• Safety J.J. Billingsley (who’s been out recovering from a knee injury) should play this Saturday against Kansas State. Expect Lionel Harris (who’s replaced Billingsley the past several games) to see action too.
• Defensive end Maurice Lucas missed last week’s game at Kansas because of an academic issue. He is expected to return for Saturday’s game.
• Center Mark Fenton’s status is still up in the air. Out with a lower leg injury since the Georgia game, the senior’s availability will depend on how well he can move in contact situations this week in practice.
• Dan Hawkins called Kansas State a team that’s improved as the season has progressed. The first tape the CU staff watched of the Wildcats this season was from their 17-3 loss at Baylor on Sept. 30. While quarterback Dylan Meier started that game for KSU, true freshman Josh Freeman saw a lot of action, and Freeman has been the Wildcat starter ever since. Kansas State is 2-2 the past for games with Freeman as its starting QB.
• Hawkins said his own team’s effort has been good throughout the season. That includes on offense. Hawkins said, however, he expected the offense to have more confidence coming out of the win over Texas Tech. Instead, they took a step backward at OU and didn’t regain the confidence at Kansas.
• The head coach reiterated on Tuesday that, barring injury, junior quarterback Bernard Jackson will start the rest of the season. Hawkins thinks Jackson has shaken off any confidence issue that may have occurred at OU. Jackson was fine with the two-quarterback system CU installed for the Kansas game.
However, since Jackson has had trouble deciphering blitzes this season, the Buffs expect teams will continue to blitz heavily unless Jackson shows he can take advantage of that situation. CU’s offense has had the motto “You blitz, we score.” Expect that they haven’t been able to make that work.
Redshirt-freshman Patrick Devenny has been running the scout team offense as quarterback, so he’s fine throwing the football. Coaches think Devenny, who moved to QB from tight end, can get up to speed with the offense quickly enough in his roll as emergency backup to Jackson to be serviceable should the opportunity to play present itself.
Devenny played quarterback in high school and his first fall and spring at CU, then was moved to tight end over the summer. Hawkins said Devenny’s been great about the moves – he hasn’t complained. Hawkins didn’t rule out the possibility that Devenny could stay at quarterback after this fall.
• While Jackson has clearly struggled in the passing game this season, Hawkins pointed out it’s not always the quarterback’s fault when things go wrong. Example: a CU receiver practiced a certain route correctly last week in practice, then ran it wrong in the game at Kansas. Hawkins said that if the unnamed receiver had run the route correctly on a certain play, the Buffs could have scored. But he didn’t and it looks to the fans as if the quarterback screwed up.
• Junior Chase McBride will continue handling the punt return duties, Hawkins said. When McBride replaced Stephone Robinson, who had been the team’s punt returner the past two seasons, last week, it lit a fire under Robinson. But for now the job is McBride’s to lose.
• Hawkins also reiterated Tuesday that he doesn’t plan to sit seniors who play a lot now in order to give players who will play more next year more experience in the remaining three games.
• The head coach called for an “attitude reinforcement,” what others called a new attitude, in the wake of the loss at Kansas. That meant tougher conditioning on Sunday. On Tuesday, Hawkins said, “guys have been great” about the new attitude thing. “Their resolve has been awesome,” he said.
• Coaches are pushing third-year sophomore Ryan Walters to really become a big-time leader on the defense, and they think he has the ability to one day do that. They want a free safety in the secondary who can act like a quarterback of the defense. Someone who can identify the offensive formation and get his defensive teammates into position. Someone who will be the vocal leader of the defense. This is Walters’ first full year starting on defense. He already has a good grasp of what CU is trying to do on defense, and coaches think it’ll just be a matter of more experience before Walters becomes that defensive quarterback.
• Coaches with young children who are going trick or treating will be released from work early tonight so they can have the experience with their kids.