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By: CUBuffs.com
QB Cody Hawkins: 'I don't think I've been pressing at all. I don't think I'm that kind of person who ever does press.'
Brooks: QB Efficiency Still Lacking
Release: October 07, 2009
By: B.G. Brooks, Contributing Editor
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BOULDER - Among the major upgrades anticipated in 2009 by the Colorado Buffaloes was more efficiency from their starting quarterback. But four games into a dismaying 1-3 start, that expectation, mirroring the season itself, has rarely been met.

For a variety of reasons, the "sophomore slump" that plagued Cody Hawkins in 2008 seems to have spilled into the first month and a half of his junior season.

The quarterback, his position coach (Eric Kiesau) and his head coach/father (Dan Hawkins) all concede that Cody Hawkins' four-game statistics, for the most part, must be part of the Buffs' overall improvement if they are to redirect their season.

Numbers never tell the whole story, but the partial tale they relate here isn't pretty: Cody Hawkins ranks last among Big 12 Conference QBs in three categories (pass efficiency, pass completion percentage, yards per completion) and first in the most dubious department - interceptions. His seven touchdown passes are matched by seven interceptions - three fewer than he threw in 12 games last season.

To be fair, circumstances in three of CU's four games have forced Cody Hawkins to pass more than anyone imagined. Through four games in 2008, when the Buffs were 3-1, he attempted 136 passes. His 187 attempts through four games this season are second only in the Big 12 to Texas Tech's Taylor Potts (235). But that's how Mike Leach's offense is structured; CU had hopes of being balanced enough with its running game to make life less complicated for its quarterback.

And no one expected the Buffs to be playing from behind as often as they have.

To Dan Hawkins, "the most alarming part" of his quarterback's four-game numbers are the seven interceptions. "They've all been sort of different indifferent cases," he said. "I think his first year (2007), there was a decent amount (of picks) that came off of batted balls (and) our guys were dropping them."

He also said his son "has been pounded a little bit" by defenses but has held up well in most cases. Asked how Cody's play measured up to expectations, Dan Hawkins answered, "That's a hard question to ask of me because you're looking at a whole big picture.

"Obviously, from an objective standpoint, you'd love to win more games. Bottom line, every quarterback is measured in winning more games. You'd love to have the efficiency number be higher, the interceptions be lower from a purely objective standpoint.

"From a subjective standpoint, the guy's pretty tough. He's gotten mashed a lot and never wilted. He's what you want out of your quarterback from that standpoint in terms of being a leader and a rock solid guy and being consistent . . .

"Now, does that exceed my expectations? I don't know that that's the case."

Dan Hawkins said Cody rarely is intercepted when he throws to Scotty McKnight, CU's only experienced receiver, because he and McKnight usually are connected on their timing and McKnight's routes. That hasn't been the case with others in a young and inexperienced receiving corps that mostly is learning on the fly.

Even so, Kiesau contended Cody Hawkins "has been pressing" at times and must learn to rely more on his skill players, regardless of their inexperience.

"I'm not disappointed that he's trying to press; I understand what he's trying to do," Kiesau said. "But he's got to understand that he's got to let other people do things for him to help him out."

Kiesau said Markques Simas, who caught his first career pass (it was for a 30-yard score) at West Virginia, and Anthony Wright, who is recovering from an ankle sprain, "are coming along."

But junior college transfer Andre Simmons, a late-August arrival who has only one reception, appears to be coming along more slowly than anticipated.

"We would like to have some more out of him, get him some more opportunities," Kiesau said. "It's hard because you don't want to put him out there too much and have him make a bunch of mistakes and get down on himself.

"And other guys are capable - Markques, Anthony, Scotty, Riar (Geer, tight end) - and Jason (Espinoza, broken thumb) will be back . . . there's a core group that (Cody) is going to be able to depend on."

But Cody Hawkins points to "maybe the Toledo game, where I had to force some throws" as the only clear instance to him of perhaps "pressing."

"I don't think I've been pressing at all," he said. "I don't think I'm that kind of person who ever does press; I think I play relaxed. I think we have to stay out of situations where we're trying to force plays."

When a quarterback appears to be pressing, noted Kiesau, "There's a lot of elements that go into it. I think that's why in those two games (Toledo and West Virginia) he had three turnovers in each.

"That's when I think Cody feels like he's got to change the face of the game . . . that he's got to produce these plays. But he's got to settle down a little and let those guys make plays for him.

"Just reverse it a little and trust them a little, put the ball out there, give it some air and let those guys make plays and not always pinpoint it exactly."

Kiesau called one of Cody's three picks in the loss against West Virginia "100 percent my fault . . . It was third-and-28 or something, and we should have run a play and punted."

The pressing theory aside, each agrees that steps can be taken to improve the quarterback's performance.

"I think we have a bead on a few things that are going to help him there," Dan Hawkins said.

For starters, Kiesau wants to "define his reads a little more for him . . . continue to move him around and not just have him drop straight back.

"It's unfortunate when you're throwing the ball a lot that you have to do some straight drop back. And when you do that with Cody, sometimes that's when some of the errors come in."

Passing lanes for Cody often are not clearly defined on straight drop backs, when his downfield vision can be marred because of his height, Kiesau said.

Asked if Cody's mechanics could be improved on, Kiesau answered, "Yes, we do need to spend some time on it, but it's hard in the middle of the season. It's kind of like changing your golf swing on the eighth hole. When you start messing with a quarterback's mechanics during the season, it's tough.

"We've been working for the last week or two on him getting his elbow up. When (it's down) sometimes the ball comes off the side, and when you're 5-11 and throwing off to the side, you're a little smaller. We've got to get him a little more upright."

Cody Hawkins, who has taken every snap in the first four games, indicated some offensive simplification was being implemented for Saturday's game at No. 2 Texas (5:15 p.m. MDT, ESPN).

"Anytime you simplify the game plan a little bit, everyone is going to be a little more comfortable with it," he said. "The less thinking you have to do, the faster you can play. I think we're just trying to maximize that . . .

"We're taking a harder look at what we're doing well and trying to (concentrate) on that, rather than trying to bend things too much."

The Buffs obviously would benefit from less injury-related juggling of personnel in the offensive line, more continuity in the running game (Rodney Stewart has put together consecutive 100-yard rushing games) and the receiving corps expeditiously getting up to speed.

"Then all that stuff kind of starts seeping in there together," Dan Hawkins said. "That's why I say no story is ever totally complete, because you can look at the numbers and go, 'Well, here's what the numbers say.' You can also go, 'What about the other side of it?'

"There's the side, too, of who's the last quarterback to beat Nebraska and Oklahoma in the same year?

"The other thing, too, with (Cody) is, obviously being my kid, you're already going to be the lightning rod as the quarterback anyway. And he gets double the lightning rod - and I think he's handled that pretty darn good.

"I'd love to have a quarterback be here three years and then start playing his junior year, you know? You're getting into the fire a little bit sooner than you ought to or want to or should. There's a little trial by fire that way.

"(Cody) will be the first guy to tell you, 'Sure, I don't want to throw as many interceptions. Yeah, I want to win more games. Yeah, my efficiency numbers should be better.'

"He's never going to say the other stuff . . . but when you're the coach and you have to look at the whole big picture, you say, 'Yeah, there's some other things going on.'"

Dan Hawkins' long-standing goal is to have a two-deep offensive line featuring juniors and seniors, five experienced receivers who are detailed route-runners, an efficient running game and, ideally, a seasoned quarterback to pull the whole offensive package together.

"That's just part of the whole deal," he said. "Some have got to pave the way and some have to raise the roof."

Through non-conference play, with the Big 12 schedule starting Saturday, only the paving is underway.

Contact: BG.Brooks@Colorado.EDU

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