Ten wins and no excuses.
That was the goal uttered by Colorado Buffaloes head football coach Dan Hawkins last December at The 2008 Colorado Football Awards Banquet.
“The goal really is always excellence. That’s the goal and the goal is always to be your best,” Hawkins said. “I said when I came here that our goal was to win the national championship and win the Big 12 (Conference). I think that’s what you want and that’s the bar that you set. I don’t think you ever want anybody kind of going ‘well, doing this or doing that is ok.’ I always want that bar to be very high.”
The players said they agree with Hawkins assessment and that they weren’t shocked when he announced it in public.
“That’s what we’re going for. You can’t set the bar lower,” senior middle linebacker Jeff Smart said. “If you were to set the bar at five wins, no one wants to see that. We set the bar high and we fully expect to achieve this goal.”
Spring practice got underway Tuesday and it’s the first time, officially, that the players have been able to get on the field to begin their mission toward 10 wins. Some players said what they do now, tomorrow and every day after that will dictate whether they will achieve their goal.
“I think if we work hard now, continue that in the summer and have a great fall camp, then there’s no reason we shouldn’t have 10 wins,” junior wide receiver Scotty McKnight said. “We took this as almost a challenge, but it’s something we know we can do if we work hard enough.”
In the days leading up to the beginning of spring practice, players said they have been working hard toward 10 wins – with each other.
For the last three months, McKnight said the CU coaching staff has been urging players to watch more film and are asking players if they are doing everything in their power to make themselves better. As a result, McKnight said he’s seen more teammates attend optional workouts and others spending more time in the weight room.
However, the most important development from the coaching staff may have been the start-up of accountability groups. Hawkins said this has been possible because his team has matured.
“A lot of that comes to with experience, some leadership and guys figuring out what’s the deal,” Hawkins explained. “Part of it is baking it and part of it is being the butcher. You got to grow some leadership and you’ve got to cut some fat.”
The head coach said his players have been in the system long enough now to know what’s acceptable and what isn’t. Because of this, some have set standards and are getting teammates to adhere to it.
“We all have to be accountable for one another. We can’t let our teammates down,” Smart said. “If we can’t trust somebody off-the-field, then we can’t trust them on-the-field either.”
With the foundation laid and the rest of the house still to be built, the players said they feel 10 wins are achievable.
“I’m looking forward to it,” McKnight said.
News and notes:
In case you can’t spot running back Rodney Stewart in practice, it’s because he was one of four Buffs to change his jersey number. “The little sparkplug” changed his number from 43 and is now donning a No. 5 jersey. Quarterback Matt Ballenger went from No. 16 to No. 4.
During spring practices, quarterbacks will now be wearing cameras inside of their helmets.
“We’re always trying to stay on the cutting-egde here, technology wise. We’ll see how it meshes in with what we do. But it just basically gives us a picture of what a quarterback is looking at,” Hawkins said.
The offensive line might be unsettled right now, but that’s because Hawkins said he wants to play the five best guys. Hawkins said left tackle Nate Solder is the player who might have the strongest hold to his position.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Cheng Sio at Cheng.Sio@colorado.edu