Dan Hawkins: "I've certainly felt better, but I don't think in my own mind that I've been radically different. I know I'm always going ‘How can we get better? How can we fix practice? How can we improve facilities? How can we recruit? How can we get better?' And that's always been a little bit of my mantra.
"Clearly, as my wife will tell you, when you have an opportunity to go into a bowl game you walk around at home and she is talking to you and after five minutes you're going ‘Huh?' Because you haven't heard a word she said.
"There were many things about last year that were painful. I always say there is a reason for it, and you always wonder, ‘God, why me? Why now? How can I embrace this meaning?' But when you are sitting there watching ESPN in the bowl weeks and you are seeing 275 teams playing in a bowl game and you're not one of them you're going, ‘Boy, they just put up every mascot in America, but I didn't see Ralphie.'
"From that standpoint it's great (to go to a bowl). It's great to practice, improve and do all of those things during this time."
On playing a storied program like Alabama
Dan Hawkins: "I think it's certainly an attention grabber in that way, no question about that. I think we all know and understand the history of Alabama and have a tremendous amount of respect for the SEC. I think any time you get into a bowl game you always want to play the best possible team that you can play. Even though their record is just like us (6-6), not where they want it to be, they are a very formidable team. I think that definitely grabs your attention."
On the Buffs' bowl preparations
Dan Hawkins: "The thing that's' happened up to this point is you try not to be too aggressive with what you're doing in terms of your preparation. So, I told them ‘When you come back on Thursday, the light has got to be on.' What you try to do in those first initial practices is work on your fundamentals and keep guys sharp and try not to get guys hurt. But you're not trying to get into the grind of game planning.
"Clearly, there is a little bit of a buzz because they are excited to be back playing in a bowl. It's interesting because I think the older guys understand and appreciate what that's all about. The younger guys are just starting to figure that out. But I think you will see more of that when we get into actual bowl prep."
On keeping the team sharp during a long layoff between games
Dan Hawkins: "I think everybody has go their own formula and their own style of how they do things. I really feel good about what we've done. We've used it in the past; it keeps guys fresh but it doesn't burn them out. You still have an opportunity to play some football.
"Typically in a given week you are going to practice really hard on three days and play a game. So what we've been doing is we've been practicing three days — on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and taking one of those days and going pretty hard."
On some of the younger players
Dan Hawkins: "I think I've seen a lot of younger guys really start emerging a little bit and getting a little bit of comfort. It's tough because no matter how you slice it and dice it — and I was there — when you are a redshirt guy or a scout team guy it's hard. It's hard because you do get into a little bit of a funk at times, but when you actually get to go out and get coached by your coach and do your things and do your schemes there is an energy that is built back up there.
"They get eight or nine practices to really work with everyone else before you get into the bowl prep. It's kind of a mini spring ball, so to speak."
On whether Alabama's win over Tennessee was their signature win
Dan Hawkins: "I don't know. I mean, clearly Tennessee finished up strong and had a great year and did a nice job. But you would have to ask them (Alabama). All coaches are very similar; I'm sure to them it's like 'OK, we won one of those game, but what about the other games?' I'm sure they feel the same way very much like we do."
On why Alabama's mascot is an elephant
Dan Hawkins: "I don't know. Hey, if (Alabama coaching legend) Bear Bryant wants an elephant, it's an elephant. That's all I know. It can be whatever he wants it to be."
On the recipe for success in a bowl game
Dan Hawkins: "I think there is a conditioning component to it, a health component to it; being able to execute in all phases of the game and being solid in your fundamentals so you can get out and get going fast. It's kind of a microcosm of what you do the rest of the year. I think it comes down to saying, ‘Can you be sharp and take care of a lot of issues in a variety of areas?' And it just all comes down to the one game versus a 12-game season. "Your No. 1 focus is always to win the football game. Just like with the rest of the year, you are always trying to create roles for guys and figure out how we can get guys in a niche to help us win the football game. You're not going to play guys just to play guys and see how they do. You know what they can do and you know that from practice. So if we feel like a guy is busting his tail and he works hard and can do something well consistently then we are going to try to find a spot where we can get him in just like we would the rest of the year."
On the new practice bubble
Dan Hawkins: "It's awesome to run down the hill in your shorts and T-shirt and get into the bubble and go ‘Yes!' The other side of it is you go ‘What would you do if you didn't have the bubble?' I'm like, ‘I don't know, we would try to play them in basketball. I guess we would call them up and see if we could have a basketball game.'
"I don't know. Because clearly in the field house you can't practice in there and in years past—the weather in generally good here, but it's cold and they would clear off the field as best as they could and try to get done what they could get done. But there is no question that's been a huge help to us."
On the SEC
Dan Hawkins: "I definitely think that it is going around the country and playing different teams and different styles—I have always thought that the SEC is a little bigger, a little faster and more physical in every range—in general. Not taking anything away from the Big 10 or the Pac-10 or the Big 12, by any means. I just think that top-to-bottom, no matter who you're playing (from the SEC), there is a physicality to the whole thing. I think you're starting to see with Steve Spurrier out at South Carolina he's starting to spread it out and teams are starting to do those types of things as well, but overall it's just the physicality of things."
On Alabama's Offense
Dan Hawkins: "I think they have been like us, to some degree, offensively. At times they have been very efficient and sometimes they've been of-kilter a little bit, but clearly they have weapons and have tons of skill."
On Alabama WR D.J. Hall
Dan Hawkins: "The guy can really run—run after the catch, good smooth route runner and he has speed. It's kind of like the difference between zero and -30; once it's cold it's cold—it's the same way, once you're good you're good, and he's really good."
On wanting to send the seniors out with a win
Dan Hawkins: "I think that is a little bit more emphasized, to some degree, on Senior Day. Our emphasis (now) is just to send the whole team out with a victory at the end. Clearly, there is some sentiment there for the seniors and you want to get that done. The prevailing thing on Senior Day is that there is a little bit more of that emotion, and again nobody wants to spend the off-season thinking about a loss. You'd rather wake up the next morning with seven months to live off your last victory."
On teams getting more creative offensively during bowl games
Dan Hawkins: "I think you see a lot of that. We're like you guys, we get a little more time, we starting writing some more things and saying ‘What about this idea?' and ‘What about this concept?'
"Typically, when you start game planning, in a normal week you are looking at a little stuff Sunday, you're looking at a lot of stuff on Monday and then you're pretty much throwing it down and going. Now you have a lot of days to go ‘What about this? What about that?' So now you have to make it manageable.
"I think that is part of what makes the bowls fun, to some degree. I know [running backs coach] Darian [Hagan] was telling me when he played here they changed their whole offense (prior to the 1991 bowl game). You generally see a lot of creativity when you have this much time off."
On having QB Cody Hawkins run the offense to change things up
Dan Hawkins: "That would not be in the game plan; definitely not."
On balancing work and play at the bowl
Dan Hawkins: "What we have always tried to do, no matter where we go, is to have that fine balance between having some fun, but understanding the purpose of the game. The purpose of the game is for you to go down there and compete as well as you can compete and hopefully you can win the game. No matter where you go, I'm kind of into that (having fun)—both for the staff and for the families, but also we're here to win a football game. Again, hopefully we'll have the opportunities to go to some of those bowls and have some of those things to worry about. The main focus is the bowl game and being competitive in that game."