After having its final chance at bowl eligibility erased by the foot of Nebraska kicker Alex Henery in last year's season finale, Colorado was sent back to the drawing board this offseason.
While there are still plenty of question marks left to be answered, the Buffaloes will be counting on a cast of freshmen and sophomores to help get them back to the postseason this season in head coach Dan Hawkins' fourth year in Boulder.
The biggest question of the spring was whether the Buffs would be able to find a clear cut starting quarterback, as Cody Hawkins and Tyler Hansen were both vying for the starting job after ending last season sharing the quarterback duties.
To get a feel for how the spring went for Colorado, Huskeronline.com sat down with CU beat writer Kyle Ringo of the Boulder Daily Camera to get his take on where the Buffaloes are heading into the summer.
Note: This interview was done before the recent rash of players that have transfered from CU the past couple of weeks. So Ringo's comments don't take into account the new changes to the roster.
Were either Cody Hawkins or Tyler Hansen able to separate themselves and emerge as the clear starter?
"I think they made some progress. They lost one of their quarterbacks in Matt Ballenger. He decided to transfer, so they finished the last week of spring ball with only two quarterbacks on the roster. Those two were the guys competing for the starting job – Tyler Hansen and Cody Hawkins – and they got all the reps. So I think that was kind of beneficial for them and for the coaches evaluating them. I think they basically came out of the spring neck and neck. Cody Hawkins might be just a little bit ahead of Tyler because he has a little bit more experience, he's an older player. But I expect the battle to go well into fall camp. I definitely don't think it's decided yet."
If things stay as close as they are, do you foresee the Buffaloes using a two-quarterback system next year?
"The coaches definitely didn't rule that out. Obviously that's how this team ended last season, with Tyler and Cody both getting playing time in just about every game. I could see that happening again, but I don't think that's ideal, and I definitely don't think it's what they're shooting for. I think they're aiming to get one guy named the starter and hopefully go with that guy. But, again, I would be very surprised if both guys didn't get some playing time next fall, just because they're both so close in terms of ability and where they're at as quarterbacks. You know, it's college football, and it's a rough game. It's unusual that one guy makes it through an entire season unscathed. I'd be surprised if you don't see both of them on the field at one time or another next season."
Last year many people thought running back Darrell Scott was going to come in as a true freshman and take the Big 12 Conference by storm. Needless to say, he didn't quite live up to the hype. Did he make any strides this spring?
"He looked like a bit of a different guy this spring just in terms of the fact that he seemed to be more comfortable, he knew what to expect and he knew the offense much better having a season under his belt. But the No. 1 thing with him is that last summer when he got here as a true freshman with all that pressure to live up, he came in and was out of shape. He was like 225 pounds basically when he arrived on campus. This spring when practices started, he was at 200 pounds. So obviously the winter conditioning program and last season helped him out a lot in terms of getting into better shape and making him stronger. I think as a sophomore he's a lot more prepared for the college game.
So will Scott be the starter in the fall?
"I would say at this point that Darrell is the No. 1, but I think you're going to see Colorado play four different tailbacks. Rodney Stewart had a great year last year, and he's back and recovered from his broken ankle that he suffered in the ninth game against Texas A&M. He had a pretty decent spring. You also have Demetrius Sumler, who played a bit last year, and you have Brian Lockridge, who will be a sophomore after redshirted last year. He played a little as a true freshman. I would expect to see all four of those guys on the field at different points. But I think Darrell Scott has to be considered the No. 1 guy."
Another big issue this spring was at wide receiver. Colorado had just three scholarship receivers on the roster this spring. How did that work out?
"Huge, huge depth issues. I mean, they really targeted wide receiver in this past recruiting class, and they actually ended up falling short of their goal. They were hoping to get four or five scholarship receivers signed in this class, and they ended up with three. Four of those guys actually made their decision on National Signing Day, two of them deciding to come to CU and two guys went elsewhere. So they were hoping to get five and they ended up with three, and when you add those three to the three that were already here, they should have a decent little group of receivers. But you've got to make sure all those guys qualify, and with true freshmen and guys coming in from junior colleges, it's always kind of a crapshoot as to how quickly they can learn the system and adapt to the program. That will definitely be interesting. I would say wide receiver is definitely the question mark of the offense at this point."
Almost forgot to address the defense. How are things looking on the other side of the ball?
"They're trying to replace an entire defensive line. I think the defense has some concerns in terms of the defensive line and who exactly is going to be playing and how effective they'll be able to be."
With so much left to be figured out with this team, are there any realistic goals of competing for Big 12 North title this season?
"I think this team is a ways away from being a Big 12 title contender, but just the way the North is this year, I wouldn't count the Buffs out of it by any stretch of the imagination. This is team that had Nebraska on the ropes in the season finale last year, and if not for a 57-yard field goal from a kicker who hadn't made a 50-yard field goal at any point previous to that, the Buffs would've won that game. I guess my point is that the Buffs are still coming up the ladder so to speak. They're playing a lot of freshmen and sophomores the past couple years, and those guys are all going to be sophomores and juniors now. I think there are almost 70 guys in the junior