There is no doubt that the decision to replace Cody Hawkins with Tyler Hansen has inserted some life into the Colorado Buffaloes' fan base. It was a move that needed to be made, probably overdue but certainly necessary after the offense accounted for only 127 total yards against Texas and has been more of a detriment to the team the last few weeks than an asset. Offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau said it best: "Cody had chances. I'm not blaming him, by any means [b]ut we've got to produce." The fan base can get behind that statement, now the rest of the team needs to as well. With the Colorado defense coming off it's best performance of the year last week, forcing two turnovers and rendering the Texas ground game useless, an offense that begins to click might allow this team to run off a few wins here and there.
Sounds rosy right? It is an exciting time for the program in what has been doom and gloom for the past month but Buff fans must remember Tyler Hansen is a true sophomore and we don't know what we have in him yet. Is he Landry Jones? Is he a possible Todd Reesing that can make plays with his feet or arm who was inserted in a struggling Kansas offense four years ago? Or is he still learning the offense behind a unit with few proven playmakers that had more penalty yards a week ago (140) than total offensive yards (127)? Has he progressed this season running the second team or has the idea of him redshirting 100% this year prior to the Texas game hampered his growth and approach in practice?
The fact is that Tyler Hansen cannot turn this ship around alone nor should we expect him to. He isn't a miracle worker and Buff fans should expect struggles. Tyler Hansen has only thrown 70 career passes for under 300 yards (just over 4.0 yards per attempt) and has four interceptions to go with his one career touchdown pass. But most of those statistics were accumulated as a true freshman thrown into the fire with limited knowledge of the playbook and a patch work offensive line. On the flip side, those stats were also accumulated against lower tiered Big 12 teams - Texas A&M, Kansas State and Iowa State.
At the same time, he is taking over an offensive unit that is probably worse than last year. At least, statistically they are. In 2008, the Buffs offense averaged a paltry 325 yards a game the first five contests, which ranked them 89th in the nation. It couldn't get much worse right? It has. In 2009, after five games, the Buffs rank 104th on offense and are averaging just 309 yards per game. The regression is a major reason for the change in quarterbacks but the Buffs don't have the same luxury of jump starting an underperfoming offensive line that has been defined more by the penalties that is has been guilty of rather than the smash mouth football that we heard rumors of in the offseason. Nor do the Buffs have a plethora of wide receiving weapons on the bench. As for the running backs, the stable of four that was the talk of the offseason seems like it has been narrowed down to one in Rodney Stewart and even he has had struggles finding running room. Nothing has clicked for this offense and if we think Tyler Hansen is the missing link, we are all going to be disappointed.
What needs to happen is the other ten players on the offensive side of the ball need to rally around Hansen & the Buffs' defense. It is also time for Eric Kiesau to separate himself from Mark Helfrich. The Buffs offense has been unimaginative and extremely limited. Partly to blame on the lack of playmakers and quarterback play, Colorado's offense, based on the numbers, has regressed from last year even when the first five games a year ago included a highly ranked Florida State defense. How about some wildcat, some plays that challenge the safeties down the field, how about some well executed screen passes, some boot legs that feature layers of wide receivers instead of just Scotty McKnight, how about getting the power running game going and committing to it. Eric Kiesau has a golden opportunity to erase a rather concerning start to his offensive coordinating career and call the game of his life against Kansas, a defense who was exposed last week against Iowa State, giving up 512 total yards. It is time to see an offense that looks like the coaches have scouted the opposition and have found some areas to attack.
But back to Coach Kiesau's quote, "we've got to produce", where is the production going to come from? Certainly it looked like Tyler Hansen's arms strength in the Texas game was stronger than Cody's this year and the added mobility of Hansen should be a benefit but without an improvement up front from the offensive line, this team will continue to struggle putting up points. Colorado ranks 112th in the nation in rushing the ball, something that was supposed to be a strength of this team. You can say the Buffs abandoned the run too early in many games but I look at that stat and immediately question coaching and the toughness of this team.
Starting this week, the offensive line and coaching need to meet expectations or the move to Tyler Hansen will have little if any impact in the win-loss column.