Buffs Emphasized Tackling in Camp

When you talk about keys to winning a football game, it's easy to roll out the clichés. One cliché that holds true, especially in a season-opener, is the need for crisp tackling. The team that tackles better holds a distinct advantage. Colorado has emphasized that aspect of the game over the spring and during preseason camp.

"That's a big factor in early games," said defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz. "I watched the Virginia Tech-‘SC game (Aug. 28) and there were times when there was sloppy tackling."

The issue is even more of a concern these days with a reduced number of full-contact practices.

"It's a fine line anymore," Hankwitz said. "With limited squad numbers, you can't always scrimmage to the extent you'd like. And an all out scrimmage shows you where you're at from a tackling standpoint.

"We've tried to scrimmage a lot. But the first game usually for both teams is a challenge for both teams to tackle and tackle properly."

At times in 2003, tackling properly was an issue for the Buffs. Defensive line coach Chris Wilson said the defense focused on fundamentals this preseason.

"First things first, you've got to be in great position to make tackles," he said. "That's kind of what we've done, we've scrimmaged enough times where we've kind of got some live reps. But the key is playing fundamentally sound, disciplined, fast football."

Saturday will mark Hankwitz' first time back at Folsom as a Colorado coach since he left in 1994, after a six-year run as defensive coordinator. He said he's been pleased with the effort and progress of CU's defense in practice. But he's been around long enough to know practice doesn't always make perfect.

"You get in a game and you're going to see some things you didn't see in practice," Hankwitz said. "And you may get challenged in some ways you didn't in practice. So we've got to see how we respond and hope that our fundamentals apply, and that we do wrap and rise and drive our legs and do those things."

And if the first guy fails, hopefully there'll be another right there to finish the job.

"We've emphasized getting 11 guys around the football," Wilson said. "Because you're going to miss tackles, and the key is that you only miss it briefly and you get 10 other hats around to get to the football."

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