford played ten seasons in the NFL, including his first three seasons in Denver. Last season, Bradford was on the staff of the Kansas City Chiefs, after having coached with the Broncos for six seasons.

At Cal, a team Colorado plays on September 11th, Bradford will work with the defense, while another hire announced this week, former Oregon quarterback Akili Smith, will work in a similar role with the offense.

Just a brief tip of the cap to the “MVP” of the 1991 Orange Bowl.

Much success to Mr. Bradford – except on September 11th.

March 16th

Orms getting good press

Redshirt freshman Parker Orms is getting good press this week. Orms was one of the top in-state recruits of the 2009 class, leading the Wheatridge Farmers to the Colorado 4-A title with a two-way performance which included a touchdown run over over 50 yards with less than a minute to play. This past fall, Orms used his red-shirt season, and, in his own words, shadowed senior nickelback Cha’pelle Brown. “I watched Cha’pelle really close last year, and he was kind of my mentor,” Orms told BuffStampede.com. “I think this is the position I have the best chance of getting on the field at, so I am just trying to learn it at see what happens.”

This spring, it has been going well. “He understands the game,” said Dan Hawkins. “He’s one of those gym rat kind of guys. He can run, too.” Defensive backs coach Ashley Ambrose is equally impressed. “Parker is probably a little bit faster than Cha’pelle,” said Ambrose. “Even if he doesn’t stay at nickel back, he could end up playing cornerback, or end up playing safety for us. He can do it all.”

For now, Orms just wants the opportunity to play. “I’m trying to prove to everyone that doesn’t think I can play, or thinks that I am too small to play,” said Orms, who is 5’11”, 180-pounds,” that I can make a difference up here at CU at be a great college football player.”

Music to the ears of all Buff fans … a talented, young player who is still hungry.

Other Hawkins quotes:

On junior defensive back Travis Sandersfeld: “We’re rolling some guys, those two (Sandersfeld and Orms), are kind of the primary guys right now (at the nickelback position)”.

On red-shirt freshman tight end DaVaughn Thornton: “He’s doing a nice job. He’s really athletic, and he’s a tough guy. Every rep he gets a little bit better. I think he’s going to be a great player here.”

On the concerns about the kicking game, and acknowledging that true freshman Justin Castor will be “in the mix” for playing time this fall: “The great thing about kicking and punting, by and large, is that you don’t have a lot of game planning to follow. There’s not as much subjectivity to it.”

 

 

 

March 15th

Buffs back in action – and just a little bit bigger/stronger/faster

Colorado returned to the practice fields Monday, and will practice again on Tuesday before lining up for the first scrimmage of the season on Thursday.

If Jeff Pitman has his way, the Buffs will be rested and fresher than they were last spring. Pitman, the Colorado director of speed-strength, and conditioning, has reworked the Colorado off-season conditioning program, with hopes that the Buffs will be all the better prepared for battle this fall. Changes made include the Colorado players actually going through weight lifting drills less than before, hitting the weight room three days a week instead of four. On the fourth day, instead of lifting, the speed/skill position players did more running, adding plyometric exercises (designed to act on the nerves, muscles and tendons to increase an athletes power output without necessarily increasing strength), while the offensive and defensive linemen worked with a local boxing trainer to work on balance, hand speed, and hand-eye coordination.

“This is the freshest I’ve been heading into a spring,” said senior cornerback Jalil Brown. “I’m not tired, and my muscles aren’t as sore as in the past.” Brown, who cleaned 375 pounds (Pitman: “ridiculous for a speed guy”), has had a different attitude this off-season. “I look at it totally different now,” said Brown. “When I was younger, when we had to run and lift, I was thinking about how tired I was going to be. Now I thinking, ‘This goes by so fast, and before I know it, the season’s going to be here’. It’s going to benefit me in the long run.”

Another switch in the routine, moving workouts from early morning to the afternoon, has also been seen as a positive move. “Working in the afternoon, I think everybody was a lot fresher,” said junior running back Rodney Stewart. “We weren’t waking up at 6, being tired coming in, and half ‘BS-ing’ through the work.”

Other positive numbers from the off-season conditioning:

– A total of 31 players were able to squat over 600 pounds, with two, nosetackle Eugene Goree and defensive end Marquez Herrod, going over 700 pounds;

– The team had an average of 30 inches in the vertical jump, led by safety-turned-linebacker Patrick Mahnke (38 inches), defensive back Anthony Perkins (37), tailback Brian Lockridge (36.5), and wide reciever Toney Clemons (35 – a full five inches higher than his previous best);

– Newcomer Eric Richter had the best bench press on the team, at 505 pounds. Richter is a junior college transfer, who signed with the Buffs in December, and enrolled in January. Richter is being looked at as a potential starting guard for this fall.

Darrell Scott a Bearcat?

It is being reported that former Colorado running back Darrell Scott took an official visit to Cincinnati this past weekend. The Bearcats are in the market for running backs, as Cincinnati failed to land any running back prospects in either the class of 2009 or 2010. Scott, from Ventura, California, purportedly wanted to return to the west coast, and had indicated a preference for playing for UCLA (with uncle Josh Smith), or Arizona State.

Wherever Scott lands, he will have to sit out the 2010 season. He would then have two years of eligibility remaining.

Miller back at practice – at least to watch

Offensive lineman Ryan Miller is out for spring practice, at least as a participant, but he was back on the sidelines Friday. Injured on the first day of practice, Miller underwent surgery to replace a rod in his right forearm, also having a rod removed from his left fibula. Bone marrow was taken from Miller’s right hip, and injected into his right forearm, in hopes of expediting the fusion process. Despite the four hour surgery, Miller expects to be available for August practices.

Three Buffs included on Hall of Fame ballot

Former Buffs Alfred Williams and Eric Bieniemy, along with former head coach Bill McCartney, were amongst the 77 players and seven coaches listed on the ballot for induction into the National Football Foundation’s College Football Hall of Fame.

Alfred Williams played defensive end/outside linebacker for Colorado from 1987-90. Williams was a unanimous All-American in 1990, one of five Buffs to achieve that honor. Willams was a two-time All Big Eight performer, and the 1990 Butkus Award winner. In 1998, Williams, after a nine year NFL career in which he won two Super Bowl rings, was inducted into the Colorado Athletic Hall of Fame. Williams continues to head the all-time sack list at Colorado, posting 35 in his career.

Eric Bieniemy, like Alfred Williams, is one of five Buffs to ever earn the title of unanimous All-American, also earning the honor in 1990. Bieniemy finished third in the Heisman trophy balloting that season, and was twice an All-American (1988; 1990).  On Colorado’s all-time rushing list, Bieniemy, with 3,940 yards, is almost 900 yards ahead of his nearest competitor, Rashaan Salaam (3,057). Until Mason Crosby came along, Bieniemy was also tops on the all-time scoring list. Bieniemy enjoyed a nine-year NFL career as a player, and continues on as a running backs coach (Minnesota). Bieniemy was also a member of the 1998 Class inducted into the Colorado Athletic Hall of Fame.

Bill McCartney needs no further introduction. Coach Mac leads the Buffs in all-time victories, with 93, and conference victories, with 58. McCartney was named the Big Eight coach of the year three times, in 1985, 1989, and 1990. McCartney led Colorado to three Big Eight titles, and won 10 or more games three times (Colorado had accomplished the feat only once before, in 1971). McCartney coached the Buffs’ first Heisman trophy winner, Rashaan Salaam, all five of Colorado’s all-time unanimous All-Americans, and four of the six Buffs who were named to the All-Big Eight team three times in their careers. Oh, and yes, he coached Colorado to its first national championship.

 

March 13th

Buffs’ comeback falls short, skiers finish second

A strong showing by the nordic team on Saturday was not enough to overcome the disappointing results from the men’s alpine team on Friday night, as Colorado finished the NCAA skiing championships second to Denver University. Overall, the Pioneers, winning their third consecutive NCAA skiing title, posted a team score of 785.5, well ahead of the Buffs’ 714.0.

The race for the top spot was actually sealed on Friday night, during the second day of alpine events. Denver held a lead over Colorado at the midway point of the event, but it was not insurmountable. The scenario had been the same in 2006, when the Buffs used a strong showing on Friday to take the lead, allowing the nordic team to coast to the championship during the final day of racing. In 2010, though, the Buff men faltered. CU junior Gabriel Rivas, the defending individual champion and pre-race favorite, missed a gate on his first run. and was disqualified. The other Buff skiers finished 15th and 23rd, giving Colorado only 40 points for the event – and a 10th place finish overall. Denver did not fare too much better, finishing fifth in the men’s alpine event, but the Buffs, instead of narrowing the points gap, saw it extended beyond reach.

The disappointment from the men was at least partly assuaged by the women’s alpine results Friday night, as well as the efforts of the nordic team on Saturday.

The Colorado women’s alpine team members finished 5th, 6th, and 7th in the slalom, with junior Carolina Nordh, freshman Erik Ghent and junior Katie Hartman all claiming All-American honors for their efforts. The women’s results Friday night were enough to keep the Buffs technically in the hunt, but overall, Colorado dropped to third heading into the final day of competition.

On Saturday morning, the Colorado nordic teams did their school proud, with the women’s team taking the 15K free technique event; the men finishing second in their 20K. All three women finished in the top ten, with Alexa Turizan coming in second; Eliska Hajkova coming in third; and Joanne Reid coming in tenth. On the men’s side, Matthew Gelso, who won the 10K event on Thursday, finished fourth, with teammate Jesper Ostensen coming in 16th, and Vegard Kjoelhamar finishing 19th. The Buffs finished ahead of Denver in both events Saturday, but only scored enough points to pass New Mexico to finish second overall.

For most programs, a second place nationally, coupled with a host of All-American (top ten) finishes, would be cause for celebration. Such is the high standard for the Colorado program, however, that the loss to Denver has to be seen as a disappointment. “We don’t care for second place, never have,” said Colorado coach Richard Rokos, who has led Colorado to five national championships and 27 individual championships. Colorado had been ranked as the #1 team in the nation coming into the event, but there is always uncertainty when it comes to ski meets. “We won in years when we were depleted and relatively weak, and lost in years we were strong,” said Rokos before the championships. “In the end of it, it is four days you have to be good, healthy, and lucky, in no particular order. Our ultimate goal does not change, and it is the NCAA title.”

The Buffs came up just short of the ultimate goal in 2010, but, as always, will continue to field a strong team in the future. Of those skiers listed above, only Gelso and Kjoelhamar are seniors. For the Colorado ski team, the old saying “they don’t rebuild, they reload” actually holds true.

Here’s wishing the Colorado ski team better luck next spring at the 2011 NCAA championships.

 

March 12th

Markques Simas back on the team

After missing out on only three practices (and two of those in just shorts and helmets), previously suspended wide receiver Markques Simas was back in uniform Friday. Simas told reporters that he has been fully reinstated, and expects to participate in the remainder of spring practice. “I had to get into a few programs, but that’s all,” Simas said when asked about what he needed to do to get back on the team. “Basically, just being where I need to be, staying out of trouble”, is what Simas needs to do to stay in good graces. Simas also had nothing but praise for his head coach. “Hawkins has stuck with me,” said Simas. “He knows I’m a good kid at heart.”

“We’re in the people business, trying to get kids to grow up” said Dan Hawkins when asked about his reinstated junior wide receiver. “(Simas) has been doing a good job in the classroom, taking care of business.”

The question remains open as to whether any of the punishment will carry over to missed game time this fall, but, as for now, Markques Simas, who was suspended indefinitely after being arrested for DUI on February 6th, is once again a full-fledged member of the Colorado Buffaloes’ football team.

As to other players, Dan Hawkins had the following comments:

Sione Tau, the junior offensive lineman who missed his entire sophomore season in 2009 for violation of team rules: “He could lose 10-20 pounds”, said Hawkins of Tau, who is listed at 6’5″, 350 pounds, “but he has a renewed sense of passion. He’s done a good job along the line of scrimmage.”

Josh Moten, making his first appearance with the team after enrolling in January. “He’s a smart guy, a heady guy”, said Hawkins concerning Moten, who has moved from quarterback to defensive back. “(Moten) has the athletic ability to get the job done.”

Specializing in special teams

It’s not a secret – Colorado special teams need work. Colorado was horrid in punt returns last season, ranking 118th in the nation, and the Buffs weren’t much better at punting the ball to the opposition, either. Four year starter Matt DiLallo is gone, leaving the job to red-shirt freshman Zach Grossnickle to claim as his own. “I feel real comfortable with the team and my punting,” said Grossnickle, who broke his wrist last summer playing Ultimate Frisbee, ending the issue of whether he would play as a true freshman. “I think I’ve gotten used to the whole system and the speed at which things come … I have confidence there now.”

This spring, hang time is what the Buffs are emphasizing, according to special teams coach, Kent Riddle. “When your gross punt average is not very good, it’s hard for the net punt average to be great (CU was last in the Big 12 in both categories last season),” said Riddle, “unless you’ve got tremendous hang time. So we’re really emphasizing hang time, hang time, hang time.”

As a senior in high school, Grossnickle averaged 40 yards per punt, with ten punts over 50 yards.

Right now, Grossnickle is not only the best option at punter – realistically, he’s the only option. It will be worth Buff fans’ time this spring to chart his progress.

Checking in with Kasa and MTM

Two players Buff fans are hoping will have breakout seasons in 2010 are guard Maxwell Tuioti-Mariner and defensive lineman Nick Kasa. Both were highly touted recruits; both played as true freshmen.

Both got hurt.

MTM sat out all of the 2009 season after undergoing two knee surgeries. Good enough to join the starting lineup in the second game of his freshman season (2008), Tuioti-Mariner said he “feels like this the year”. With Ryan Miller out for the spring, MTM is getting even more playing time, and may be settling in at the right guard position. “I’m seeing more time, but the competition is really good,” said Tuioti-Mariner. “David Clark, Shawn Daniels – we’ve got some really good O-linemen”.

Nick Kasa did play in 2009 – briefly. Out for much of fall practice, and the first three games of the season. Kasa saw his first action in the final play of the West Virginia game. After playing in part of four game (47 plays overall), Kasa was sidelined with mononucleosis. Due to the number of games played in, as well as the timing of those games, Kasa was denied a red-shirt season.

Now healthy, Kasa is ready to burn off some pent-up energy. “Mostly, it just made me mad,” said Kasa of his abbreviated 2009 season. “I couldn’t get my red-shirt, which was unfortunate, and it really angered me and gave me a lot of motivation to do well this year.” Dan Hawkins also hopes the lost season will motivate Kasa. “You need to use that stuff for fuel,” said Hawkins. “I think he has so far. He’s had a really good off-season in the weight room, and he’s running around right now pretty good as a player.”

Coming off a 3-9 season, the Buffs need all hands on deck, especially those who could be game-changers. MTM and Kasa fit that mold, and a good (healthy) spring for both of them will make the remainder of the off-season a little easier to take.

March 11th

Buffs move into 2nd at midway point of NCAA Championships

Rebounding from a difficult day on the alpine slopes, the Colorado ski team moved from 6th place into 2nd on the second of four days of competition at the NCAA ski championships in Steamboat Springs.

The alpine team posted some disappointing numbers on Wednesday, but the Nordic team helped boost the Buffs’ chances of catching rival Denver University for the team title with a strong performance on Thursday. Senior Matt Gelso won the individual classical NCAA title, as the Colorado men finished 1st, 4th, and 20th in  the 10K race. Gelso, from Truckee, California, became just the 2nd American-born skier to win the NCAA classical race, which dates back to 1976. Gelso won five straight races to close out his CU career, and the first place finish gave him his 14th individual title.

With the good showing by the men, and a decent performance by the women in their 5K race (finishing 4th, 7th, and 19th), Colorado passed three other schools and narrowed the gap with first-place Denver. “The whole Nordic performance gives the team a second chance,” said Colorado head coach Richard Rokos. “I think we’re in the hunt. The girls maintained, for the most part, and the guys brought us back into the race. Coming from sixth to second is a huge confidence booster. It puts everything on the line for the slalom; it’s a make or break day. It’ll be a rodeo tomorrow.”

Colorado still has a great deal of points to make up (Denver leads with 420 points; Colorado is second with 351. The winner of an event scores 50 points for their team; 2nd place is worth 45, with descending point totals thereafter – which is why it is good to have three racers in every event, which Colorado does). Friday’s event will be the slalom, with the final, freestyle cross-country race to take place on Saturday.

If you believe in omens, the comparisons to Colorado’s comeback NCAA title – also won at Steamboat – continue to parallel. Those championships witnessed a Colorado team bounce back from a 6th place start to take the title. In 2006, as was the case this year, the Buffs used a strong second day to move from 6th to 2nd. If you are hopeful the trend will continue, it bears noting that on the third day of the championships four years ago, the Buffs moved into a slight lead, then blew away the competition on the final day of Nordic skiing.

[Note: if you are interested in following the Buffs to an 18th national title in skiing, you will have to be patient Friday. The slalom competition will be conducted “under the lights”, with the championships beginning at 6:30 p.m. Friday night with the men’s first run, followed by the women at 7:30. The second runs will be conducted at 8:30 and 9:30 p.m.]

Buffs practice for first time in pads

Colorado practiced for the first time in pads – and for the third time overall – on Thursday.

The Buffs have also been practicing with referees this spring. In 2009, Colorado ranked 118th in the nation in penalties, ahead of only Texas Tech and Arizona State. “A lot of it is confidence, and a lot of it is experience,” said coach Dan Hawkins. “We’re just working on it, focusing on it, concentrating on it.”

Also trying to concentrate is the Buffs’ newest assistant coach, Robert Prince. Named to the position of wide receivers coach less than a month ago, Prince has had to hit the ground running. “Right now I know where the campus is, I know where my hotel is, and I know where a couple of grocery stores are,” Prince told BuffStampede.com. Of what he has seen of his charges so far, Prince is pleased. “I like my guys. These are guys who want to work hard,” said Prince. “They want to be coached, they want to get better. That is all you can ask for, really.”

Of those in camp (Markques Simas is suspended; Terdema Ussery is excused), Prince had praise for senior Scotty McKnight: “He has got the ability to make a lot of plays. He can create space and get open, and he is a sure-handed guy”, as well as junior transfer Toney Clemons: “Clemons has great ability. He has to keep working, and he is very willing to work hard.”

Two names Prince singled out are not as familiar to Buff fans. Prince noted that walk-ons Dustin Ebner (a sophomore) and Kyle Cefalo (a junior transfer, by way of Oregon State) have made plays the first week of practice.

March 10th

At least one Buff had a good day

On a day when the Colorado men’s basketball team fell in the first round of the Big 12 tournament (again), and where the #1 ranked CU ski team finished in 6th place after the first of four days of racing at the national championships, at least one Buff had a good day …

… make that a former Buff.

Colorado defensive back Benjamin Burney shone during the Pro Timing Day on the CU campus Wednesday. Burney was one of 11 Buffs trying to impress NFL scouts, and he surpassed his teammates in three of the five categories tested, including the 40-yard dash (4.38), vertical jump (39 inches), and short shuttle (4.10 seconds). “I’ve been training really hard,” said Burney, who has been working out in Florida with a personal trainer. “I came out and felt good, powerful and strong. I felt like I could have run a faster time, but I was happy.”

Amongst the other Buffs who participated in Pro Timing Day Wednesday was linebacker Marcus Burton, who had the most bench presses (25) and the longest broad jump (10′ 2.75″). Also taking on the skills test were cornerback Cha’pelle Brown (4.54 in the 40), running back Kevin Moyd (also a 4.54 in the 40), and linebackers Jeff Smart and Shaun Mohler. Tight end Riar Geer, the one Buff who was invited to the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis a few weeks ago, did not work out on Wednesday.

Ski Team hopes history repeats itself

The Colorado ski team looked to be in prime position this week to claim its 18th national championship. The stars were all aligned: 1) Colorado qualified a full 12-skier team, vital for schools hoping to win the national championship; 2) The Buffs were the #1 ranked team in the nation, having dominated for much of the winter in the western races; and 3) the championships were at “home”, with the competition taking place in Steamboat Springs.

Then, the competition began.

The NCAA championships take place over four days, with teams alternating between alpine and nordic events. On Wednesday, the giant slalom skiers took the slopes, and while junior Katie Hartman finished a promising 3rd amongst the women, the remaining five skiers posted disappointing times. In the women’s events, the Buffs finished 3rd, 12th and 25th, while the men came in 16th, 21st and 27th. “The strategy was to finish without making any mistakes, and to finish the two runs” said CU ski team coach Richard Rokos. “We made mistakes today, and that cost us 70 points, if not more. Some might call it bad luck, but I call it mistakes.”

The mediocre finishes by the alpine team place Colorado in 6th place overall, with 143 points, well behind the leader – and two time defending national champion – Denver University. It will be up to the nordic team to try and make up some ground on Thursday, when the classical cross country races are conducted. Colorado usually fares better in the cross country arena than some of its rivals (and the results are less volatile than the alpine events), so perhaps there will be some good news to report tomorrow night.

Also in the Buffs’ favor … history. In 2006, the last time the NCAA ski championships took place in Steamboat Springs, the eventual champion sat in 6th place after the first day of competition.

The NCAA champion in 2006?

Colorado.  

March 9th

The “Pinstripe Bowl”

No, they’re not kidding. That bastion of college football, New York City, which has given us the Gotham Bowl and the Garden State Bowl, has now come up with the “Pinstripe Bowl”. On December 30th, the inaugural Pinstripe Bowl will pit the #6 Big 12 team against the #3 team from the Big East (if played after the 2009 season, the game would have been between 8-4 Rutgers and 6-6 Texas A&M) .

The game will be played in the new Yankee Stadium, and will be televised by ESPN. “I think no matter what the sport, every kid who grows up wants to play in Yankee Stadium”, said Yankees president Randy Levine. Forget the poor sentence structure (“every kid who grows up”?), the New York bias is certainly showing through. Anyone want to take a poll of Big 12 players to see if they would rather be in the snow in New York on December 30th, or in the sun in San Diego for the Holiday Bowl? The contract, previously announced, is for six years, with each game to be played between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

If you’re thinking that the first Pinstripe Bowl will be the first football game played in the new Yankee stadium, you would be incorrect. Notre Dame will play Army on the same field this November 20th.

If you’re thinking that no Big 12 team has played in a bowl game in the Big Apple before, you would also be incorrect. There were two “Gotham Bowls”, played in the old Yankee Stadium, in 1961 and ’62. Present day Big 12 members Baylor and Nebraska just happened to be participants in the only Gotham Bowls ever played. Baylor defeated 10th-ranked Utah State (really, the Aggies were ranked 10th!), 24-9, on December 9, 1961, while Nebraska defeated Miami (Fla.), 36-34, on December 15, 1962. [Be honest. At what other website can you get such completely irrelevant – but great – trivia?]

Ryan Miller hurt, out for the rest of spring practice

Junior offensive lineman Ryan Miller will miss the rest of spring practice after undergoing surgery on his right forearm. Miller had off-season corrective surgery for ligament damage, with a plate inserted in his arm to strengthen the surgically repaired site. In practice on Saturday, Miller broke a plate and a screw in that forearm. The surgery Monday will keep Miller out of spring practice, but he should be back in the lineup this fall.

Anthony Tucker added to staff

Anthony Tucker has joined the Colorado coaching staff as an offensive technical intern. Tucker comes to Boulder from Lakewood high school in Lakewood, California, where he has been an assistant coach since 2006. Fortunately, Tucker’s resume includes more coaching than wide receivers and special teams in Lakewood. After playing wide receiver for Fresno State, Tucker played in the NFL for the New York Giants and St. Louis Rams.

The defensive technical intern position, filled until recently by Ashley Ambrose, remains open. Ambrose was promoted to defensive secondary coach when Greg Brown left for Arizona in December. The Buffs, according to Dan Hawkins, are “getting close” to filling the defensive technical intern position.

 March 8th

News and notes from this past weekend
 
K.I.S.S.
 
That seems to be the mantra for the Colorado offense this spring. Offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau wants to simplify the offense, in hopes that the Buffs will be more effective this fall. “It’s really going to come down to two concepts, five or six plays. That’s it. That’s all we’re going to do in the run game,” said Kiesau. “We’re going to get really good at it.” Kiesau went on to note that the difficulties in maintaining success on the field last season had more to do with the Buffs’ mental errors than it did with the schemes the opposition were running. “I think I’ve got it narrowed down to a good little package that I’ll take through spring,” said Kiesau. “Then we’re going to chop it down even more, because I want – and I’ve told the offensive staff this – as we go through the spring I want them to see this block of plays we’ve done well with for the last couple of years. Now, let’s see if we can refine it even more.”
 
Another reason to simplify the running game, of course, is that Colorado has a decided lack of depth at running back. For now, though, having five or six plays run to perfection is better than a dozen plays run fairly well. “We’re memorizing those plays, and we’re going to do those plays perfect,” said quarterback Tyler Hansen.
 
For the conspiracy theorists …
 
Colorado head coach Dan Hawkins just can’t seem to leave well enough alone when it comes to the quarterback battle.

“Both have done good things for us,” said Hawkins this weekend. “Cody has more wins than Tyler, but Tyler has proven he can do some good things as well.” Really, coach? Do ya’ think that maybe Cody has more wins because he has started three times as many games? I’ve been working on finishing up the 1984 and 1985 seasons for the archives (some good stories in there, by the way), and it struck me how many career passing records were set by Steve Vogel. Of course, Colorado was never known as a passing team before Bill McCartney arrived, but still, Steve Vogel set most of the standards (All have since been passed, including the all-time interceptions record, finally passed in 2009 by, you guessed it, Cody). Translation: you don’t get to count positive totals in a vacuum, coach. You have to acknowledge the bad with the good.
 
Hawkins has already stated that the quarterback position is not likely to be decided this spring. He should just leave it at that. Quotes like the one above helps to fuel the fire that Hawkins will find an excuse to start Cody this fall, enraging the Buff Nation.

Prince fitting in

New wide receivers coach has already had an impact – at least on his offensive coordinator. Eric Kiesau believes that the Buffs will not lose a step with Robert Prince as the newest coach on the Buffs’ staff. The “coaching trees” between the coaches (both coached with former Arizona State coach Dirk Koetter and current California coach Jeff Tedford) has made the transition easier. “Him fitting in and having a feel for the offense and knowing the concepts,” said Kiesau. “It’s been seemless, just awesome.”

Prince’s NFL background is also seen as a plus. “He’ll bring structure, attention to detail, accountability,” said Kiesau. “And there’s an instant respect within that receiver group just because he came from the NFL … All of those receivers want to go where he’s been.”
 
Brad Bedell leaving
 
Colorado’s offensive technical intern Brad Bedell has been hired as the offensive line coach at Northern Colorado. Bedell was an All-American lineman at Colorado (1998-99), and played in 40 NFL games over an injury-filled seven year career.

This can actually be seen as a positive for the Buffs. Bedell is a loyal Buff, and the short move up to Greeley keeps him close to the program. At Northern Colorado, Bedell will gain experience which would not be available to him right now in Boulder, and he can prove himself worthy of returning to CU in a more prominent role in future years.
 
Before he left, though, Bedell did say that junior college transfer Eric Richter had made a good first impression. “(Richter) needs work; he’s not there yet,” said Bedell of Richter, who enrolled at Colorado in January. “But he is going to be a good player; a very good player.”
 
Regent Vote correction
 
Boulder Daily Camera columnist Neill Woelk posted on his blog that the 1994 vote by the CU Board of Regents concerning joining the Pac-10 has been erroneously reported. It has been widely reported that the vote of the Regents was 5-4 against the move, but Woelk is now reporting that the vote was 6-3. Woelk also states – and this is truly disheartening – that three new Regents had been elected in November, but had not yet been sworn in. Had the new Regents been in place, the vote would have been 6-3 in favor of the move.

What might have been … Sad.

March 6th

First Practice – by the Numbers

Colorado conducted its first practice of the Spring on Saturday, the first of the 15 practices allowed under NCAA rules. Saturday’s practice was the first of the three practices which will be conducted in shorts and helmets only (the other two are next Tuesday, and then the final practice before the Spring Game April 10th). While it is highly unlikely that a starting job was won or lost Saturday, the release of the Positional Depth Chart and spring roster by the CU athletic department do have some listings of note.

Under the kickoff/punt return list, you will find no fewer than ten names. Granted, teams use the spring to experiment, but the long list certainly suggests that the Buffs are not content with finishing the 2009 season ranked 117th in punt returns. In addition to the players who had punt and kickoff returns last fall (Jason Espinoza, Scotty McKnight, Arthur Jaffee, Rodney Stewart and Brian Lockridge) there are receivers Toney Clemons, Will Jefferson, and Andre Simmons, there is safety – and former running back – Ray Polk, and running back Quentin Hildreth. One of the early storylines this spring will certainly involve which players are being given the most opportunities to return kicks.

There are also four players vying to replace four-year starter Justin Drescher at the snapper positions. Drescher was Colorado’s short and long-snapper, and now the Buffs have listed (in alphabetical order) Joe Silipo, Ethan Adkins, and Sione Tau at short-snapper, with Silipo, Mario Conte, and Tau at long-snapper. That Adkins and Tau are also listed amongst the offensive linemen, with walk-0n Conte also listed as a wide receiver, suggests that the job is Joe Silipo’s to lose.

Buffs playing with nine walk-ons

The spring roster lists nine participating walk-ons. Included on the list are two juniors: safety Alan Downing and tight end Joe Fleming; four sophomores: defensive end Sean Gomerdinger; quarterback Matt Johnson; safety Devon Martin; and defensive end Michael O’Conner; and three freshmen: tight end Matt Allen; defensive end Guido Muring; and wide receiver Alex Turbow. Of those on the list, you have to cheer for Sean Gomerdinger and Guido Muring – just for the names.

Five Players inactive

With the roster comes the listing of five players who will not be participating with their 91 teammates this spring. Two are out with injuries – sophomore defensive tackle Nate Bonsu (knee surgery) and junior cornerback Anthony Wright (knee surgery). The other three are not medically related, with junior wide receiver Markques Simas suspended, sophomore defensive back Steven Hicks held out due to academic issues, and red-shirt freshman Terdema Ussery excused for the spring to deal with family issues. With the exception of Simas, whose path to reinstatement remains undisclosed, the Buffs expect to have all of the above mentioned players back for the fall.

March 4th

How good is your memory?

Colorado head coach Dan Hawkins’ first words about the 2010 quarterback race were not unexpected. “We’ll see how it shakes out,” said Hawkins said in a controlled interview with CU’s own B.G. Brooks. “Both of those guys (Tyler Hansen and Cody Hawkins) will play with the ‘ones’ and the ‘twos’. We’ll evaluate them every day and see what happens in the scrimmages. And then we’ll see where we’re at.”

Hope you didn’t just throw your mouse across the room.

It’s okay. As you read here a few weeks ago, this was to be anticipated. “So don’t go nuclear if you read about the quarterback race being an ‘open competition’ “, were the wise words posted in the “Spring First Look: Offense” on February 20th. Nothing’s changed here. In fact, there is no guarantee that Buff fans won’t still be sweating out the naming of a starter well into the summer. When asked about naming a starter at the end of spring practice, Hawkins was non-committal. “I think after the spring game you’d like to (name a starting quarterback”, but you just have to wait and see where you’re at,” said Hawkins. “If there’s a clear emergence or a strong feeling one way or another amongst the guys on the staff, you do it. If there’s not, there’s not.”

So, as spring practice opens, Tyler Hansen is not the annointed starter …. and likely won’t be when spring practice concludes.

Patience.

Other quotable quotes from Dan Hawkins

Off-season preparation: “They’ve worked really hard this off-season. I think our results are showing up again in the weight room”.

Spring areas of emphasis: “A lot of football always comes down to run the football and stop the run … I think certainly from an emphasis standpoint, getting turnovers and eliminating turnovers is a big part of it … Then, for us, in special teams in terms of kicking/punting the ball and being able to be more consistent.”

Dan Hawkins on Position changes:

Clark Evans from quarterback to tight end … “He’s big, strong, and he can run. He’s athletic. You just knew he was something.”

Jost Moten from quarterback to defensive back … “He’s a DB … early reports on him and Clark from the players, they like him and Clark in those positions.”

Liloa Nobriga from linebacker to defensive end … “We still have him at linebacker right now. If he were to put on some more weight … we’ll see where he plays.”

First practice is this Saturday morning, followed by Junior Day Saturday afternoon.

9 Replies to “The Colorado Daily”

  1. Stuart

    Nice work,as usual. My thoughts are hot and cold on a move. Having grown up with the Buffs in the Big-8, I grew attached to the old rivalries. BUT, I recognize we live in different times, money dominates and the BIG XII isn’t the old Big-8. I suppose it wouldn’t be bad to hit AZ, CA and WA for road trips instead of Stillwater, Manhattan and Sitnkin’ Lincoln! It seems to be a slow dance to the eventual result of a change inscenery for the Buffs.

  2. Re: The tauntiing rule change and Dave Perry’s “rarely called” statement – how about the reverse of your scenario – Boulder, day after T-day 2011, CU leading by 2, when a Big Red linebacker intercepts a ball in the closing seconds. He’s storming for the G-line 3 steps ahead of the desparately pursuing tackler. With a big grin, he holds the ball out backwards as if to say “Here it is but you’re not going to get it!” but the ref hailing from Scottsbluff doesn’t see it as taunting! Game lost and another nightmarish ending for Buff fans.

  3. Multiple coaches handling different parts of the special teams? Differing coaching philosphy (Hags v Kiesau on the 9on7 NONdrills). This place has just lost all credibility. What a shame. Looks like it’s gonna be a LONG season AGAIN.

  4. Stuart,

    Have you heard anything about which positions the O-linemen are competing at? (besides the usual starters) For instance, is Itis playing both guard and center?; Bahr, Atkins and Behrens competing at LG? Tau playing OT or OG? The 3 new RS freshmen?

    Thanks for the great updates!

  5. I would like to see junior Sione Tau get a chance at a starting rotation job at defensive tackle and nose guard instead of stuck on the depth chart on offense , and let him decide for himself and play at what weight he feels comfortable . He has the fire in the belly to play again and we need the size…

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