Just over a year ago, head football coach Dan Hawkins took over for the embattled Gary Barnett and had a lot of mending to do.
The relationship between CU’s football program and its fans, alumni and administration was at an all-time low. Due to various well-documented scandals, the program was in need of a makeover.
The Hawk has landed to repair and restructure the program with the determination of a pit bull.
Hawkins worked feverishly in his first 13 months on campus to improve the football program’s image, and there are already noticeable improvements.
Behind the 2-10 record are some good things Hawkins has done already in his short tenure.
Hawkins keeps a better relationship with the school’s administrators and continues to finalize plans on a new team practice bubble. Hawkins is also building a better reputation for the program within the Boulder community.
But perhaps the most positive accomplishment of Hawkins thus far is his first full recruiting class.
Before Hawkins’ arrival, the CU football program brought in three consecutive recruiting classes ranked 49, 44, and 50 in the country by Scout.com. This season Hawkins’ recruiting class ranks 32 by Scout and 33 by Rivals.com.
The recruiting class Hawkins and his staff assembled is the first tangible piece of evidence showing the kind of work the relatively new coach puts into the program.
Hawkins understands the relationship between recruiting and staying competitive and has shown it more attention than it received in the past.
When Hawkins arrived at CU, he immediately enlarged the recruiting staff formerly working under Gary Barnett. Instead of having one or two guys devoted to recruiting full time, Hawkins now has over six people working exclusively on recruiting.
Those extra staffers allow for more calls and connections to be made, which is essential in successful recruiting.
Hawkins’ staff is responsible for contacting recruits daily. Hawkins himself is well-known for texting recruits just to stay in touch and build relationships.
The hard work for Hawkins and his recruiting staff paid off in a large (literally and figuratively) way last fall when the staff got 6-foot-8-inch, 280 pound OT Ryan Miller to stay in his home state.
The importance of grabbing the state’s top recruit cannot be overstated.
In past years great players like LenDale White (USC) and Calais Campbell (Miami) escaped the state’s most prominent college football program. Hawkins made good on landing his first big in-state talent. This has to be automatic for any top-notch college football program.
Offensive lineman Ethan Adkins, from Douglas County High School, and cornerback Anthony Perkins, from Northglenn High, are two other top in-state players who signed with CU.
States like Florida, Texas and California enjoy talent-rich recruiting classes without having to leave their home turf.
Unless you’re in one of these football hotbeds, it isn’t good enough just to keep the home state kids. A coach must look elsewhere to fulfill his class.
A great example is Conrad Obi from Georgia. Obi originally committed to Southeastern Conference-power Georgia, but reneged on his commitment after Hawkins called.
Snatching a blue chip recruit out of Georgia’s territory is a big deal for the program and something CU was unable to do prior to Hawkins’ arrival.
Recruiting nationally appears to be a priority for Hawkins. Eleven states represent the recruiting class signing to play for CU on Wednesday.
The numbers in Hawkins first recruiting class stand out. With a class of over 25 signees, there is a large potential for impact.
In addition to great numbers this year, Hawkins and his staff also did a marvelous job of recruiting in a great area of need.
SPEED, SPEED and more SPEED.
The Buffs could not match up with many opponents’ athleticism and quickness this season. The wide receiver position seemed absent from a CU offense that lacked playmaking ability.
The Buffs 2007 recruiting class features six players who run a 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds or less. Wide receiver recruit Kendrick Celestine leads the class with a 4.40.
That’s SPEED. And what CU lacked more than anything last season. OK, maybe a competent quarterback too.
Don’t think Hawkins is satisfied either. In a newly released list by Scout.com of the top-100 junior transfers in the country, six have CU on their list of potential schools. Top-five QB Landry Jones and top-five LB Jon Major head the list.
While this season was a struggle on the field for CU football, things are looking better down the road.
If Hawkins can put a high-caliber class like this together after a 2-10 season, what can he do after a winning year? It’s fun to think about.
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer Stirling Wade at email@example.com