Dan Hawkins began Wednesday's presser by praising the members of his coaching and support staff, as well as some of CU's faculty, for the team effort in signing 28 players to letters of intent.
"I'm sitting here as a spokesman, but there's a whole bunch of people who share in this," he said.
The Buffs have three people on staff currently devoted solely to recruiting. Word is, CU has already offered 30 scholarships to current juniors for the 2008 class.
Hawkins stressed several times Wednesday that they were going after players who were the right fit for Colorado, AND players good enough to help the Buffs back to a national championship.
CU signed four players from the state of Colorado, and when Hawkins was asked if he was disappointed he didn't sign more this go around, he said it's a goal to get the best players in the state, and they think they did.
"Can you play against those guys?" Hawkins added, talking about the measuring stick CU is using when choosing talent.
Hawkins said that they were in on top talent this season. To illustrate his point, he said the Buffs were "in play" with all of the Parade All-Americans this year except two. They were losing that caliber of player to the SEC and the Pac-10.
Of course, the All-American CU got happened to be an in-state kid. While Hawkins was measured in expectations he placed on much of the members of the class, he had high praise for tackle Ryan Miller. He said Miller has the talent, work ethic and desire to come in and become a collegiate All-American, then excel at the next level. He then said, "he could get drafted by the Denver Broncos and be like the next John Elway around here."
Of the 28 players in this class, four are already enrolled —Nick Nelson, Jonathan Hawkins, Drew Hudgins and Josh Hartigan. They will count back to last year's class in terms of scholarship limits. Twenty-four could count to the 2007 class, though at least one player – Eugene Goree – could grayshirt.
Hawkins wouldn't comment on specifics, but indicated they're holding a schollie or two for either a late signee or to give to a walk on. That'll be decided down the line.
As far as qualifying, he wouldn't comment specifically, again, but said most were qualified.
"We're not out of the realm (of qualifying) on any of them," he said.
They tripped 51 players this year (out of a possible 56).
CU SID Dave Plati recently figured out that 1 out of every 5.6 players who signed with Colorado since 1973 has played in the NFL. That's 18 percent. Those numbers have dropped in recent years, and Hawkins said he wants the program to get back into that kind of groove.
The Buffs did a five-year study of the top teams in the Big 12 and it was revealed they played with offensive linemen who averaged between 6-2 and 6-3 and weighed 302 pounds. While there are exceptions, Hawkins said, he and his staff are seeking those types of players.
Eight players in this class are listed at 285 pounds – and all of them could top out over 300 once they mature over the next few years.
Frequent Flyer Mileage
In trying to shore up commitments in late January and early February, Hawkins logged lots of mileage. In one 10-day span, he touched down in 14 different states. In one three-day span, he figures he got five hours of sleep and wore the same pair of pants every day. Part of that jaunt was heading from Denver to Hawaii, then back to Salt Lake and finally back home.
Hawkins said he enjoys the recruiting grind, except that it takes him from his family more than he'd like.
He said, "recruiting is a lot harder than (playing) the season. It's around the clock intensity – the travel, the food, the lack of sleep. But in a sick sort of way, I like it. You've got to be a warrior."
Hawkins also quipped, "You haven't lived until you've been to Mamou, La." -- referring to his trip to the small town an hour north of New Orleans where the Buffs snagged receiver Kendrick Celestine.
One of the players Hawkins was visiting in Hawaii was Damien Memorial offensive lineman Sione Tau. Tau, a former teammate of CU's Mike Sipili, had tripped to Boulder early in the fall and was leaning to CU until Arizona came in on him. The CU staff, including Brian Cabral, stayed on him and swayed him late in the game. Cabral made a positive impression on Tau's mother. Still, CU wasn't sure Tau would sign with the Buffs until they received his fax this morning.
The Buffs also offered center Kai Maiava from Wailuku (Baldwin) in recent days when a scholarship intended for Garth Gerhart opened up. (Gerhart signed with ASU).
The Buffs now have seven players from Hawaii on their squad.
Lone Star Lockout
Colorado traditionally has mined Texas for talent, but they were shut out from the Lone Star this year. Hawkins admitted the staff needs to do better in Texas. He said the football culture in Texas is such that you really have to cultivate relationships, and the staff is still working on that.
Linebacker Robert Hall (from Friendswood, Texas) had his scholarship offer pulled at some point. He was the only Texan the staff was really in on this cycle.
The strongest kid in the class may be offensive lineman Mike Iltis, from Riverview High in Sarasota, Fla. This past week, Iltis put up a power clean of 250 pounds, three sets of five repetitions. Hawkins said that measures out to a power clean of 355 pounds, which is big-time for a high school senior.
Speaking of strength numbers, strength coach Jeff Pitman expects that CU will have 48 players clean 300-plus pounds this spring. That's up from 11 last fall.
With spring ball just over a month away, Daniel Sanders and Wes Palazzi will probably man the center spot in March and April, and Hawkins said don't count walkon Keenan Stevens out of the equation.
On that note, it sounds like team attrition may not be completely done. A handful of players left the team prior to this semester. When asked if that exodus was done, Hawkins said "I don't know that we're past it."
Then he went on to elaborate on what's been going on surrounding this. He said that when he took over the program after Gary Barnett was fired, the team and players had been through so much trauma, he wanted to embrace everyone and get through a spring and season.
But now "we are trying to establish a foundation – a mentality, work ethic and a comportment."
Hawkins gave an example of what he's faced recently. He said he received an anonymous letter from a player's parent, complaining that the team was getting only two weeks off between spring and summer workouts. (They'd gotten three weeks in recent years.).
The coach then went vintage Hawkins. He slammed his fist on the table and raised up and in a voice that (literally) could've been heard down on Folsom Field if the windows in Dal Ward were open, he hollered: "Here's my point. This is Division I football!! It's the Big 12!! It ain't intramurals.
You've got two weeks after finals, you've got a week around July 4 and you got a week (off) before camp starts. That's a month! And we're all bummed out that we don't get three weeks? Go play intramurals, brother! Go play intramurals. Have at it! Have at it!"