Buffs QB Hansen settling in

For the first time in his career, Colorado quarterback Tyler Hansen doesn't have anyone looking over his shoulder as he takes the reins to the offense.

BOULDER - Tyler Hansen has spent three years looking over his shoulder.

This season, the Colorado quarterback plans on looking straight ahead.

Anointed the starter back in April, Hansen is eager to lead the Buffaloes during his final season at CU.

"It's a big weight off my shoulders," Hansen said. "I think it helps the team out knowing who the guy is and they know who the leader is on offense."

That hasn't always been clear during Hansen's career. He and Cody Hawkins - the son of former Buffs coach Dan Hawkins - took turns as the starting quarterback the past three years. Hansen has started at least two games in each of the past three years. But, every time he took the field, there was always that hint of doubt about whether Hawkins should be on the field. And, on more than one occasion, Hansen was taken out and replaced by Hawkins.

"I didn't want to make a mistake," Hansen said. "You throw a pick here, you're like, 'Hey, I might not get to rep with the (starters).' It kind of limits you when you're looking over your shoulder a little bit. It just plays with your mind. It's not a good feeling. At quarterback, you don't want that at all. You want to be comfortable out there."

This is actually the second year in a row that Hansen has gone into the year as the starter, but in 2010, Dan Hawkins took the quarterback battle down the wire - at least publicly.

New head coach Jon Embree said it "helps a lot" for the team to know early who the starter will be. It helps Hansen, too.

"Now I'm the starter and I can just go out there and let it fly," he said. "I have to be careful with that too. Sometimes you can get too comfortable and make dumb mistakes."

That's what Hansen, Embree and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy hope to avoid. And while any player at any time could be benched, Embree and Bieniemy have supreme confidence in Hansen.

"Tyler is a team guy," Bieniemy said. "Will we ask him to do a few things that he may not feel comfortable with? Maybe. But, the bottom line is we want Tyler to lead, we want Tyler to go out there and perform at a high level. We just want him to go out there and have a great deal of fun."

When asked to describe his role this season, Hansen said he has to be a "game manager." That's a term that often makes football fans cringe. The general perception is that a "game manager" is not a very exciting quarterback to watch. Managing the game, however, is what CU feels it needs from Hansen in order to be successful.

"First of all, it's the leadership aspect of it," Bieniemy said. "On top of that, having a calming demeanor in that huddle. Then, just being on the field, we'll call some alerts and some audibles, making sure he's putting us in the right situation and being efficient with the football. All of that is part of managing the game. We don't need him to be a hero. We need to make sure he's managing the game effectively and efficiently."

To be as effective as possible, Hansen's game may be a bit different than what CU fans are used to. Hansen has always been effective running the ball. He may still do that, but how he runs - and when - could change.

"You have to be smart with how you play, know when to take hits, know when to get out of bounds, know when to throw the ball away," he said. "They told me to act like an NFL quarterback and those guys never take hits. They're always out of bounds, they're always sliding. That's what I have to do."

Bieniemy spent the past several years on the Minnesota Vikings' coaching staff. During the past two years, he worked with future Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre, who was known for his gunslinger mentality and his knack for making plays out of nothing.

Hansen is no Favre, but Bieniemy also doesn't want to hold his senior back by limiting his ability to make a play with his legs.

"You never want to tell a quarterback to just stay in the pocket and not be creative," Bieniemy said. "Obviously if things break down, we want him to use his feet, step up into the pocket and make things happen."

Asked if the CU offense will look similar to the Vikings' offense, Bieniemy smiled and said, "We'll see. That's a secret.

"I will say this, and I honestly believe this, in order for you to have a chance, you have to be able to run the ball. You also have to be able to line up and throw the ball effectively and efficiently. That's why I'm glad we have a senior quarterback who understands and he gets it."

And, Hansen is glad to be a senior quarterback without anyone looking over his shoulder.

"It's been night and day," he said. "There is a different feel. It's a good feel, though. I can go out there and just play."

NOTES: Hansen said he has no medical concerns going into the season. His 2010 season came to close on Oct. 23 when he was hit and ruptured his spleen against Texas Tech. Hansen said the next time he will get hit is Sept. 3 when the Buffs open the season at Hawaii. "I do (want to get hit in practice), but the coaches don't want me to," he said. "My first hit, I think it's going to feel good. I'm looking forward to that." ... Hansen completed 68.3 percent of his passes (112-for-164) for 1,102 yards, six touchdowns and six interceptions in 2010. He also ran for 177 yards, not counting sacks. ... For his career, Hansen has completed 59.8 percent of his throws (275-for-460) for 2,822 yards, 15 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.

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