As a measure of the work that Hawkins and his staff have done over the past three weeks, only two of the high school prospects visiting this weekend were also targeted by the previous staff at CU.
The 15 visitors is a larger group than expected, and perhaps evidence that the new staff found its stride on the recruiting trails this week. That's what offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich indicated.
"It's gotten better," Helfrich said about recruiting. "It's really picked up and gotten a lot better the last few days. This whole week has been great."
Coaches are not allowed to comment on specific prospects before signing day, but asked if any of the 15 expected visitors are "impact players" Hawkins shot back, "if they're not impact players, we're not bringing them in here."
CU coaches have often been traveling in groups the past few weeks on recruiting trips. On Feb. 1, it's likely to play out that most of the success will come from the Western region, and California, in particular.
Defensive coordinator Ron Collins said the staff has been well received on the West Coast. However, don't expect Colorado to pull many, if any, recruits that hadn't verbally committed to the old staff from Texas, a state from which Colorado typically gets several players per class.
"We really haven't got back into Texas, probably as much, just because it's a little more unfamiliar territory," Collins said. "We definitely have to try to establish ourselves down in that territory. We're basically hitting the kids that we know of that either had shown an interest in Colorado or had at one point committed (from Texas)."
One of the confirmed visitors scheduled to be in Boulder this weekend is quarterback Cody Hawkins, son of the new CU head coach. Cody Hawkins was a participant in the prestigious Elite 11 quarterback camp last year, and has not lost a football game as a starting quarterback since 7th grade. He is choosing between Boise State and the Buffs. He was a lock to go to Boise State until his father took the Colorado job.
While the NCAA does not allow college coaches to comment to the press about specific prospects until they've signed a letter of intent, the rules are up for interpretation when the prospect also happens to be the son of the coach involved in his recruitment.
Back at his hiring press conference in December, Dan Hawkins had this to say about Cody: "He is a very, very good player. He was the Player of the Year in Idaho. He's not the tallest guy around, but the guy can sling the ball. He's very knowledgeable and he's a great kid — all of those things I'd love to have in our football program."
The coach was still operating on Boise State's interpretation of the rules back then. On Friday, Hawkins declined to comment on Cody, a senior at Bishop Kelly High School in Boise.
Asked about the rules on commenting on his son, Hawkins said, "The whole rules interpretation thing is interesting because when I was at Boise, they didn't care. They interpreted me as a Dad, and they were fine with (comments about Cody). Here, they're interpreting me as a coach and they're not fine with that. And that's fine. If your boss tells you that's the rule, that's the rule. I'm good with that."
Hawkins did say, however, that recruiting had been going well, before qualifying the statement.
"I've been very fired up. It's been going good," Hawkins said. "People always ask that. And until you get right down to the finish line, you never really know. You can be optimistic, but much like life, you need to finish."
The Buffs have 12 known commitments, but one, juco transfer Thomas Perez, could count toward last year's class. It is believed the Buffs have 21 or 22 scholarships to give. Hawkins said he won't necessarily award them all on Feb. 1, the national signing day.
"I'll be honest with you, I've always tried to keep one, two or three in the hip pocket," Hawkins said. "I don't necessarily fill up every time. You never know. You need to go through spring ball and evaluate your team, you look at injuries, at academics. Some kid emerges out of some obscure place you've never heard of before and they go, ‘Man, I've got this kid, if you've got a scholarship.' So I always like to have a couple in the hip pocket."
It would follow then that Hawkins isn't a fan of oversigning, taking more letters of intent than the program has scholarships to give, not an uncommon practice around the country.
"I think as long as you are honest with kids and you let them know what's going on and what the circumstances are in terms of saying, ‘Look, we're going to sign you if this guy doesn't make it. Or if he makes it, we're going to greyshirt you.' But I'm not in favor of just saying, ‘Let's go five or 10 over and somewhere in there we'll make it up. That's no way to do business with kids.'"
One of the priorities for Hawkins and his staff the past three weeks has been building relationships with Colorado high school coaches, in order to do business with them now and in the future. That was the main focus the staff's first week on the job, the first week of January. Hawkins made it a point to meet with the verbal commits left over from the former regime who live inside the borders before heading out and shoring up commits from other states.
Still, there's more work to be done, Hawkins said.
"We haven't had as much exposure or dialogue as we'd like to (with the Colorado high school coaches), but we've been reaching out through e-mail and phone calls, and getting around," Hawkins said. "The first week I did Colorado. Actually one of the other kids (from out-of-state) that was on the list was a little bit irritated that I didn't come see him that week. I told him, ‘ Just so you know, I'm taking care of Colorado first.'"
Along with Cody Hawkins, the other official visitors scheduled to come in this weekend include Los Angeles (Jordan) athlete Ricky Thenarse; Colton, Calif., cornerback James Smith; San Diego (U. of San Diego HS) running back Demetrius Sumler and Bellflower (St. John Bosco), Calif., linebacker Jamar Brown. (BSN will follow up over the weekend to find out the rest of the visitors.)
All of the new assistants have been to Boulder except defensive line coach Romeo Bandison. Bandison has been on the recruiting trail, but has been based back in Boise because his wife just gave birth to twins in recent days.
Hawkins said having a prospect as a son has been a learning experience for he and his wife, Misti. "It really sheds a lot of light on the whole process and what kids go through and even to some degree what their parents go through," Hawkins said. "Here I am a coach and very close with my wife, and we've been doing this for a long time. But it's funny how much she's been involved how many questions she has and how much there is she doesn't know about."
Asked if the new staff was using the same master list of recruiting targets the old staff was using, Helfrich indicated they weren't. "Our strategy is a little bit different. It's not that it's good, better or worse, it's just different. We've tried to change targets at certain positions. Some of those at this point in recruiting are a little bit unrealistic, but we're getting there."