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Where is the Plan For Player Development and Progression?

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One of the worst questions in college football that fans sometimes have to utter to themselves is: Should we have redshirted him? College football is the ultimate when you talk about playing every play like it is your last one. Eligibility is limited to only four years and truly, within those four years, you are one play away from that career ending injury that won't allow you to chase the goals you had in mind during your playing career.

The Colorado Buffaloes have certainly made fans ask the question about redshirting players more and more recently and it also makes the fan base question if the coaching staff has a plan? Eligibility is a serious part of a player's career and it is certainly not to be mismanaged. For all intensive purposes, Darrell Scott, for the limited number of plays he received on the offensive end this year, should have been redshirted. Instead of two years to play somewhere else, he would have three and a much better chance of fully getting entrenched in his new program. The coaches will say that Darrell Scott was used wisely this year because of his effort on special teams but we all know that is a disgrace to a player who has been perceived as someone with huge upside. Further, if you take away the ten carries in one half against Toledo, Darrell Scott averaged less than three carries in the five games he played in. Maybe even more of a mismanagement was playing Scott after he was injured on a kickoff return against Toledo that required surgery later in the year. If Scott gets shelved after that game (only 10 total carries after Toledo game anyway), he earns a medical redshirt and three more years of eligibility remains. I am sure Darrell Scott would have traded 10 carries for another year any day of the week. We all would have.

Certainly, the Colorado staff did not have a plan for Darrell Scott to fully utilize his eligibility nor did they have plans for Andre Simmons and Nick Kasa, two highly touted players in the 2009 recruiting class that, for varying reasons, did not get the full benefit of their first year of eligibility at the division one level.

read more after the jump...

The Andre Simmons situation is a perplexing one to me. You have heard many in the main stream media suggest based on what they have seen in practice or what they hear from Dan Hawkins that players only play when they know the playbook in and out. Here is what Dan Hawkins says about the subject:

"You win with achievers and lose with potential," the coach said. "You have to get guys to the point where they can do something well consistently and build from there. When that happens, you have something going. When you start trying to jump that train track, you're in trouble, because you're going to water down everything else."

Awesome. Great ideology if you first have strong depth, if you actually are winning ball games and finally, if the starters who are playing over the players with potential actually produce. None of which is true for the Buffs. But I understand Hawkins' utopian argument. It is better to reward kids who know the playbook in and out without making any mistakes. I understand it, I think there is a grey area, though, that you are flirting with where you have to ask yourself is the reward for making big plays during a game with a few mistakes thrown in better than a consistently bad offense that has shown zero big play potential? But that isn't the point of this piece.

Play who you will but play them wisely.

Andre Simmons had three years to play two, meaning his ability to redshirt was still there. He was a late arriver to camp due to qualification issues so understandably he probably needed extra time to get ready for the season. Most expected by West Virginia, Andre Simmons would be ready to go, in some productive capacity, where he would have an impact on the offense and in subsequent weeks, his role would increase. Given our current situation at wide receiver, that was a logical approach that should have been more than attainable. If the coaching staff did their job, he should have been ready in that amount of time, just like every other junior college player that would have arrived at Colorado on time in the fall. Instead, to our surprise, Andre Simmons played in the first game, sparingly, but he played and caught a 44 yard pass. Most of us thought, fine. He is getting some time, no way he would redshirt, we need him now and any early action is a bonus with the expectation that the Buffs coaching staff had a plan for him, a schedule if you will that this first three games, we are going to increase his play load slowly, work him into more situations so that by the Wyoming game, we could have a dress rehearsal.  

Not so.

Since that one catch, Andre Simmons has touched the ball one other time on a reverse for 15 yards. Two plays, 59 yards, one year of eligibility done. Darrell Scott, 23 carries, 95 yards, 0 touchdowns, one year of eligibility done and a transfer.

It begs the question, is there a plan for these players? Why even play Andre Simmons in the Colorado State game unless he could handle at least 15 - 20 plays and make a contribution? Why not wait until the Wyoming or West Virginia game until he had shown in practice that he was able to make some sort of contribution this year? Clearly If he isn't ready, which the coaching staff CLEARLY has made known by only giving him two touches this year, why not redshirt him? All valid questions that are left unanswered with no logical reasoning or insight to construct an explanation.

Once again, the ability to manage and motivate players needs to come into question. You can throw in similar examples with Tyler Hansen, Kai Maiva and Nick Kasa. We were all shocked how quick Nick Kasa came back from injury questioning whether Kasa was ready to participate. Four games, 47 plays, 2 tackles. Kasa might be granted a medical redshirt but after being out a month+ due to injury, he was put into action and while looking good at times, never saw the field with any consistency to be able to be productive. Did we have a plan for Kasa and was he ready to go?

Part of the problem is the Buffs still lack depth so some players are forced into action and many of you are probably saying "if we used your theory, how would anybody but the starters be productive and thus every backup should redshirt." True but I want to see a plan and I want to see players benefit from coaching. Unless Andre Simmons refuses to practice and is extremely lazy (hard to say that after taking a plethora of spring, summer and fall classes just to qualify), why isn't he progressing to a point where he can play and why can't the coach's establish something for him on the offensive side of the ball? Right now, Andre Simmons and his one of two remaining years of eligibility is deteriorating on the sideline, one game at a time. You mean to tell me that instead of just letting him rot away, we can't find 5 plays for the 6'3" 4.5 forty running receiver on a Buffs' offense that ranks 113th overall (120 teams total in the NCAA), a full 59 yards behind a Baylor team that lost it's best player.

I know this topic has been discussed as to why we aren't seeing Andre Simmons or other players on the field more but it has come to a point where you have to ask why did we even play him to begin with?

We have heard all the excuses: the playbook changes so it is hard to pick up if you don't know the base which was learned in spring ball, the receiver needs to be able to read the defense and adjust with the quarterback, the playbook is extremely is like fitting that square peg in that round hole. Quotes continually come out like those noted above that suggest a system where the player is forced into an offense rather than the player and the offense evolving to feature the people who will actually be making plays on the field, not satisfying the way the coaches think it "ought" to be run.  That is part of coaching, finding the answers with the players you have to work with. Yet the Buffs try to run the spread last year with no evidence that the players could support that sort of offense (square peg, round hole). Cody Hawkins is put back into the game to lead the two minute drill against Kansas State. Andre Simmons used here and there. There is little rhyme or reason to any of it, given the results on the field.

The sort of head scratching decisions that haven't yielded substantial positive results clearly shows that the program is not being run effectively. The program is being run in a way that tries to limit mistakes and difficult situations rather than taking more chances at being effective. Obvious examples to that statement is the lack of production in the punt return game, changing quarterbacks in the two minute drill, inserting Demetrius Sumler on passing situations to block, playing a soft defense in the Missouri game rather than get after the quarterback and force the issue. You would think by year four, more than one running back could learn to block, more than one player could field punts, more than one player could run a two minute drill.

I just wish their was some method behind the madness because this is one confused fan.