Dan Hawkins seems to get his share of grief in Colorado and certainly takes it on the chin around these parts of the Web, the predictable result of losing to a Championship Subdivision team in a 2-10 debut where his Barnaby Barnacle of a predecessor managed to win four division titles in five years, while his former charges were going undefeated without him in blockbuster fashion, and he later yelled maniacally into a microphone to be YouTubed for posterity as the catalyst for the rant falls into instant oblivion. There is not much positive about 2-10, or screaming at parents.
But though hits the coach's mantra may take, and though he is also quite obviously a Care Bear animated for motivational purposes as part of some kind of horribly misguided experiment in human psychology, SMQ is taking his Tuesday morning to stand up for Dan Hawkins. Or at least express some degree of sympathy. Because it's pretty tough to lay on the unending optimism when you open Spring practice, as Colorado did Monday, with six offensive linemen on the active roster:
To say there are position battles going on here, aside from who is the best option at center, would be a stretch. Tackles Edwin Harrison and Tyler Polumbus, guards Devin Head and Wes Palazzi, and center/guards Daniel Sanders and Keenan Stevens will all be in survival mode this spring.
Erick Faatagi will be available in limited action as he continues to recover from knee surgery and redshirt freshman tight end Nate Solder could be used at tackle
"We have to be creative so we can get through practice," Hawkins said. "It's a concern because we have seven guys right now. You have to be smart and give people all those reps without getting people hurt."
No possibility of position battles among untested newcomers. Survival mode, people getting hurt. We have to be creative so we can get through practice? These are not, at root, positive developments. Hawkins' annotated copy of Dale Carnegie's Tao te Ching as interpreted by Sri Chimnoy presumably has no suggestions for the one-deep offensive line.
Couldn't kick, but possibly...strong guard?
- - -
But the drive to success stops not for injury, nor lack of staff. When life gives Dan Hawkins a lemon, Dan Hawkins stomps it underfoot and demands a ripe nectarine in its place, and he stops at nothing until the sticky juice of peak personal performance is running down his formerly fur-covered chin. If you have to be creative, let's have a little brainstorm for positive solutions:
• Three-man line: Old customs die hard, but this works in the Arena League and parts of the Plains. Instantly makes the line two-deep with no added players. Not technically the most creative solution, as Gus Malzahn is working on one and two-man offensive lines at Tulsa (the former only because a snap from center is required by rule, though Malzahn's innovative "C-Back" position will be manned by a 5-6, 165-pound blazer designed to keep defenses at home on the otherwise deceptively basic septuple reverse pass), but allows for more reps and an injury cushion.
• Play Trainers, Water Boys and Equipment Managers: The student body at large is a legal and insurance liability, but this kind of problem is exactly why the support staff exists. Secretly, in fact, it's probably their deepest, ultimatest fantasy to suit up for the Buffaloes. Do not deny these hardworking young people their opportunity to succeed at their dreams. Outgoing all-Big XII guard Brian Daniels was an overgrown cleat shine boy as a true freshman, so you never know.
• Siamese Walk-ons: Two heads are better than one, right, and are probably good enough to spot that extra blitzer while Polumbus is getting his ankle retaped. For practice purposes only, initially, but keep them close by for an inevitable heartstring moment in the closing seconds of the trip to Oklahoma.
I'm afraid I have no choice but to ask to ask you to give up the ball, son.
- - -
• Sacrifice Your First-Born Son: Sacrifice may be a little strong, but young Cody is a redshirt freshman, a winner with a bright future who loves Chris Leak and is aiming to walk in the departed Gator's path as a sub-six-foot starting quarterback. The good of the team, though, must come fist, and the good of the team is for more anonymous offensive linemen. Look into his eyes and see the sparkle, see the vibrant soul and vibrant life, and know that verily, you must ask him to line up in a three-point stance across from this guy in practice. Because a true leader would never ask the sons of others to do what must be done before he is willing to send his own.
• Wearing No. 74, Han Dawkins: When it comes down to it, Dan, you are the head coach, the buck stops here, it is do or die in the heat of the battle, you have to put your foot down, jump into that fire, dare greatly, you'll never know if you don't try, there is more than one way to skin a cat, never look back, and at the end of the day, when the dust has settled, when you get into bed at night with your wife, when wishes are horses and beggars will ride, will you remember when you felt bad because you had no shoes until you met a man who had no feet? When all else fails, Danny boy, do the job yourself. Somebody has to nut up here.
Help of sorts is en route in the fall in the form of eight freshman O-linemen, including five-star shirtless stud Ryan Miller from Columbine. In the meantime, positivity, positivity, positivity! Heeeyaaaarrrgggaaahh!