Spring countdown: Quarterbacks

The start of spring practices under a new coaching staff is less than a month away. The transition means this spring will be more about players learning new systems and schemes than position battles that might be the focus under an entrenched staff. But competition still will be fierce across the depth chart. Today we start our countdown series under center. Get inside for more

Senior Tyler Hansen never has had one of those years where it is just expected that he would be the starter. Much of the reason is because he has had to compete with the head coach's son throughout his career, and let's face it, there never was much separation between Hansen and Cody Hawkins in terms of the results they produced on the field.

Now Hawkins have moved on and Hansen is back for his senior season after recovering from the ruptured spleen that ended his junior year at midseason.

Hansen's goals are simple. He wants to win the starting job once again and keep it for an entire season. He has only played partial seasons in each of his first three years in the program. He also wants to be a team leader, perhaps a captain, and take the Buffs back to the postseason for the first time since 2007

But first-year coach Jon Embree brought in some competition for Hansen this spring in transfere Brent Burnette, a junior with enough experience and confidence to give Hansen all he can handle.

"Tyler is not walking around like, 'I have this job.'" Embree said. "And Nick is not walking around like, 'Oh I'm just the backup and neither is Brent. I think that's great because like I've talked about, they've got to learn to compete. Iron sharpens iron. The better your backup is, the better your starter is. If you beat him out, you beat him out.

"They have all been very competitive. They all show their face around here a lot asking questions and wanting to learn the new offense that we're still the process of putting it all together in a format that they can start learning."

Hansen also already figured to have his hands full with the continued development of redshirt freshman Nick Hirschman. Walk-on Justin Gorman figures to be the fourth quarterback this spring, though there has been talk that former high school quarterbacks such as Josh Moten and Harold Mobley will get a chance to play the position early in spring ball. However, there doesn't seem to be a lot of enthusiasm for either player at quarterback from the new staff.

The change in schemes and play book definitely evens the playing field and removes many of the advantages Hansen held having played so much over the previous two years. Now all the quarterbacks will be learning together and that should eventually lead to the best man getting the nod against Hawaii in September.

Hansen's career numbers aren't going to blow away his new coaches. He has thrown for 2,822 yards, 15 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.

Burnette's career has taken a somewhat similar path to Hansen's at this point. He has played two partial seasons. He served as a backup in 2009 at Middle Tennessee, making one start and six other appearances and had his 2010 campaign at Western Arizona cut short by injury. His numbers also aren't overwhelming. He threw for 1,219 yards, 11 touchdowns and six interceptions in seven games last year.

It would appear that Hansen and Burnette would have an advantage in that they have played at the college level and would be less likely to get rattled and make the kind of mistakes that Hirschman might experience. However, Embree says he has no problem starting a freshman next fall if he believes he is the best man for the job.

Embree says that includes Stevie Dorman, a 6-foot-4 true freshman from Somerset, Texas, who will arrive this summer.

"Stevie's advantage is that the guys who are here only have 15 days," Embree said. "It's not one of those things in a normal situation where Tyler had been in this offense for four years or Hirschman is going into his third year in the offense and knowing all the nuances.

"So depending on how fast they learn and depending what he's capable of learning, because that window is so short, he has a chance. If he can learn quicker than them to show his skills, he'll put himself in position to play. So he is in it."

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