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Monday, April 5, 2010
Colorado QB race starts with a chart

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

BOULDER, Colo. -- Cody Hawkins doesn’t need to ask Dan Hawkins for an update on where he stands in the quarterback competition. Neither does fellow candidate Tyler Hansen, and he’s not asking offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau either, who said the competition will likely last until fall.

They don’t need to. All either needs to do is take a glance at The Chart—the one keeping track of every single throw they make at any point during a practice.

“They have everything charted out, from Practice One to the first scrimmage,” Cody Hawkins said. “You can go down and if you want to review the whole practice, they have guys who that’s specifically their job, they’re charting us.”

The chart is essentially a glorified quarterback rating, reflecting each quarterback’s completion percentage, touchdown passes, touchdown drive percentage and a handful of other stats—most importantly, interceptions.

“You’ve got statistics in front of you that say, ‘Hey, this guy’s doing better than you’ on this day, but tomorrow I’m going to come out here and I’m going to do a lot better,” Hansen said. “It definitely adds a lot more competition to it.”

The Buffaloes only used the chart for scrimmages last season. Now, every time a live ball leaves a quarterback’s hands, it goes into each player’s bank. With Hawkins challenging to regain his status at starter, its importance is obvious.

“This is unbelievable,” Hansen said. “We weigh every rep.”

Said Hawkins: “It gives you the opportunity to really compete yourself and gauge yourself. When you’re out there on the field, you don’t get a great chance because you’re so caught up in your own competition and your own job, just to see exactly what it looks like from an outsider’s perspective, you know exactly where you need to improve.”

With only a handful of bystanders to watch each practice instead of tens of thousands cheering them on inside Folsom Field, each practice now feels a little more like game day. Scrimmage time or a flown-in opponent not necessary.

“You’ve definitely gotta go into practice saying, ‘Every play matters,’” Hansen said. “You’ve got to be 100 percent focused on every play, because every rep goes into your official score. It definitely makes you focus a lot more.”

Both quarterbacks are chasing a completion percentage of 70 and hopes of marching into the end zone each time they take control of the offense during a scrimmage.

But both says they have plenty to improve that won’t show up on any chart. For Hansen, it’s stepping into a role as vocal leader. For Hawkins, it’s trusting his teammates and playing within himself.

“Because I was here a bit longer than a lot of guys and I played since I was a freshman, that I probably put too much of a burden on myself and tried to make things happen, just because we had younger guys who were just getting the hang of things around me,” Hawkins said. “But now I’ve got to realize that I’ve got some experienced guys around me and if I play within myself, then I think this the time when I can just go out and do what I do and if it turns out I’m the best guy, I’m the best guy.”

But who knows who’ll end up being the best guy when the spring ends? To find out, start with the chart.