January 6th, 2009. A little over 28 days until February 4th; signing day. A time of hope that a few of the players brought in will lead us to the promise land. A chance to believe that so and so will allow us to play in the month of January instead of sitting at home for the off-season. This year those players have to be QB Clark Evans and the wide receiver combination of Jarrod Darden, Andre Simmons and Diante Jackson. It has been a long time since the Buffs have had a true play maker and #1 quarterback. Can Clark Evans grow into that duty? Is he the real deal? Remains to be seen but he passes the eye test for sure. And for just as long as the Buffs have waited for a prime time quarterback, Colorado has been starved for a couple of good receivers that can stretch a defense and bring credibility to a passing game that has been less than average over the past five years. January is a good month to start assessing what we do and what we don't know about this year's recruiting class and even last year's recruiting class.
Straight up, CU has its work cut out. I don't know if their will be a busier BCS conference team than the Buffs over the next 28 days. We need both quantity and quality but as the days go by, quality may start to dwindle in favor of quantity. It is a serious judgment game. Fish for marlins with not a ton of bait, you could go hungry. Hawkins has promised that he would recruit the best to come to Boulder and he did that with guys like Nick Kasa, Kyle Van Noy, Edward Nuckols, Latu Heimuli, Keenan Graham, Josh Hunter, Emory Blake, Randall Carroll and Bryce McNeal among others. But we might strike out on all of them. 10 wins will get these guys to Boulder but until then, we are finishing for marlins with not a lot of bait.
It's not always how you start but how you finish and if their has been one thing Hawkins has shown, especially last year, is that he seems to find a couple gems late i.e. Rodney Stewart. Just remember if you are getting a little nervous, say to yourself, "it's not how you start but how you end." The Buffs still would like to sign 10 - 12 players and it could grow to 14 if guys like WR Andre Simmons don't qualify or DE Nosa Eguae really is on the fence to attend Colorado. The end number was supposed to be 20 - 22 players, right now CU has 10. Worst case scenario is the Buffs need to sign a player every TWO days. Best case scenario, Hawkins and Co. need to sign a player every THREE days. That is a scary proposition.
We don't really know how important getting 22 players is right now. Would the Buffs settle for 16 - 17 with the thought that they can go to a bowl game next year and if Hawkins had his way, get to 10 wins? Personally, I think I would rather have a class of 16 - 18 kids and next year, get stronger, more immediate impact guys to join the team. Basically, hopefully the Buffs don't end up settling. Let's face it, their may be 2 - 3 guys the Buffs will sign in January that may make an impact in 2009. Hawkins has put all his eggs in this year's basket. He feels he has the players right now to win 10. If that is the case, reap the benefits next year. I think this is a good question for us to ponder.
As a perception to the public, can Hawkins afford to underachieve in recruiting? Perception is huge in the eyes of the media, fans, future recruits, boosters, etc. Is it better to sign 22 players for perception or take 16 and wait until next year to hopefully be that program on the upswing again? It will be interesting to see how "active" the Buffs get in the next 28 days.
It is clear right now that this class will not be of last year's caliber. What the coaching staff did last year was miraculous. They sold these players based on a program that was perceived to be on the "upswing." That story only works once.
While this class might not merit a top 20 ranking, it still has a chance to be very strong. The Buffs are still on a few really good players. A great wish list would be this: DT Edward Nuckols, K Zach Grossnickle (since we had to offer him a scholarship...freaking kickers), WR Terderma Ussery, S Stan McKay or S Nathan Fellner (I think we are getting a little carried away with defensive backs in this class), TE Tracy Moore, Ath Terrell Williams, DT Adam Alaya, DE Colton Nash, DB Bradley McDougald, LB Derrick Webb, DT Semisi Tokolahi and either DT Nik Abele or DE Iuta Tepa. Defense much?
The Buffs are still in desperate need of immediate defensive tackle help. JUCO's and Edward Nuckols. The Buffs need to find guys who can play right now and contribute. The problem: the Colorado Administration makes it really hard to be successful in getting JUCO talent in. I don't envy what Hawkins has to deal with when admitting kids. I wish we could have an administration that would take athletics seriously.
The 2008 recruiting class will be Hawkins meal ticket. All of his eggs are in that basket. Youthful and talented, that class will determine, in my opinion, whether Hawkins will be around in 2010 and beyond. That is a scary thought in that many of those guys will be playing exclusively for the first time and their are still a ton of question marks. Is Darrell Scott mentally and physically the man for the job? How will guys like Jon Major, Bryce Givens, Rodney Stewart and Max Tuioti-Mariner recover from injuries? Is Tyler Hansen the answer at quarterback. Can he become the pocket passer with a little athleticism on the side to run the show?
Come on defensive linemen. Other than that I feel pretty good about the team depending on the quarterback position. Can't really do anything about that now.
It should get very exciting over the next three weeks to say the least.