Big 12: Michael Westbrook
Hawkins told reporters he was “fortunate” to be coming back after the struggles of a 3-9 season. It marked the third time in four seasons the Buffaloes failed to make a bowl trip and dropped his career record there to 16-33.
After Hawkins brashly predicted -- or “strongly suggested” as he’s framed it after the fact -- that the Buffaloes could win 10 games with no excuses this season, Colorado fell off the track. Those hopes were effectively gone by the time conference play began after nonconference defeats to Colorado State, Toledo and West Virginia.
They rebounded to mount comeback victories over Kansas and Texas A&M during conference play, but struggled against the conference’s better teams.
The Buffaloes ranked among the bottom 10 teams nationally in rushing, sacks allowed, net punt and punt returns. They struggled with penalties all season long. And the offense seemed to turn the corner only after quarterback Tyler Hansen grew with his comfort operating the unit.
Markques Simas emerged as a potential playmaker at wide receiver late in the season. Combining him with Scotty McKnight could give the Buffaloes a strong combination at wide receiver.
Heralded tailback Darrell Scott left the program, but Rodney “Speedy” Stewart already had beaten him out for most of the carries by that point.
Hawkins has a collection of athletes, but will be challenged to work them together into a team. He likely won’t get another mulligan next season if his team struggles again.
Offensive MVP WR Scotty McKnight
McKnight emerged as Colorado’s top playmaker with 76 receptions for 893 yards. His reception total was good for the second-most in school history. He needs only three receptions to break Michael Westbrook’s school record. He produced at least seven receptions this season in six games including each of the last three games.
Defensive MVP CB Jimmy Smith
Smith produced 70 tackles, broke up 10 passes and tied for the team lead with two interceptions to serve as the Buffaloes’ top defender in the secondary and a key lockdown cornerback in their pass defense.
Turning point Sept. 11 at Toledo
Some of the sting of a season-opening loss to Colorado State could be blotted away because it’s a rivalry game. But the way the Buffaloes were torched defensively against Toledo was indicative of the defensive struggles they would face as the season unfolded. Toledo rushed and passed for more than 300 yards in the game as they gashed the Buffaloes for nine plays from scrimmage of at least 27 yards. The 54-38 loss helped foreshadow the struggles in Big 12 play when the Colorado athletes had trouble matching those from a Mid-American Conference opponent.
No bowl means the Buffaloes have all winter to refocus before starting spring practice. Hansen will have the starting job from the first day as most of his offensive weapons return with McKnight, Simas and Stewart back. The defense loses only four starters but two of them are key producers in cornerback Cha’pelle Brown and linebacker Jeff Smart. The Buffaloes desperately need to work on fundamentals. Hawkins’ job will be riding on it.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Happy Friday afternoon. Here are some of the better questions and e-mails that I received this week.
Brian Kimble of Beltsville, Md., writes: After seeing the preseason All-Big 12 list and looking back at several articles from you and other sources, it seems every time Oklahoma and Texas are compared position by position, player by player, it favors OU. Yet, most prognosticators (yourself included) pick Texas as the better team. What is your justification?
Tim Griffin: Brian, I give Texas a slight edge for a couple of reasons. First, I think Oklahoma's loss of four starters along the offensive line is huge. With only one starter returning, the Sooners will have their work cut out to fix that by Oct. 17 at the Cotton Bowl. And I, along with several other people I've talked to, believe that Texas is entering the season with a kind of a collective chip on its shoulder from how the 2008 season played out. The Longhorns' coaching staff is helping to feed that by at one time awarding the team an asterisk-influenced share of the Big 12 title in their team meeting room before taking it down. And I also think that Colt McCoy is driven to win a championship.
I think the difference between the two teams is very, very slight. But I favor the Longhorns by a hair for those reasons.
I do reserve the right to change my mind before game day. But if they were playing today, I would make the Longhorns a slight favorite, say by about a field goal.
Drew Kappel of Orange County, Calif., writes: Hey Tim, I was shocked to see that "The Catch", the Kordell Stewart-to-Michael Westbrook pass in the famous "Miracle in Michigan" was not on your Big 12 greatest moments. Did I miss something? I was waiting for that every week and I just assumed it would be number 1, and then I was shocked when it wasn't. That is one of the most famous moments in Big 12 history as far as many Buff fans are concerned.
Tim Griffin: Drew, I limited my choices to moments during the history of the Big 12. The "Michigan Miracle," which I agree was one of the greatest plays in college football history, took place on Sept. 24, 1994 - a little more than two years before the first Big 12 game was played in 1996.
But it was a great play and definitely would have merited some kind of inclusion if I had allowed all plays in the history of each Big 12 school to be included.
But it was tough enough narrowing my choice to 25 with those in Big 12 history. I couldn't have imagined how difficult it would have been if I had to cull through every school's football history looking for memories.
Maybe I'll do that next summer.
Spencer from Oklahoma writes: Tim, I'm a fan of yours and enjoy reading your blog, including the latest entry regarding 100-yard receivers and rushers and 300-yard passers. I noticed something from that study, and I wondered what you thought of this.
I saw that Sam Bradford had 13 games of 300 yards. However, there were only two instances of receivers at Oklahoma having 100-yard games. One belonged to Ryan Broyles, the other to Jermaine Gresham. I found this astonishing.
The other QB to have 13 300-yard games was Kansas' Todd Reesing. However, notice the instances of 100-yard receivers for the Jayhawks. They have 15!! Dezmon Briscoe had seven, Kerry Meier had five and three others had one 100-yard game apiece.
Is this surprising that Oklahoma has only had two receivers with a single 100-yard game among its receivers, despite the passing numbers put up by Bradford? And does this speak to the versatility of Bradford using all his outlets? What are your thoughts?
Tim Griffin: My list includes only players who are returning for the 2009 season. What it might speak to even more than anything were the losses that the Sooners endured with the departure of Juaquin Iglesias and Manny Johnson. Iglesias had seven career 100-yard receiving games, including three last season. Johnson had three career 100-yard receiving games, including two last season.
But I've noticed that Bradford has matured, he seems to be less likely to focus on one receiver. I think that results in a wider inclusion of many receivers into his offense rather than one or two. And that results in the fewer number of 100-yard receivers around the Oklahoma program.
That being said, I look for Broyles to really emerge as a deep threat this season if he can stay healthy. And Adron "Pooh" Tennell looked ready to produce after a strong season. And I think both can develop into consistent big-yardage receivers if they grab enough passes.
Tim from New York City writes: I have a question that has Big 12 (actually Big 8) ties regarding a coach outside of the conference. Given Turner Gill's recent success at and brief turnaround of one of Division I's ultimate projects at Buffalo, is it a long shot to believe that he may make a return to his former conference? If so, what teams would make a good fit for him?
Tim Griffin: Turner Gill has done a masterful job in rebuilding Buffalo after leading the Bulls to the Mid-American Conference championship and the International Bowl last season.
That strong job obviously has to have caught the attention of his old coach, Tom Osborne, which would make some think that Nebraska would be a place he might end up as a head coach. For that to happen, Bo Pelini would have to go on to another job. I think Gill might need a tad more more seasoning at Buffalo. And I don't see any interest in Pelini pursuing any other jobs at this time.
Another job that will come open probably pretty soon will be Kansas State, where there's no indication that Bill Snyder is in the head coaching position for the long term. Maybe Snyder, who turns 70 on Oct. 7, will stay at his old school for two or three years. It would be interesting if Gill would be attracted to Kansas State and if the Wildcats would be attracted to him.
I think the job that would make sense to him would be at TCU in his hometown of Fort Worth, Texas. Obviously, Gary Patterson would have to being going somewhere and I don't know how much interest Patterson has in pursuing other jobs at this time.
But I personally think that TCU might be the best non-BCS job in the country. And it might be better than some jobs in the Big 12. The reason I consider this job so highly include its proximity to the fertile Texas recruiting area, the developing facilities at the school, the school's winning tradition and its conference affiliation.
Patterson currently has an easier road to the BCS in his own conference than he would if the Horned Frogs were playing in the Big 12. And I think he knows it.
But I would also think the chance to return home for Gill would be attractive if the opportunity to accept the TCU job if it ever materialized for him.
Rick Yarbrough from Tripoli, Libya, writes: Football over here is with a round ball and guys in shorts. I'm gonna miss the fall afternoons watching the Longhorns running up and down the field. With a Sunday - Thursday work week and 7 hours time difference, I'm looking to you to keep us up to speed on the Longhorns. Keep up the great work. I'll be catching your blog.
Tim Griffin: Rick, thanks for your work. Please check the blog often during the upcoming season for some updates of home on a pretty regular basis. It should be an interesting season.
And boy, do I envy your days off. You should be able to catch almost every college football game from everywhere, depending on the satellites.
Larry Soper writes: Tim: Nice article on Taylor Potts on ESPN.com earlier this week. Could you please tell me what the Texas Tech receivers look like for Potts with Michael Crabtree gone?
Tim Griffin: Obviously, the loss of two-time Biletnikoff winner will be a big one for Texas Tech. But I think the Red Raiders actually will be more balanced this season without one player commanding most of the catches like Crabtree has done for the last two seasons. I look for Detron Lewis to step up in the featured role with a chance to catch 90-100 balls if he can stay healthy. But I've always liked Edward Britton, who I think could really blossom if he matures in his role in the offense. I think the same could be true for Tremain Swindall as well. And I know that Mike Leach has always raved about Lyle Leong and Adam James as they have played in his system.
I wouldn't look for one player to catch most of the passes for Tech this season. But it will be interesting to see who Potts gravitates to as his receiver. We'll see that as the season plays out for the Red Raiders.
Tom Bates from Oklahoma City writes: Hey, Tim, I know media day is coming up for you. I wonder if you would list your favorite three players and three coaches in the Big 12 to talk with. And maybe give a reason why you find those guys to be the best interviews.
Tim Griffin: As far as players go, this would be my list. 1. Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri - Always has something interesting to say. 2. Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma - I can see why Sooner players have gravitated to him since his arrival. He's a leader and his words command respect. 3. Kerry Meier, Kansas - Polished and well spoken. He could have a career behind the microphone after his playing days are over.
As far as coaches, this is how I would rank them: 1. Texas Tech coach Mike Leach - You never know what know what he's going to say. And that's the beauty of him. 2. Baylor coach Art Briles - Still has enough small-town Texas high-school football coach in him to always have some interesting comments. 3. Colorado coach Dan Hawkins - I never had heard the word "conflama" before I met the Hawk. But it's grown in my vocabulary since being around him to describe the combination of conflict and drama.
I also loved his comment on taking his wife to an Abba concert during the 2007 season. "You stay married for 25 years by making sacrifices."
We could all learn from that attitude, I guess.
Have a good weekend. I'll catch up with you on Monday from the Big 12 media days in Irving, Texas. Thanks again for all of the good questions and please keep them coming.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Spring practice has sparked an outpouring of letters and e-mails about the events taking place across the Big 12. Here are some of the more notable missives I received this week.
Jonny from Chicago writes: Hey, Tim. Are any Big 12 schools known for the type of NFL positions prospects they have produced over the years. For instance, Penn State is commonly referred to as "Linebacker U" and USC has the nickname of "Tailback U". Any in the Big 12 you can think of?
Tim Griffin: Good question. There aren't any as notable as the ones you mentioned, but here are a few of the most notable trends I could find when I thought about the Big 12 and the NFL draft.
Colorado: Wide receivers. The Buffaloes have had four first-round selections since 1991, although none since 1997. Included in the list are Rae Carruth, Charles Johnson, Michael Westbrook and Mike Pritchard.
Texas: Defensive backs. This is the conference's most consistent factory at any position. The Longhorns have six first-round selections at the position since 1991 -- Stanley Richard, Bryant Westbrook, Quentin Jammer, Michael Huff, Michael Griffin and Aaron Ross. It's almost like a machine turning out No. 1 picks under defensive backs coach Duane Akina.
Nebraska: Defensive ends. The Cornhuskers have had six defensive ends picked in the first two rounds of the NFL draft since 1997. That's included key producers like Grant Wistrom, Adam Carriker, Mike Rucker, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Chris Kelsay.
Oklahoma: It's more quantity for the Sooners than top-round quality, with nine defensive backs picked since Bob Stoops took over. That list has included only two first-round selections -- Roy Williams and Andre Woolfolk.
Steve from Overland Park, Kan., writes: Tim, if you were starting an NFL team and you could have your choice of any Big 12 player who is on a college roster this spring, who would you pick.
Tim Griffin: Given the choice, I think Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford would look awfully good on my team. I like his size and arm a little better than Colt McCoy, and I also think Bradford will hold up better in the NFL. Among others I would strongly consider include Oklahoma tight end Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant, Texas defensive end/linebacker Sergio Kindle and Baylor defensive tackle Phil Taylor.
G from Gering, Neb., writes: Will you be attending any of Nebraska's spring practices this year? And what are you specifically looking for?
Tim Griffin: G, I'm headed up there to watch on Saturday morning if I don't get snowed out along the way. I know most coaches have vanilla workouts when the media is around. But I'll be curious if Zac Lee's arm is really as good as I've heard. I'm also going to be looking at Nebraska's receivers as they replace the sizable hole created by the departure of Nate Swift and Todd Peterson. And I'll be curious to see what kind of attitude the Cornhuskers have on defense. They need to be more aggressive in terms of creating turnovers. And if I know Bo Pelini, he's probably coaching that into them from their first spring practice.
Jason from Fort Collins, Colo., writes: Tim: In an offensive conference like the Big 12, who do you see as having the top defenses for this upcoming season?
Tim Griffin: I would expect the conference's top two defenses to be Oklahoma and Texas, who I also think will have the conference's two best teams.
I like Oklahoma's just a little bit more because of the return of players like McCoy, Jeremy Beal, Travis Lewis and Dominique Franks. If the Sooners can find a couple of safeties, they'll be one of the best in the country.
And linebackers Austin Box and Ryan Reynolds and defensive end Auston English could be among the best players in the conference at their best position if they can come back from injuries. Their return will only boost the production of Brent Venables' unit.
I also like Texas if they can find some help for Kindle along the defensive front. I expect some of the younger players in the secondary to challenge existing starters for playing time.
And I think Nebraska can be very good as the Cornhuskers work for the second season under Pelini. They need for Barry Turner to come back healthy at defensive end. And it will be interesting to see if Jared Crick is as good as I'm hearing at defensive tackle next to Ndamukong Suh.
Not coincedentially, those three teams should be among the best in the Big 12 this year. I think the teams with the best defenses will have a huge advantage in a conference like the Big 12 where the offenses will be so potent.
N. Hodgin from Alpharetta, Ga., writes: Tim, Where did Patrick Witt transfer to?
Tim Griffin: It still is undetermined, although I hear he's considering UCLA, Stanford, Duke and Yale.
Obviously, the question for him will be whether he wants to play immediately, which he could do if he went to an FCS school. Recent Big 12 transfers like Rhett Bomar and Bobby Reid were able to do that.
If Witt wants to play at another FBS school, he'll have to sit out a year.
His family has hinted to several Nebraska newspapers that he might move and give up his football career.
But I frankly don't see that happening. I would look for him to end up at another FBS school, getting a year to learn the offense before playing again 2010.
Zeyad from Tulsa writes: Oklahoma has a good chance at going undefeated this year as long as they get by Texas. But with the Sooners' soft schedule and their recent letdowns in big games do you think there's a chance they will get voted out of the national championship game if they finish undefeated? Especially if it would end up being a rematch of last season?
Tim Griffin: Zeyad, I think that any team that goes undefeated in the Big 12 is going to have a great shot at playing for the national championship. And I would also argue about Oklahoma having a soft schedule. The Sooners will be playing bowl teams like BYU and Tulsa and also have a trip to Miami among their nonconference games. That's in addition to playing all of the schools in the Big 12 South along with road games at projected Big 12 North title contenders Kansas and Nebraska and a potential Big 12 championship game. The Sooners won't have to apologize for that schedule.
Thanks again for all of the e-mails and letters and please keep them coming. We'll check back again next week.