Though he's more known for winning WAC titles at Boise State, 2006 isn't the first time a Hawkins team has gotten off to a slow start. One season during his coaching career, the team he was with went 1-9. He said he fell into the trap at first of doubting his abilities before getting down to fixing things. It began one night when he got out a yellow legal pad and sat next to the fire until 4 in the morning writing down all the things that needed fixing. Hawkins said the list was several pages long.
These days, Hawkins averages roughly 80 items per week on his fix it list. They range from getting the bus driver to turn off the music on the way to the game, to finding ways to build punter Matt DiLallo's confidence so he's not so anxious when he drops back to punt.
Hawkins said once the team begins winning, he doesn't expect the list to shrink. It's just a matter of refining all the time. He enjoys the process.
"I sorta dig that whole thing," he said. "I was raised as a teacher, and that's just being a good teacher."
Hawkins said he and his staff's systems aren't better or worse than the previous regime's. They're simply different, and it takes a while to get them in place.
"Your fundamental approach and what you expect is going to be dramatically different (from past staff's)," he said. "On the field and off the field I'm just so doggone particular about how those things go. Sometimes it takes a while for a kid to really buy into it and go, ‘You know what? Coach Hawk is serious that if you don't practice, you're not gonna play. And if you don't go to class, you're not gonna practice.'"
Things are different when it comes to the schemes CU is learning, too. Though it can all look like blocking and tackling and running, throwing and catching, Hawkins recently asked his players if what they're doing on offense now is close to what they were doing in previous years. "They said, ‘Not even,'" Hawkins said. "And I said how close is what we're doing defensively to what you guys were doing. They said, ‘Not even close.'"
He said there have been breakthroughs behind the scenes. Last night, for example, Hawkins was in his office at 9:30 making recruiting calls. He opened the door and found 15 offensive players gathered in the staff room studying game film.
"I go, ‘We got a chance! We got a chance!'" Hawkins said.
Though it hasn't yet resulted in wins on the field, Hawkins said the players continue to buy in to the changes.
"To these guys credit, they keep listening, they keep nodding their head and they keep coming and they keep buying in. And that has been awesome," he said.
On WHERE THE BUCK STOPS
• Hawkins adopted the notion that the buck stops with him as a coach early in his career. He was linebackers coach under defensive coordinator Bob Foster at the time. "He said, ‘Hey Hawk, make sure you work with this certain guy on technique.' I said, ‘Coach, this guy must be the stupidest guy in America because I've told him a thousand times and he can't figure it out.'
"He got about this far (Hawkins holds up his fingers and indicates two inches) and was basically spittin' in my face and said, ‘You must be the stupidest coach in America, because if you told him a thousand times and he still doesn't get it, you're a terrible teacher.'
"I learned at an early age in this thing to take ultimate responsibility for what goes on," Hawkins said.
On HANDLING EVENTUAL SUCCESS
• Despite the team's 0-5 start, the Buffs are bound to find themselves on the up side of the final score one of these days. Hawkins said he thinks the team will handle the situation fine once that happens. "There's not going to be a parade and we're not going to be handing out game balls and hugging and crying. We're going to be pretty much the same way we've been," he said.
On BERNARD JACKSON
• Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Mark Helfrich continues to add to and refine the offense to Bernard Jackson's talents.
Obviously, Jackson is gifted at running, and throws well on the run. Hawkins thinks Jackson's capability of throwing in the vertical game will continue to improve in the coming weeks. When that happens, it will open up the running game even more.
"Nobody has worked harder on our football team as far as trying to increase his knowledge and awareness of what's going on than (Jackson), and I give him full credit for that," Hawkins said.
Hawkins commended Helfrich for staying positive through the process of Jackson's growth.
"Nobody has ever said, ‘Oh, I wish we had Rudy Carpenter here,'" Hawkins said. "He's never said that. He's tried to look at what those guys can do and then cater the package to their strength and expand upon that."
On BRYCE MACMARTIN'S PLAY
• After watching film of the Missouri game, Hawkins said senior center Bryce MacMartin did a nice job in his first start, subbing for injured Mark Fenton. MacMartin, an engineering major, excelled at identifying Missouri's fronts and communicating them to his teammates.
"That's the beauty of having an engineering major as your center," Hawkins said. "There's not a lot of formulas he's not gonna understand. He's got things figured out. He did a nice job of taking pressure off Bernard in pass protection.
"Then, when you've got a pre-med guy playing tailback (Byron Ellis), you've got two guys that are way smarter than any football coach ever was. They can figure that stuff out. They took a lot of pressure off of Bernard."
On THIRD AND FOURTH DOWN ISSUES
• CU is converting third downs to first downs just 29.1 percent of the time. (Opponents have converted 40.4 percent). Getting better in third down has been a point of emphasis in practice.
• Hawkins called "go for it" on fourth down four times vs. Missouri, and the Buffs failed to convert any of them. He explained the thinking behind his decisions.
"I did that a lot at Boise State for several reasons. I think at some point you've got to sort of force your team. I had a team once that wasn't a particularly great running team. And I said we are gonna run the football exclusively for a football. We're not gonna pass. If it's 4th and 2 and we're on our own 20, that's too bad, we're gonna run the football.
"So sometimes I'm a little bit whacko that way where I will really put it on our guys.
"The other side of it is, sometimes you have to have a little bit of confidence in your guys. There were sometimes where we were starting to get some rhythm going, and so you think , one more play. …part of it is tactical, part of it psychological," he said.
He said on the decision to keep Mason Crosby on the bench and go for it when they were at the 4 yard line had to do with odds. Hawkins said stats show if you go for a touchdown inside the 5, you're better off because even if you don't get 7, you're winning the field-position game.
• Early in the press conference, Hawkins' cell phone rang. He stopped speaking and answered it with a text message, presumably to a recruit.
• Later, when asked how playing teams from Texas potentially affects recruiting, Hawkins said, "I think it's great. Obviously, they have outstanding football there. They play year around. It's the high school football capitol of the world from the standpoint of when you look at their facilities and most of their coaches are like college coaches – they don't teach (classes), they just coach. Spring football and all that. It's pretty bigtime."
• The Buffs expect to see pressure from an aggressive Baylor defense. Baylor has good players in the secondary, which allow them to get after you up front, Hawkins said. They'll use some zone blitz like Missouri, with some different wrinkles.
On KEEPING UP WITH BSU
• Hawkins said he talks to some members of the Boise State staff about once a week. One of his daughter's is engaged to a Boise State football player, so he keeps up on the Broncos from that channel, too.