Cody Hawkins ends spring ahead of Nick Nelson. Hawkins showed Saturday he can make most of the throws required in CU's offense. Just as important, he's got a really good grasp of where his teammates are supposed to be and what they're supposed to be doing on most plays. Hawkins has some limitations, mostly his size. But he's got good mobility (more than Joel Klatt had), and has better arm strength than most give him credit for.
Nelson will still give him a run for his money in August though.
While the receiving corps still lacks a game breaker, they appeared more confident and competent Saturday. There are still too many dropped passes, in general. At the same time, Patrick Williams got open and hauled in several nice passes downfield.
Joe Sanders is still learning the offense. When and if he gets it down and is able to play with full confidence, he becomes the most athletic tight end on the team. I'd put him No. 2 right now behind Riar Geer.
Geer, by the way, had a great diving catch over the middle Saturday. That tight end streak down the middle seemed to be open most of the day.
The quarterbacks had decent time Saturday, which means the offensive line was doing pretty good in protection.
Look for some of the receivers coming in as true freshmen in August to get a shot to play early.
Starters on Saturday were Tyler Polumbus and Edwin Harrison at tackle, Devin Head and Wes Palazzi at guard, Daniel Sanders at center. While they're to be commended for toughing out a full slate of spring practices, that group is not ready for Big 12 play. Except on a few counter plays, they were beaten in the middle most of the day when the offense tried to run the ball. This is an area where CU needs at least one incoming freshman, and Erick Faatagi to come into August and demand a spot or two.
Except for Bernard Jackson – mostly from the quarterback position, but also occasionally at tailback – the CU run game was missing Saturday. Hugh Charles couldn't get anything going between the tackles. They didn't run him outside. Demetrius Sumler looks like a guy who can move a pile a little bit, but he didn't have anywhere to run either. Byron Ellis looked like he did last year – good in protection, but a step slower than you'd like. Unfortunately, Kevin Moyd didn't get any carries.
Here's another position that a newcomer will get a chance to make an impact in 2007 – namely P.T. Gates, out of Saddleback CC. Gates needs to complete 30 hours of coursework at Saddleback before he gets in to CU and Hawkins said Saturday Gates is progressing well in that department.
It's obvious that Jackson is the best offensive player on the team. Should be fun to watch how he's used in the fall.
George Hypolite broke through to get to the quarterback a couple of times. But there was no Abraham Wright out there. Drew Hudgins had his knee scoped Thursday and missed the game. They need him to come on strong in August. The front seven were excellent against the run. Eric Lawson was really active for a guy who hasn't stood out much.
This unit had a pretty solid effort. Mike Sipili will be a beast, and Jordon Dizon could have a monster year this fall. Brad Jones was out the second half with a sore knee. B.J. Beatty is still learning in pass coverage, but he's a really tough kid against the run. He'll be one of the better special teams players the next couple of years, too.
Terrence Wheatley didn't start, but played some (precautionary). Gardner McKay and Ben Burney were on the corners. McKay looked good in one-on-one coverage in 7 on 7s. Lionel Harris led all tacklers with 6 from one safety spot. Ryan Walters had the hit of the day at the other. Toward the very end of the day, a backup linebacker Jake Duren. Daniel Sanders streaked across the field to try and tackle Duren who was headed for the end zone, and Walters knocked the 305-pound Sanders on his backside.
Kevin Eberhart kicked off from the 30 yard line, as teams will do this fall due to rule changes. He got his first three inside the 5 yard line, but was dropping them between the 5 and 10 as the day wore on. What's clear is that CU needs to take advantage of the new kickoff distance in its return game by putting speed back there. Hugh Charles had a couple nice returns, and Jackson did as well. Jackson's not a speed guy, but he's the best at making tacklers miss on the team.
Eberhart's no Mason Crosby, but he's got the leg and accuracy to be a solid college kicker next year.
It was good to see Stephone Robinson back returning punts after he'd lost that job last season. Robinson returned two for 40 yards.