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By: Associated Press
Senior Cody Hawkins (7) makes his first start of the season Saturday night at Oklahoma.
Brooks: QB Change Brings Some Offensive Tweaks
Release: October 29, 2010
By: B.G. Brooks, Contributing Editor
BOULDER - The adjustments in switching from one quarterback to another - in this case Tyler Hansen to Cody Hawkins - will be subtle to non-existent for left tackle Nate Solder and his Colorado offensive line mates, but a bit more pronounced for offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau.

Hawkins, CU's opening-day starter for the past three seasons, makes his first 2010 start Saturday night (7:15 p.m., MDT, ESPN) at No. 11 Oklahoma in place of the injured Hansen (ruptured spleen).

If the differences in their styles and arm strength mean some schematic tweaking for Kiesau and a few adjustments by receivers, it's more or less business as usual for Solder and the guys along the line of scrimmage.

"The line's assignment doesn't change . . . nothing's really going to change," Solder said. "We block it up the same; we want to keep the same mentality that we want to dominate the line of scrimmage - that's always the goal. I don't think there'll be any major changes for us. (Hawkins) plays a little different style, but that doesn't affect us any."

In fact, with Hawkins more of a pocket passer than the more mobile Hansen, the O-line's role becomes more defined. Instead of often being forced to hold blocks longer to accommodate Hansen's scrambling, Solder & Co. can concentrate on their initial assignment on pass plays - keeping the pocket intact.

Solder, noting it's more about timing with Hawkins, said, "Sometimes Tyler wants to evade and run around and things, whereas Cody will stay in the pocket and he'll make his reads and throws from there most of the time."

That's one of Kiesau's concerns; Hansen's mobility allowed him to extend plays in the passing game or escape a collapsed pocket - neither of which is Hawkins' strong suit. Using sets with multiple tight ends or utility backs Matt Bahr and Scott Fernandez, Kiesau believes the Buffs will have to protect better "on the edges" against an Oklahoma pass rush that features the Big 12 Conference's sack and tackles for loss leader. Defensive end Jeremy Beal has 6.5 of the Sooners' sack total (18), along with 13 tackles for loss.

OU, said Kiesau, has "athletes everywhere . . . the D-line is very talented, the secondary can run. They don't really do anything that will scare you out of much (schematically), but they're very sound, well-coached. They're not going to miss a gap, a coverage, they're not going to make those mistakes fundamentally."

With Hawkins presenting less of a running threat than Hansen, CU must get its ground yardage elsewhere. The Buffs didn't get it anywhere in the 27-24 loss against Texas Tech, managing only 28 yards - more than 130 below their average.

Solder said with Tech moving its safeties "in the box" to thwart CU's run game, "That's when you try to take advantage of your passing; so that kind of stalled our run game a little. But it's going to be a goal to get our run game going (at OU), and that's going to make everything a lot easier offensively. Depending on what Oklahoma does might dictate it, so we go with what they give us. But we're going to have to run the ball, and that will be a huge point in the game."

Kiesau agreed: "We've got to establish the run game, let these O-linemen get off with some confidence, then continue to throw the ball. The great thing about last week when Tech put an extra guy in the box, we threw the ball pretty well. That was good."

Taking over for Hansen with just under 6 minutes left before halftime, Hawkins completed 22-of-43 passes for 274 yards and two touchdowns. Kiesau called Hawkins' performance "pretty effective. There were a few throws he missed, but overall he was good.

"We've told both that at some point that we would need Cody. Everybody thought that was kind of a standard line . . . but he's always stayed involved and mentally sharp. It was good for him to come off the bench and throw the ball like he did. Obviously, I wish we'd gotten the win. But he's got another great challenge this weekend."

The Sooners are eighth in the Big 12 in pass defense (239.0 yards a game) and seventh in run defense (150.6), making seventh in total defense (389.6). They're allowing 21.4 points a game (fifth).

"We're going to have to come after them," Kiesau said. "It'll be a good evening of football."

SPEED IT UP: CU expects OU's offensive pace to be faster than any time the Buffs have faced this season. The Sooners average 85 offensive plays, a tempo Buffs defensive coordinator Ron Collins calls "tiring."

"My understanding from people who have played both teams is that they're fast - as fast as they get," he said. "They really force you to leave 11 guys on the field for the whole series."

CU faced up-tempo offenses in Baylor and Texas Tech, surrendering 58 points and 973 yards in those back-to-back losses. Collins said his defense is "doing as well as they can" in handling the fast-paced schemes. "I think we did a better job against Texas Tech than we did against Baylor in holding up. But Oklahoma presents a team, from our understanding, that's way faster than both of those teams."

Aside from the faster pace, Collins said the Sooners do some things that are similar to what the Buffs saw the last two times they met (2006-07). Another similarity: "Good athletes all the way across the board - that's very familiar."

BUFF BITS: Junior Patrick Mahnke and redshirt freshman Derrick Webb are scheduled to fill in for Jon Major (MCL tear) at the "Will" linebacker position. Mahnke is a former safety who moved to linebacker and also has played nickel back this season. Coach Dan Hawkins said of Webb, "When he makes up his mind and goes, he's very disruptive." . . . . Defensive end Josh Hartigan, who missed the Texas Tech game with a high ankle sprain, is expected to return Saturday. But freshman Chidera Uzo-Diribe, who subbed for Hartigan, likely will see duty. "We'll try to get him in as much as we can," Collins said. "He's a very talented player and is going to be a great player here. He's the same as Terrel (Smith); he's learning by doing." . . . . Smith, also a true freshman, is scheduled to make his second start at safety. In his debut against Texas Tech, he made 15 tackles (four solo). Collins said Smith "is going to be as tough a kid as we've had at safety since I've been here. And we've had some good safeties. But I think if you ask the kids they'll tell you the thing that stands out about him is he's not afraid to hit." . . . . Collins said the defense's depth is "paying off right now . . . anytime you lose five DBs and still can put people on the field that can manage the game, it's a plus. We feel very good about that. But they're young kids, though, and that's the thing. You take the good with the bad." . . . . Kiesau, in assessing this week's practices, said players are "still running around, enjoying themselves, practicing hard." . . . . By way of comparison, Solder said Oklahoma's defensive front reminded him of Georgia's, but added, "Then again, they're different. They've got some big guys and some fast guys - maybe not the biggest, maybe not the fastest we've played, but a good combination of both. A typical Oklahoma team." . . . . CU has lost 13 consecutive regular-season road games, last winning at Texas Tech on Oct. 27, 2007.

Contact: BG.Brooks@Colorado.EDU

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