"I think that's probably the biggest stat in winning and losing. We're going to emphasize that," he said after Thursday's practice, the team's third of the spring.
"But you've got to make it fun sometimes," he said.
The defense created three turnovers during the 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 scrimmage situations on Thursday, during a practice in shells (pads and shorts). That meant the offense was due to run a handful of "half gassers" after practice (a half-gasser is a sprint from sideline to sideline and back). But Hawkins decided to give the offense a chance to play its way out of the gassers.
He chose Tom Grubin, Edwin Harrison and Zach Jones and told them to drop back near the goal line and get ready to receive a punt from kicker Mason Crosby. The three offensive linemen could erase some of the gassers with a clean catch. Mind you, Crosby wears a black offense shirt, so it was in his interest to send the three catchable balls.
Let's just say there's a reason Grubin (the walk-on Hawkins affectionately calls "The Grubinator"), Harrison and Jones aren't tight ends. They couldn't hang on to the punts, and the offense ran.
That bit of fun came after the team gathered around a circle of pylons for a sumo-like challenge near the end of practice. In the competition, one offensive player is pitted against a defensive player. Each holds a blocking pad and tries to knock the other out of the ring of pylons, sumo style. The unit from which the losing player comes has to do push ups. On Thursday, the players were having a ball watching the groups of two teammates go at it mano y mano.
"I just like to have a little fun, a little compete," Hawkins said. "We like to do that sumo thing. It's fun for guys to compete and get them going."
• Asked if the team was where he wants them after three spring practices, Hawkins' response was: "Heck no, not at all, not even close." He quickly added that he's very pleased with the attitude and effort of the players, but that he wants better execution.
• Thursday was a no-tackle day. They could hit, but couldn't bring anyone to the ground. It's obvious the players are anxious to crank it up a notch.
• Ben Burney, who was playing corner in 7-on drills, stripped Kevin Moyd on one play, then picked up the ball and ran 40 yards to the end zone. The only person keeping pace with Burney on the jaunt was Coach Hawkins, who was giving him props along the way.
• Hawkins is a positive guy, very enthusiastic and wants the players to have fun. But he doesn't shy away from getting in a player's grill when necessary.
• Senior QB James Cox banged up his thumb at one point in the practice. Hawkins said it's nothing serious, but Cox stopped taking reps. In his place, Brian White went with what looked line the ones, for now, during 7-ons. Then Bernard Jackson took reps with ones during 11-ons.
• Speaking of ones, most positions are still very fluid, and it's too early to call this guy a first-stringer, or that guy a second-teamer. But during 7-on-7 drills, the guys who looked liked the ones were Brad Jones, Thaddaeus Washington and Jordon Dizon at linebacker, Terry Washington and Gardner McKay at corner and Lorenzo Sims and Tyrone Henderson at safety. (Safety J.J. Billingsley is sitting out for a week for violating unspecified team rules).
Sims played some safety as a true freshmen, then played safety in two games last season, but he's been primarily a cornerback the past two years. He said Coach Greg Brown is giving him reps at both positions.
"Wherever I'm needed on the field I could play — safety or corner," Sims said. "Or even inside as a nickel. Wherever I'm needed. We have a lot of great backs back there."
Asked which position he preferred, Sims seemed to lean toward safety.
"I played corner for two years, so playing safety right now could be good," he said. "It's something I've been thinking about. We'll see. We really don't know right now, (Coach Brown) is just testing me out right now."
Sims had this to say about his new position coach, the fourth in his four years at CU: "He's excellent. He's understanding as a coach. We can make mistakes and it's not a big deal. He's all about teaching, and I think he's doing a great job."
• Zach Jones is getting work as longsnapper.
• Vance Washington blocked a PAT from the corner.
• Senior tailback Mell Holliday looked good Thursday. On one run he found a seam up the middle and showed a little burst. He doesn't look quite as big as he did in August, or at least he's a little leaner – probably the result of being in the program now for seven months. And he looks a tad quicker. Hugh Charles also looks plain fast …no surprise.
• Overall, practices continue to be loud. There is lots of chatter from the players.
• There was a familiar looking guy at Thursday's practice wearing a sweatshirt and jeans. After practice he grabbed a ball and started throwing passes to a buddy, also in street clothes. Cody Hawkins is in town as his school in Boise is on break. He throws a nice ball, by the way.
• Former CU offensive lineman Brad Bedell is back at school finishing his degree and is helping out with the football team. He wants to get into coaching.
• Friday evening's practice will be the first day in full pads.
• Asked if he was concerned about players losing too much conditioning and mental gain when they take 10 days off over spring break, Hawkins said he expects to have to blow out the rust the first practice back, but didn't think it would be a big deal. There may even be positive from it in that it will give anyone suffering minor injuries some healing time.
• These are the players set to take part in Friday's Pro Timing Day at CU: Joel Klatt, Joe Klopfenstein, Lawrence Vickers, Vaka Manupuna, Brian Iwuh, Brendan Schaub, Akarika Dawn, Quinn Sypniewski, John Torp and Greg Pace.