In this week’s edition of Behind Enemy Lines, I did a question-and-answer session with Tom Kensler, the Colorado beat writer for the Denver Post.
Brandon Chatmon: It appears Hawkins in on the hot seat. How hot is it?
Tom Kensler: Scalding. At this point, the feeling is that Colorado could win big over Oklahoma State (unlikely) and Nebraska, and that still might not be enough to save Hawkins’ job. The momentum against him seems irreversible.
BC: In your opinion can CU afford to get rid of Hawkins AND pay someone else?
TK: Speaking in generalities, athletic director Mike Bohn said a few weeks ago that money would not stand in the way of his department making a coaching change if deemed necessary. I’ll take Bohn for his word. Like with Gary Barnett, the athletic department may have to borrow from the school because CU doesn’t seem to have a T. Boone Pickens ready to sign a check. That’s not ideal, but, as businessmen like to say, sometimes you have to spend money to make money.
BC: What has been the biggest contributor to Colorado’s poor season?
TK: It’s been a group effort, so to speak. The defense played poorly in upset losses to Colorado State and Toledo. Since then, the defense has vastly improved, but for the second consecutive year, Colorado has the worst offense in the Big 12 – by a relatively large margin.
BC: What has Hansen brought to the table that Cody Hawkins did not? Should he have been the starter to start the year?
TK: Hansen has wheels, a great feel for scrambling. Plus, he has a much stronger arm than Cody Hawkins. It’s easy to say now that Hansen should have been starting all along, but beat writers who attend practices agree that Cody was always more consistent during the week’s preparations. I can’t fault Dan Hawkins for playing the QB who was best in practice. Cody had some good moments, including engineering a second-half comeback victory over Oklahoma in 2007, but he seemed to have peaked, if not regressed. Hansen has promising upside.
BC: What is the most underrated part of the team?
TK: The pass defense stats aren’t particularly good, but CU’s secondary has some size and athleticism. New starters were inserted at safety during midseason, and that has solidified the unit.
BC: What is the Buffs biggest strength?
TK: There’s experience and savvy at linebacker, especially senior Marcus Burton and junior B.J. Beatty. They love to hit.
BC: Biggest weakness?
TK: Pass protection. Iowa State had only two sacks, but before that, Missouri and Texas A&M each dropped Hansen 10 times. It’s a wonder the sophomore can get out of bed on Sunday mornings.
BC: Freshman or sophomores you think will make a big impact on Thursday?
TK: Many of the best players are sophomores, including QB Tyler Hansen, TB Rodney “Speedy” Stewart and WR Markques Simas. The defensive line has several sophomores and freshmen, and they have been a pleasant surprise – even holding up pretty well against Texas.
BC: Will playing so many games on unusual days (Thurs,Fri,Sun) give CU an edge since they’re used to it in some ways?
TK: You might say that, but all three victories came on Saturdays.
BC: Name one player OSU fans should fear on Thursday.
TK: Burton. At 6-feet and 250 pounds, is built like a tank and is capable of punishing running backs. He has enough athleticism and drive to get a look from the NFL.