BOULDER, Colo. -- A bright blue sky and perfect weather greeted the approximately 5,800 fans that attended Colorado's annual spring game on Saturday afternoon.
The Buffaloes ran through 62 plays, despite having just six healthy offensive linemen at their disposal. The live scrimmage plays were split up by 7-on-7 work, which totaled 51 reps, and a halftime ceremony that honored Mason Crosby.
Early on the 2007 spring game looked much like last year's version, which was dominated by the defense. The first four possessions featured three three-and-outs and no points by the offense.
But the offense started to hit their stride. A Cody Hawkins engineered drive, on their fifth possession, ended with a one-yard Hugh Charles touchdown run. On their next drive, Hawkins found wide receiver Dusty Sprague open in the corner of the end zone.
At the end of the 2 hour and 23 minute spring game, the offense had produced 287 total yards.
"It was okay," Coach Dan Hawkins said of his team's performance. "Hopefully the training room [report] comes out clean, that is always the first check off you want to get. [We] scored a few points, [but I] would have liked to [see us] run the ball a little bit better. But overall not bad."
"It went good," added senior linebacker Jordon Dizon. "[The] offense and defense [both] had their ups and downs."
Quarterback Play -
Cody Hawkins had a better spring game statistically at quarterback, completing 12-of-20 passes for 119 yards and one touchdown. Junior College newcomer Nick Nelson completed just three of his 10 pass attempts for 30 yards. Both quarterbacks threw one interception.
"They both had some moments on both ends of the spectrum," Coach Hawkins said of the quarterbacks. "But they are learning. I think they showed some signs of being able to run the club."
Nelson was more accurate during 7-on-7 work, completing 21-of-28 passes for 256 yards. Hawkins threw for 182 yards on 15-of-23 passing. Both quarterbacks threw two touchdowns during 7-on-7s.
"I think Nick and I both did pretty well today," Cody Hawkins expressed. "We are going to keep working in the off-season and the competition is going to get heated."
"I think I definitely improved from where I was at the beginning [of spring ball]," added Nelson. "But I am still a long ways off from where I want to be."
Patrick Williams led the receivers with four receptions for 48 yards. Tight ends Joe Sanders and Riar Geer both caught two passes during scrimmage work.
The Buffaloes' new Mr. Versatility -
Last year's starter at quarterback, Bernard Jackson was used in a variety of roles throughout spring ball. He spent time at wide receiver, tailback, quarterback, punt returner and kick returner.
Jackson, better known as "B-Jack" by his teammates and coaches, accounted for 178 all-purpose yards in the spring game, including a 37-yard touchdown run. His 82 rushing yards bested the output of any other CU runner by 60 yards.
"He'll continue to be all over the place," Coach Hawkins said of Jackson, looking ahead to next season. "Like you saw, that guy is so darn electric with the ball in his hands. [We will] just try to be creative in terms of allowing him to do what he does best."
"The quarterbacks looked good," commented Dizon. "The thing that scares us is when B-Jack is in the game. We have a special defense just for B-Jack. When he runs on the field, we send different personnel out there just to try and contain him."
Defensive Standouts -
Safety Lionel Harris led the way with six tackles. Four others Ð defensive lineman Eric Lawson, defensive tackle Jason Brace, defensive tackle Brandon Nicolas and defensive back Jimmy Smith - recorded five stops in the spring game.
Nicolas and fellow defensive tackle George Hypolite were consistently in the backfield creating havoc on Saturday. Hypolite recorded the spring game's lone quarterback sack.
Duren's interception came after defensive back Ben Burney tipped a Cody Hawkins pass. On Duren's return, in which he went 32 yards for a touchdown, Walters laid out offensive lineman Devin Head with a punishing block. "Ryan is a big hitter," Dizon expressed. "That is why we put him on our punt return team. He is little but he can bring it. He can clean clocks."
Nonu Update -
Redshirt freshman inside linebacker Justin Nonu will be granted a medical hardship due to chronic back problems. His college football career is likely over.
Nonu was a highly regarded signee with the Class of 2006, ranked by Rivals.com among the nation's top 50 inside linebacker prospects. He showed up to campus last summer weighing in at 303 pounds, clearly too heavy to play linebacker.
Coach Hawkins would not comment on the status of safety Reggie Foster, who missed spring practices due to academic reasons.
Injury Report -
Offensive guard Erick Faatagi (knee) and cornerback Terrence Wheatley were both held out of the spring game for precautionary reasons. Wheatley participated in 7-on-7s.
Defensive end Drew Hudgins had arthroscopic surgery on his knee on Thursday. The only post-spring surgery planned at this point in time is with wide receiver Alvin Barnett, who is also expected to undergo arthroscopic knee surgery.
Wide receivers Scotty McKnight (ankle) and Chase McBride (shoulder) were also injured and unable to participate in the spring game. Head trainer Miguel Rueda expects Hudgins, Barnett, McBride, McKnight, Faatagi and Wheatley to be ready come preseason camp.
Crosby Honored -
At halftime, two-time All-American place kicker Mason Crosby was honored. He became the 25th player to have his name and number enshrined on the Fred Casotti Press Box faade. Crosby took the microphone and thanked his family and the fans in attendance.
Crosby set 33 single-game, season and career records at CU. He is the school's all-time leading scorer with 307 points. Crosby is expected to be the Buffs' top pick in the NFL draft in two weeks.
Kevin Eberhart, Crosby's replacement at kicker, made two of his four field-goal attempts on Saturday. His makes were from 38 and 36 yards out, while he missed field-goals from 52 and 55 yards out.
Spring Football Awards -
The spring football awards returned after a one-year hiatus. Below are this year's winners:
Eddie Crowder Award for Outstanding Leadership: Jordon Dizon
Fred Casotti Award for Most Improved Offensive Back: Hugh Charles
Joe Romig Award for Most Improved Offensive Lineman: Tyler Polumbus
Hale Irwin Award for Most Improved Defensive Back: Jimmy Smith
Dan Stavely Award for Most Improved Defensive Lineman: Alonzo Barrett
Bill McCartney Award for Most Improved Special Teams Player: Matt DiLallo
John Wooten Award for Outstanding Work Ethic: Keenan Stevens
Dick Anderson Award for Outstanding Toughness: R.J. Brown
Greg Biekert Award for Attention to Detail: Dusty Sprague
Jim Hansen Award for Outstanding Academics: Bret Smith
They also created the Iron Buffalo Award for those at each position that represent hard work, dedication, toughness and total poundage lifted in the weight room. The winners were selected by Jeff Pittman and his strength and conditioning staff:
Quarterbacks: Bernard Jackson
Running backs: Hugh Charles
Wide Receivers: Patrick Williams
Tight Ends: Joe Sanders
Offensive Line: Edwin Harrison
Defensive Line: Brandon Nicolas
Linebackers: Marcus Burton
Defensive Backs: Jalil Brown
Specialists: Justin Drescher
Now that Spring Ball is Over -
The players will now shift focus to academics as the spring semester nears an end.
"We have like two and a half weeks off," Nelson explained. "We finish up school, [then] we'll go home or go on vacation. When we get back, we'll probably [organize] 7-on-7s two days a week and we'll lift and run three days a week."
When official workouts resume in early August, a host of talented 2007 signees will join the mix.
The Buffs are hopeful that running back P.T. Gates will be among the group of newcomers that join the team for preseason camp. The talented Junior College running back is currently taking six classes and he needs to take four more in the summer in order to be eligible to transfer to CU.
"We're going to have a bunch of new guys come in here and we're excited about it," Coach Hawkins said. "I think a decent amount of those guys will have an opportunity to play [next season]. [We need to] get those guys worked in as fast as we can and see how those guys emerge."