Hawkins' Tuesday Press Conference Notes

Inside, notes from Dan Hawkins' Tuesday press conference, in which the CU head coach addressed several issues, including the play of Abraham Wright, Bernard Jackson, Hugh Charles and others, recruiting and the brawl in the Miami-Florida International game.

• As he's said much of the season, Hawkins reiterated that he and his staff go about things in much the same way after a win as they do after a loss. Namely, they'll figure out what to fix from the previous game and go about trying to fix it.

"It's always easier said than done, but I think you have to stay out of the gutter and stay off of the mountain top and stay in the middle and keep plugging," he said Tuesday.

The players, however, may have gained a measure of confidence from Saturday's win after starting the season 0-6, he said.

• Boulder has been engulfed in a steady snowstorm much of Tuesday. Temperatures aren't all that cold, and the wet snow began sticking just after the lunch hour. Asked if he would bring his team inside Balch Fieldhouse for practice, Hawkins laughed, "C'mon, brother! You've learned nothing from me. No, it's not going to affect us. We're not made of sugar, we're not going to melt in the snow."

Abraham Wright leads the Big 12 and is second nationally in sacks with nine. Hawkins said he saw "the divine spark" in the senior early on.

"I think when an individual invests himself in this idea of excellency, there's a certain amount of spiritual energy that comes out of that," Hawkins explained. "And Abe is one of those guys that totally believes that he deserves to be successful. And he plays with a certain amount of recklessness and joy and innocence that way.

"He's got some God-given speed and agility and those types of things, but he just has a freedom about his soul that that guy can play at a high level all the time."

Bernard Jackson has 365 yards rushing this season — all but 5 of them coming in six games — second on the team behind Hugh Charles' 504 yards. Jackson's rushing numbers climb to 492 yards when you take his yards lost on sacks out of the equation. Hawkins said it's had an effect on how teams defend the Buffs.

"Every defensive coach will tell you a quarterback that can run with the ball is a little scary," Hawkins said. "If you start looking at defenses and how they play against us, there's some concern with him running with the football. They want to eliminate some of the things they want to do up front. When teams want to play man (coverage), somebody has to account for the quarterback. I think it has residual effects on the rest of the offense, as well."

• Overall, the CU running game has had its best two games the past two outings. Hawkins attributed it to better cohesiveness up front and the running backs getting into a good rhythm. The next level? The home-run play, especially from Hugh Charles, who has the speed to take it to the house at any time.

• Speaking of Charles, Hawkins came close to replacing Charles with Byron Ellis late in Saturday's game with Texas Tech after Charles fumbled. Hawkins was facing two basic philosophies when he didn't replace Charles, who also had a key fumble vs. Georgia.

One the one hand, he wanted to put Charles on the bench to continue to impress upon him the need to hang onto the ball. On the other hand, "If you want your guys to play with that spiritual freedom and not be afraid to make a mistake. If you (bench) them all the time, they won't unleash the bounds of a human performance, they'll play not to make a mistake," Hawkins said.

Hawkins went to Charles after the fumble on Saturday and got in his face. "I said, I'm telling you something right now. I'm going against a basic premise of mine. I said, we've been down this road before on this turnover thing. My gut instinct is to put Byron in and leave you over here. BUT, I believe in you. Let's not let this happen again."

Charles responded well. Hawkins said coaches are still working with Charles to be the kind of dynamic, assertive runner they think he can be. The long run down the sideline where he hurdled two defenders and got to the end zone (but had stepped out of bounds around midfield) was the kind of run they want from Charles, and the kind they think he can bring to the table. "That was his first run like that this year," Hawkins said. "Hopefully he can bring more of those."

• Senior center Mark Fenton, has been out since fracturing his lower leg in the Georgia game, returned to practice in very limited fashion last week. Coaches are pleased with how senior backup Bryce MacMartin has played in Fenton's absence.

"He's doing a nice job. He's holding up physically, making calls, getting guys going," Hawkins said. "He's definitely holding up his end of the bargain."

Hawkins was non-committal on how soon Fenton would get his job back once he's healthy.

• Redshirt-freshman Riar Geer has played beyond many fans' expectations this year. He leads the Buffs with 21 receptions and two touchdowns. Coaches think Geer has the opportunity to one day become an elite type tight end. "He's smart, he's tough, he's strong. He's got attention to detail. To me, he definitely looks like he's going to be in that mold."

• Redshirt-freshman Jarrell Yates had a big touchdown reception in the win over Texas Tech. But Hawkins cautioned that the youngster from Montbello needs to continue to improve on his consistency on and off the field, as well as in practice, in order to be a regular contributor.

• With his boss, Mike Bohn, sitting in on Tuesday's press conference, Hawkins had some funny-but-true lines about coaching through the six-game skid to begin the season and his coaching tenure at CU.

He said he's fielded phone calls from colleagues who know him well since the win over Texas Tech. Some have told him they know he was "loving" the losing streak because it stretched him as a coach.

When a reporter asked, "Were you loving being 0-6?" Hawkins responded, "In a sick sort of way.

"There are those times as a human being where you just need to go, ‘I need to figure out what I'm all about.' And when you go through that and are able to look yourself in the mirror …that's another chapter of your (life) book."

Buff fans will be relieved to know that when asked if he loved it enough to do it again, Hawkins said, "I hope not."

• Hawkins didn't show the tape of the Miami-Florida International brawl, which resulted in at least 30 player suspensions, to his players. But he used it as a teaching opportunity. He told his players it's the type of situation that they need to prepare for by deciding beforehand what they would do if caught in something like that.

Hawkins told them, No. 1, none of his players ever leave the sidelines in such an incident. No. 2, his players on the field's only job in a brawl is to get his teammates out of it and off the field.

He leaves no room for deviance from that direction, he said.

"If I don't get that, there will be serious ramifications," he said.

Hawkins continued: "I told (the players), ‘It's easy to sit back when you're 3,000 miles away and make a judgment when something like that happens, but my first reaction when something like that happens is we just go (raises his arms in the air and makes a whistle sound). We've missed the point. Somehow along the way we've missed the point. So we're going to give the game to you guys and we're going to walk in and see if we can start over and figure this thing out.'

"I told them: ‘Guys, don't put it past me. I've already taken a lot of bullets, what better bullet to take than to say we're not standing for that.'"

• Hawkins set another precedent, at least in recent years, by handing out an evaluation form to the media at Tuesday's press luncheon. The form asks for feedback from media on how to improve aspects of media events surrounding the team, like postgame and post-practice media access. One of the questions went beyond that. It reads "Any suggestions regarding the improvement of Buff football?"

• The Buffs have garnered seven known verbal commitments in the month of October. Hawkins reiterated Tuesday that despite the 1-6 record, he and the staff have continued to get positive feedback on the recruiting trails.

"It's been awesome. It really has," Hawkins said about the response from recruits, their parents and high school coaches. "I think most of the people sort of understand what's going on. I can't tell you how many recruits have (noted) just how we played against Georgia. To the right kids, that means something, because they go, ‘Those guys are battling their fannies off and they're not letting the adversity affect them.' I think that means a lot.

"I'm sure there's some guys that we don't hear from that say, ‘You guys are 0-fer, I'm not going there.' I'm sure there's some of that, there has to be. But that has not been an overriding issue."

• CU has four players from Hawaii on its roster, but Hawkins said Tuesday none of their families were affected severely by the recent earthquake that rocked the island state.

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