Media Day Musings, Part I

Dan Hawkins met with roughly 40 members of the media Tuesday at the team's annual Media Day in the Dal Ward Center. Inside, Part I of notes, quotes and musings from the event.

• Hawkins is hesitant to get too excited about what he's seen from his players before they put the pads on later this week and hit each other. He left Monday night's practice almost "mad," that there were dropped balls and missed assignments. Remember, this is the first day of practice we're talking about.

Hawkins had to remind himself that patience isn't a natural thing for him. He wants perfection, and he wants it now. For those who see some Rick Neuheisel in Hawkins, this is one of several areas where he differs greatly.

Make no mistake, he was very positive and upbeat about his players. But he said: "Anyone can play flag football, but when you put on the pads, it's a little different."

He also said he's pleased with the team's overall condition and strength. But the proof is in the pudding with that, too. "I told them it's about showing up every day, (about) who can come in and put in those 29 practices and be there every day and take every rep. I think the test of our physical and mental toughness will be when we get ready for (Montana State)," he said.

• The head coach reiterated that the team needs a No. 1 quarterback to be named by the final scrimmage (currently set for Aug. 25). However, that's the LATEST that will happen. He wants one to step up and take hold of the job much sooner, and he and Mark Helfrich won't hesitate to name a starter at the position as soon as they think someone's proved himself.

Another difference between Hawkins and Neuheisel was evident Tuesday. One TV guy asked Hawkins if he had gotten used to playing on green turf rather than blue (like at Boise State). Hawkins looked irritated and quickly said "OK, you guys have had fun with the blue field thing. First off, we won a lot of games on that field. I've been here since January. All the blue field stuff, the ducks landing on it, and all that, let's just get beyond that. Let's move beyond that journalistically to something else." (uncomfortable chuckles; crickets chirp, chirp)

Hawkins didn't go to law school. He's a salt of the earth kind of guy who isn't afraid to talk straight at an issue with authority and passion – even if it's a dorky question from a reporter.

And that carries over to how he deals with his players, too. He's direct and he gets amped up and in their face when necessary. Let's just say, if an offensive lineman went after him in a meeting room, the offensive lineman would have his hands full…

• Asked how he would prepare to play Colorado early in the season (before a lot of game tape had been generated) if he were a defensive coordinator, he said he'd break down film of Arizona State's offense, California's offense and Boise State's offense. "That's a pretty hard task to do, obviously. And, of course, some of it will be similar, some of it won't," he added.

• Like they did in the spring, players are spending one period per practice working at other positions. Terrence Wheatley is the fastest man on the team, and probably one of the fastest players in the Big 12. He's been working that period with the receivers. Don't be shocked to see the offense utilize his speed now and again. "When you line up against that guy, or put some single coverage on that guy, it's probably not prudent. That guy can go deep in a hurry," is how Hawkins put it.

• The defensive tackles are getting bigger. (George Hypolite told me he's between 285 and 290 right now, and that he thinks he can maintain that as the season wears on.) But the position is still a concern. Ideally, Hawkins wants a couple of "big uglies" in the middle who top 300 pounds, and who force double-teams out of the offensive line. He said "I'd take speed over that any day, but it'd be nice to have a guy or two over 300 pounds."

Which brings us to Justin Nonu. First of all, early in the press conference, someone asked if any of the players have really got Hawkins excited since he's been here. The kind that just make him go "wow." But Hawkins doesn't seem to like to shower accolades on players in the press that way. Doesn't like to speculate on who's going to be a great player, etc. He thought for a long time, before he answered, and even began his answer with a disclaimer: "I don't necessarily think like that. …I just always look at it (like) I expect (all my players) to do well. I expect them to be where they're supposed to be."

He did, however, oblige with three names: Mason Crosby, Wheatley and Nonu. "It's very interesting watching Justin Nonu run around at 303 pounds, playing linebacker. He's got very good feet. The guy is pretty phenomenal."

• So, if you're short on 300 pound defensive tackles, and you've got a 303 pound linebacker, what about a position move for Mr. Nonu? Not so fast. Hawkins (and Brian Cabral, for that matter) want to see what Nonu can do at linebacker after he sheds some weight — 25 to 30 pounds. Hawkins referenced the New England Patriots defense of late, and how they play a big ‘backer like Teddy Bruschi three yards off the line of scrimmage. They're open to being creative. "I'll tell you, no one would want to be the lead (blocker) against that guy," Hawkins said.

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