Saturday at Folsom Field, the Gold team coached by Darian Hagan and led by quarterback Tyler Hansen defeated the Black team 37 - 27 in an entertaining spring game. The contest was by far the best in the Dan Hawkins era due to an organized game pace, the built in competition from drafting teams and treating this game as close as possible to the real thing. Also, it is pretty clear the Buffs are finally getting a little depth on the field which was surprising considering at least five potential starters did not participate in yesterday's scrum. A couple years ago, I don't think a game set up like the one yesterday would have been possible.
I thought both squads called an entertaining game offensively with a few trick plays (flea flicker, tight end eligible pass, extending the field in the passing game) something that hopefully continues into the regular season.
I was relatively impressed with the offensive line and a little disappointed in the defensive line. DE Nick Kasa, DE Forrest West and DT Will Pericak combined for two tackles the entire day. Considering the offensive line was missing potential starters OT Ryan Miller, OT Bryce Givens, OG Maxwell Tuioti-Mariner and OG Matt Bahr as well as RB Rodney Stewart, I was expecting a better day from the front four of the defense. Getting big DT Nate Bonsu back in the fall will help but I still expected more today. The offensive line for the both squads gave up one sack each, an improvement when you look at last year's numbers and considering the number of redshirt freshman forced into action today. Both quarterbacks finished the game with 75%+ completion percentages and at times, were able to get the running game going.
RB Quentin Hildreth looked like the best back out there but it is easy to see that an incoming freshman runningback like Justin Torres or Cordary Clark will be needed for a power presence. Hildreth showed good patience and definitely has some shake in the hole. Developing a complete running game this fall is priority number one as Colorado continues to look like a pass first, run second team. Combined, the teams threw the ball 52 times and ran 42. The Gold team had better balance but that was due to Hansen running eight times.
Both quarterbacks played well. Obviously when you complete over 75% of your passes as each did, it is hard to be too critical. I don't think either separated themselves as the number one quarterback this spring even though Hansen was listed on top of the depth chart. Hansen had two deep balls that fell incomplete to WR Toney Clemons that he will see on film as a missed opportunity and a pass he needs to complete. One late in the second quarter that ultimately was flagged for pass interference on CB Jimmy Smith but was well under thrown to a streaking Clemons down the sideline. If Hansen gets the ball out on time, it is a touchdown. The next miss was to open the second half on a post route to Clemons. Hansen did do some things well today like using the entire field and all of his options. He found TE DaVaughn Thornton multiple times today in the middle of the field which kept the defense on its toes. He still has a tendency tuck the ball and move rather than stick in the pocket and make the throw. He gets in trouble when he gets caught up between moving in the pocket and standing firm to deliver the pass, often throwing off balance into coverage. But, he still adds that dimension of being a threat in the pocket and someone the defense has to account for
I am excited to see Clemons, WR Markques Simas and WR Scotty McKnight on the field at the same time. Both McKnight and Simas were out of action. WR Terdema Ussery was in attendance after taking a leave from school, so it was good to see him back in Boulder. I like Clemons attitude on the field as he seems to have a strong competitive fire. He wants to do well and he wants to have the ball, something that is welcome at the receiver position. I don't think he is necessarily a speedster like Josh Smith was but I think he understands the game like how to find the soft spots in the zone. He will be an upgrade. TE DaVaughn Thornton will be on the field a lot this year because he is a weapon in the passing game. He is athletic and if he can continue to be successful getting open in the seam of the defense, the wide receivers and quarterback will benefit greatly from spreading the secondary out.
Cody Hawkins displayed good touch on his intermediate passes. I thought he was given good protection all day from his offensive line up front allowing him to make plays to WR Ryan Cefalo. Nothing negative to say really about Cody's performance. He wasn't sacked, only threw six incompletions and ran the offense well.
Defensively, two people stood out to me all day. LB Michael Sipili and S Parker Orms. Orms led the team with 10 tackles, seven solo including a sack. You can't really describe Orms' play other than to say "he just has IT." He isn't afraid to put his nose in there at 5'11 180 pounds and the coaches seem to recognize that. Many times, he was playing the rover/nickle back, acting like a fourth linebacker at times due to his ability to find the ball and make a play. He will be another guy they will need to find a place for on the field.
Sipili led the Black team with eight tackles and a few big hits that got his teammates excited. Consistency is something Sipili needs to show in 2010 as we have seen these types of performances before. He stepped up in the run game well and most important, played in the opposing offense's backfield, registering three tackles for loss.
The cornerback spot looks athletic. Redshirt freshman Deji Olatoye looks the part, almost like a Jimmy Smith clone. He is tall and lean with long arms.
Special teams still needs some work as the kicking game scares me to death.
Are the Buffs physical enough to compete in the Big 12 this year? That is still the question I find myself asking after the spring game. With games against Cal, Georgia, Nebraska, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Missouri, what is going to make this team different than teams prior when it comes to being mentally ready to play on the road, physically matching up with Georgia in the trenches and eliminating the on the field mistakes? Unfortunately, the spring game doesn't answer those questions.
For the most part, though, I thought Saturday was a step in the right direction.
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