On Wednesday,Dan Hawkins gave his first Signing Day press conference wearing black and gold Colorado clothes. By day's end, the Buffs had signed 21 players to letters of intent.
It's normal to notice contrast between Hawkins and his predecessor, Gary Barnett. One striking difference between the two on Signing Day was that, unlike Barnett, Hawkins seemed to want to underplay his class. He was positive about it, but only in general terms. When asked about a particular player, he lit up when talking about the kid, and he said, "we wouldn't offer these guys and give them a scholarship if we didn't think they were our kind of player, our kind of person and our kind of student."
But he wasn't about to place too high of expectations on the group. There were no proclamations about how this player "would be a four-year starter," or how that player would "start as a freshman," or "this kid will be a team captain," all labels that seemed to be the kiss of death when Barnett would let them fly on the first Wednesday in February.
Asked twice which players he thought would make immediate impacts, Hawkins would only mention juco transfer offensive lineman Erick Faatagi, and that's in part due to poor depth along the line. Hawkins said you never really know where the impact players will come from.
Hawkins did say he was concerned with signing enough players at offensive and defensive line. While he said he wished they would've signed more, he qualified that by saying he always wishes his team had more beef brothers.
"I like this class in a couple of areas," Hawkins said. "I totally believe a team is built up front with your D-line and your O-line. I think we made some major strides there. We have some quality guys who are going to bring some talent and depth (to those positions)."
Line players in the class include offensive prospects Quinton Borders, Bill Boyer, Wes Simon and juco transfer Erick Faatagi. Slotted for the defensive line are Jason Brace, Marquez Herrod and Eric Lawson.
A few questions about exactly which position a handful of players were being recruited to were cleared up Wednesday, but the coach said positions are fluid. In other words, nothing's set in stone. But Lawson is listed at DT, Nate Solder at tight end and Justin Nonu at inside linebacker. Nonu is listed by CU at 270, but Hawkins said he may indeed be bigger. He said Nonu doesn't look that big and moves well, and he'll be given a shot at linebacker.
All Jobs Open
Hawkins reiterated Wednesday that all jobs are open come spring ball. He's made that clear to the team.
"I said, ‘Guys, guess what? Good, bad or indifferent, there's no starters. I don't care who you are, you need to start showing right now (during conditioning) that you're the starter,'" Hawkins said.
Start it Up Again
Hawkins said the staff is already trying to "sink our teeth in a little bit on some junior recruiting."
He said, "That's something we want to get out of the gates fast with. Certainly for this staff to have a year-round process where you can evaluate and develop relationships, it will help us even more. When they have a year to go out and get the best guys in the nation, I think we will do a good job of that. (The recruiting process) is a work in progress that we will continue to build on."
Hawkins will begin one-on-one meetings with players next week.
"I've kind of pulled a few guys off to the side here and there; some that needed a kick in the pants, some that needed a pat on the back," he said. "But I will sit down with all those guys individually next week and start getting soul to soul with them."
Spring Ball on Tap
Spring ball begins March 13. The team will not practice weekends. They will practice certain weekdays for two weeks, have spring break off, then practice two more weeks before the April 15 Spring Game
Senior-to-be (in terms of eligibility) holder Nick Holz has been placed on scholarship.
For reasons that are unclear, junior college transfer running back Thomas Perez signed a financial aid contract instead of an LOI. He will not be at CU for spring ball, but is expected to be Boulder in the summer. BS N reported earlier that Perez failed to take a required course last year and must make up the work this semester.
Pro Timing Day
Pro timing day will take place March 3 at Colorado. In addition, five Buffs — Brian Iwuh, Joe Klopfenstein, Quinn Sypniewski, John Torp and Lawrence Vickers — are among the 281 invitees at the NFL combine Feb. 22-28 in Indianapolis.
Dominique Brooks (knee, surgery Jan. 10O, Tyler Polumbus (shoulder, surgery Jan. 10) and Jack Tipton (knee, surgery Dec. 16) are OUT for spring ball. Brandon Caesar (knee, surgery July 29) and Blake Mackey (knee, surgery Aug. 16) are QUESTIONABLE for spring ball. Lorenzo Sims (knee, surgery Jan. 31) and Terrence Wheatley (wrist) are PROBABLE.
Some Hawk Perspective
Hawkins hit the ground running when he took the CU job, and January was a particularly busy month for the coach as he and his staff played catch up in the recruiting game. In one particular five-day period, Hawkins was in 12 airports. He made in-home visits with every one of the CU signees, except for Thomas Perez, as well as several players who went elsewhere.
Asked if he was glad the hectic period of recruiting was over, Hawkins had this to say: "I'm not. I appreciate every day. I'm not that old, but trust me: I'm 45, and it seemed like just the other day I was 21. I don't wish away any day. When people say, ‘Are you glad two-a-days are over? Are you glad recruiting is over?' I'm never like that. Last week I was right in the thick of it.
"I was in a bunch of airports and trying to make connections, and I'm just like, ‘Hey, that's livin' brother. I've got a job, and I'm just livin'.'
"I don't wish away those days. I just think there's so many people that live there lives like, ‘Oh, geez, it's Monday. It's Hump Day, then Thank God it's Friday.' Why do we live like that? I mean I got to see John Hessler over here today in the gym and got to talk to him in the gym a little bit. It's a blessing we're alive every day."
Hawkins did say the travel takes him away from his family, something he doesn't like. Then again, he said, it could be much, much more difficult.
"I'm in all these airports and I see all these kids that look like they're 15 years old in Army fatigues headed off for Iraq. I always go, ‘I got it a lot better than those guys got it.' I'm not complaining. I'm not complaining.
"When I start feeling sorry for myself, I see those guys in the airport and I tell myself to quit complaining."
Hawkins said he looks for guys that have an academic zeal, not just qualifiers. That being said, Hawkins indicated he thought all the signees would qualify and be here in August.