Buffs Buckle Down as Game Week Begins

Taj Kaynor/BSN

Most of the Colorado football players awoke this morning to a text message from their head coach, Dan Hawkins, waiting for them on their cell phone. It's content? Reminding them this is game week. Inside, more on the texts, and several notes from Tuesday.

• Quarterback James Cox and pretty much all of his teammates got an early wake-up call Tuesday in the form of a text message from head coach Dan Hawkins. Cox said he couldn't remember exactly what time the text came, but that it was before 9 a.m.

"He just told us to get in there and get with your coaches. It's game week, this is what we've prepared for," Cox said.

Hawkins said he sent the text messages to all his players individually, rather than in a group spam.

"Sometimes I'll change something for each guy. Or sometimes it's just a totally different message," he said. "I try to get inside their head a little bit."

Cox and his teammates have gotten used to receiving such messages on their cell phones and e-mails from Hawkins and his assistant coaches. According to Cox, it's a departure from the previous staff's communication style, which Cox characterized as sometimes being "almost the silent treatment."

"It's been such a strange deal," Cox said about the current staff's use of technology and other means. "They're constantly trying to get through to us, which is nice."

• Cox and his teammates hope to get the CU offense uncorked vs. Montana State on Saturday.

"I think we have a great opportunity to go out and run the ball. We have a great opportunity to throw the ball down the field and put up some points," he said. "We just need to build our confidence."

He said the Buffs expect to play this season with a chip on their shoulders.

"Especially the seniors on this team, or anybody who was in the locker room after that Texas game (a 70-3 loss)," Cox said.

Several Buffaloes are expected to see their first action in a CU uniform on Saturday, including redshirt-freshman Taj Kaynor. The defensive lineman was part of the travel squad last year, and prepared himself to play mentally and emotionally before each game last fall. This time around, he's in the mix to play at defensive tackle, where he's been practicing with the twos, and has even been getting some reps with the first team.

Kaynor currently weighs 285 pounds, up quite a bit from last year after going on a summer-long high-calorie diet. Though he's no longer eating everything in sight, he's lifting weights one extra day per week in order to keep the weight on.

• Like several teammates, Kaynor grew up in Colorado and views the CU-CSU game as a rivalry game. Kaynor said, however, the CU coaches are reminding the Buffalo players not to look past Division I-AA opponent Montana State and ahead to the Sept. 9 showdown with the Rams.

"You want to look past it, but coaches are doing a really good job of saying, ‘This is what we have now,'" Kaynor said.

Hawkins said focusing on Saturday's opponent has been by example.

"A lot of the players get their cue from the staff," he said. "And we've spent so much time working on this opponent and not worrying about that other stuff, and eventually that translates.

"If you're going, ‘We can get away with that this week, but next week…' they start thinking, ‘I guess I should be thinking about next week.' But we're fully vested in this week."

• While you wouldn't expect a coach to say otherwise, Hawkins said he expects the Bobcats to come into Folsom and give the Buffs a fight. Hawkins played college ball at Division IAA Cal-Davis, and knows what it's like to try and knock off a bigger, more prestigious program.

"They expect to win," he said. "They've been in the (division IAA) playoffs in recent years. Those guys will come in here with a monster-sized chip on their shoulder, as well they should.

"We better play well or we won't have a chance to win. Those guys will come in here and give us the business."

• As far as the game-day ritual at Folsom, Hawkins said he plans to run behind the team rather than behind Ralphie. "I'm not sure that the team needs to run out behind Dan Hawkins….but hopefully I'll be out there before Ralphie runs in his shute."

Hawkins said by then he'll be fired up just to coach a football game, and be done with the speaking engagements that go along with being a head coach leading up to a team's first game.

"I'm tired of listening to myself talk," he said. "I went to Rotary (Club) today and I said, ‘Can somebody just shut me up.' Hawkins, however, isn't done speaking to the public this week. He's got a live radio show Wednesday evening and a Buff Club Kickoff luncheon Thursday.

• Junior wide receiver Dusty Sprague missed most of full-contact action during camp after spraining his ankle. He said Tuesday the ankle is feeling much better.

• The safety transfer from Idaho, D.J. Dyches, is in school and practicing with the team. He's wearing No. 9. Jonathan Hawkins is also around, but hasn't been practicing with the team.

• It looks like Isaac Garden has won the punting job for now.

• Freshman running back Demetrius Sumler injured a toe in practice last week. It appears it's not bad enough to where he couldn't play this year, but Hawkins said it's still undecided whether Sumler's position on the depth chart will force him to redshirt this fall.

"I think we'll try to keep him on the ready-ready and see how it goes," he said. "Every freshman wants to play right away. But 99 percent of them will tell you after the season, and particularly when they get to be a senior, ‘Man, I should've redshirted.'

They will get Sumler mentally ready to play, as he's one of the freshmen who's on the cusp of both being able and needed to play. Though the desirable option, according to Hawkins, is for Sumler to redshirt.

Interestingly, Hawkins indicated that Sumler is currently ahead of sophomore Thomas Perez in terms of being ready to play, due to his grasp of the pass-protection schemes. Perez missed the first part of camp, waiting for paperwork from his junior college.

• The new paint job and other visual additions to Folsom Stadium are complete. Fans at Saturday's game will notice banners in the south end zone (above the painted "COLORADO") are hanging that celebrate the team's Big Eight and Big 12 titles, Rashaan Salaam's 1994 Heisman Trophy Award, and form Buffaloes' Jim Thorpe and Butkus Awards.

Quote of the day: Asked what he hopes the biggest difference between the field Saturday vs. last year's team, Hawkins said, "I hope the coach gets to stay for the next year. I guess that would be the biggest difference."

He went on to say, "Obviously, we're trying to get that next step and get the Big 12 Championship. These guys have been awfully good, and that would be the next step."

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