Hawkins: Buffs "ready to make some strides"

Colorado coach Dan Hawkins met with media members Monday afternoon for more than a hour to wrap up a disappointing 2008 season and look ahead to next year. Hawkins leaves for two weeks of recruiting on Tuesday morning and is expecting to sign a larger class now because of attrition.

Hawkins said he now expects to sign a recruiting class in February consisting of 20-22 players, this is a jump from the 16-18 players he had talked about last spring and summer, but a handful of scholarship players have quit football or transferred since that time.

One of those players is defensive end Jason Brace, who had been debating his future the past month and is unlikely to continue playing football after a series of concussions, including a serious one earlier this season.

Hawkins said he expects to sign a scholarship kicker in the 2009 class, despite the fact he already has two on the rosters. Sophomore Aric Goodman and freshman Jameson Davis struggled mightily this season when it came to field goals. Hawkins said he wants to sign a combination place-kicker/punter if possible.

Hawkins said he belieles recruiting is going well and the program is competing for top-talent with other strong programs. He admitted a losing season does have an effect in the recruiting process.

"I think it always dents it," he said. "There is no doubt about that."

Hawkins said the Buffs should be more experienced and in better position with depth in many areas next season and he believes that will help improve the bottom line, wins and losses. But he also said there will be more youth and inexperience to overcome and pointed to the fact there will only be 15 seniors on the roster, a second consecutive small senior class.

"I definitely think we're ready to make some strides," Hawkins said.

Fans should expect the Buffs to return to the no-huddle system once again when spring ball begins. Hawkins said he believes that along with spreading defenses out is the best way to play offense in modern day college game.

Spring ball could be pushed back in 2009 to take place entirely in the month of April," Hawkins said. Doing so would benefit the program, which will have between 12 and 16 players recovering from significant injuries and surgeries. Hawkins said another five or six players are scheduled for surgery over the next month.

In the past three years under Hawkins, spring ball has taken place in the last two weeks of March (with an off week for spring break) and the first three weeks of April.

Hawkins said offensive and defensive lines along with wide receiver are priority areas for recruiting. He said he will "be living out of a suitcase" for much of the next two months leading up to signing day.

The defensive line is extremely thin going into next season. Hawkins was asked if that would lead him to consider a change in defensive scheme. The Buffs play a base 4-3 approach but use plenty of nickel packages and some looks featuring 3 down linemen and four linebackers. He said coaches will look at other defensive schemes in the offseason and pick what is best.

Hawkins acknowledged it has taken longer than he first thought it would to build the program he envisioned when he came to CU from Boise State in 2006. He said there are many reasons for that. Some he saw coming. Others he did not.

As always, Hawkins said he will conduct a complete head-to-toe review of the program in the offseason including player and assistant coach evaluations. He said coaches will also leave no stone unturned in choosing what schemes to use on the field in the future.

After finishing 5-7 and missing a bowl game for the second time in three years, Hawkins said he will face many sleepless nights and will probably be crabby around the house and in the office in the coming months because of his frustration.

"When you have a season like this, there is nothing that is not open to discussion," he said.

He said all of his assistant coaches will return in 2009 unless they are offered jobs and accept them or choose to leave on their own. He praised his coaches for their hard work and creativity this year and once again called for greater flexibility in being able to offer long-term contracts and better salaries to retain them.

Hawkins made no mention of any players leaving the program. He was asked about linebacker Lynn Katoa's status and whether Katoa would be ready for spring.

"We'll see with him," Hawkins said. "We're working on a lot of things with him."

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