Ron Prince: I don't think I would make the scholarship limits argument. My take on this is what's happening right now is that clearly offenses are able to get the ball to good players out in space. What's happening is the spread offense has gone all the way down to the high school level. And so kids are throwing and catching in games, and a lot of good athletes who were playing basketball or are on the track team are coming out for football because it's a lot of fun.
I saw this coming many, many years ago in the high school ranks. It's making it difficult on the defensive players to beat a block from an athletic guy and then go off and make a tackle in space, or just being matched up with that guy in space.
Q: You had a freshman quarterback last year in Josh Freeman. How do you asses the play of Cody Hawkins so far?
Prince: Cody's done a terrific job. I think one of the biggest things for me is the Colorado State game. I think if you just look at that and you see his performance and how gutty it was.
I think you can see clearly this young man understands the game of football; he's got guts, he's got the ability to throw the ball, he can throw it into tight places. A lot of quarterbacks won't make a contested throw early in their career. The throw that he made late in that game on 4th and four, that showed me all I need to know — he's a competitor and he's got skills, and he understands the game.
I think he's done a terrific job. From my standpoint, he's really making the thing tick for them. As a freshman, my hat's off to him, because that's not easy.
Q: On Hawkins' intangibles
Prince: I think the intangible aspect at the quarterback position is probably in the top one or two things. If you look at knowledge and ability, there's a lot of guys that have ability. Probably a few less with knowledge and even a smaller group that have the two together. But when you have the kind of instincts and guts and toughness – these guys who can stand in there and deliver the ball and understand that they may not be able to see the ball completed, that's what NFL quarterbacks do. We have some guys in our league that can do the same thing, and he's one of them.
I'm very impressed with how he's performed this year.
Q: What's the biggest concern right now for you with your team right now?
Prince: Colorado. I think Colorado has the ability to run the football. They've got a really alert and responsive quarterback who can make the throws and understands how to manage the game. That's my biggest concern.
Our team, we have a pretty good profile of how we need to play and the things we need to do. But my biggest concern, if you look from the statistical standpoint, this (Colorado) team can do a lot of really good things. It'll be a challenge for us to defend them.
They've got a terrific running back and they've got a quarterback that's doing great things. My biggest concern is the opponent we have coming up. Our kids will bounce back in practice and improve. We had a chance with two minutes to go with the ball to win the game and didn't get it done. In both of our losses, that's what's happened. But a lot of people put us in position to win both those games.
If you can win the close games, that's the sign of a really good team. We just prove that we can have to have the maturity and discipline to do that when the game's on the line again.
Q: Are you guys trying to make the vertical passing game more of a priority in the upcoming week?
Prince: Well, I can tell you that from a coverage standpoint those throws, when they're available, we try to make them. I think that was evident in the game the other day. We were able to hit Jordy (Nelson) for an excess of 60 yards. Yeah, that's a big part of it.
There's other things that go into it – trying to stay on schedule from a down and distance standpoint. Trying to do a good job of having better time of possession. Keeping control of the ball and not having our defense out there so long. There's a lot of different things that go into it. The down side of throwing one of those and having it incomplete is a 2nd and long or 3rd and 10, or whatever it might be.
We've managed our sack situation, we just need to score more points, and also be able to move the ball, get more first downs. I think we can do that in addition to be more explosive. It's a balance thing. I wouldn't say that's our No. 1 priority – to try to throw the ball vertically more often.