The Buffs conducted a 122-play scrimmage Sunday morning at Folsom Stadium. While the first, second and third-team defenses held the CU offense out of the end zone on nine of the 14 series, the big news was the Buffs’ O found the end zone five times. That’s five more than they did during the first scrimmage in August 2006.
While head coach Dan Hawkins prefered to take a pragmatic approach afterward, and said the team will focus on improving, rather than pat itself on the back, the showing was good news for a team that sputtered so often when they had the ball last season.
“It feels a lot different than (the first August scrimmage) a year ago,” said senior tailback Hugh Charles, who had two nice gains out of the backfield on the day. “It’s a nice feeling to score.”
Patrick Williams had two touchdown grabs in the corner of the end zone, out-leaping a cornerback on each score. Cody Hawkins was the quarterback delivering the ball both times.
Williams is playing with more confidence this camp than he did during the 2006 season, when he had 19 receptions. Offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich said Williams “has made more plays the past two days in practice than he did all last year.” He contributed that to the competition Williams has been getting, particularly from some young receivers. Which brings us to Josh Smith.
The true freshman nearly stole the show Sunday. Smith, the 6-foot-1, 185-pounder from Moorpark, Calif., broke free and hauled in a long floater from Nick Nelson early in the scrimmage. It was the only score the first-team defense gave up on the day.
Smith also caught an apparent touchdown down the middle of the field, but the play was called back because of an offensive penalty. Smith hung on to a ball over the middle after he took a strong hit from CB Terrence Wheatley on another play.
Smith, however, caught the attention of some teammates and head coach Dan Hawkins for some showboating. On the touchdown grab from Nelson, Smith dove across the end zone. While the crowd buzzed, Smith earned a tongue-lashing from the head man and a 15 yard penalty.
Smith said afterward he had learned a lesson.
Still, QB Cody Hawkins said Smith has been bringing a positive energy to the wide receivers this camp.
“J-Fly is a guy who’s not short on confidence, and he’s not short on speed, either,” Hawkins said. “He’s exactly the kind of guy we need because he can make plays. And especially, if you look at the wide receiver group, we have a lot of kids who are pretty talkative off the field. But he’s a guy who really brings out a lot of personality in other people. Just having that kind of confidence around the receivers are much more positive and much more confident when they’re doing things.
“Josh is making plays himself, but he’s also bringing the best out of everybody else.”
As far as the quarterback competition, both Hawkins and Nelson had bright spots and problems Sunday. Offensive coordinator said he didn’t think there was “distinct separation” between the two at this point. Helfrich called the competition “healthy.”
“The guys are doing good things rather than one guy (playing poorly),” he said.
Despite the fact the offense is far ahead of where it was a year ago in August, and the fact they put points on the board — exactly what Dan Hawkins wanted from the session — the head coach wasn’t jumping up and down afterward.
“You’ve got to transcend your team to this group of guys that are really chasing perfection, that really have a zeal for attaining that mythical or higher level of performance,” he said. “If you’ve got a group that’s going, ‘We didn’t score, we stunk,’ or ‘We scored, we’re awesome,’ then you’re missing the point.
“I’ve had plenty of games where we scored 40 or 50 points, but quite frankly, we didn’t play very good. As coaches, we really try to take that and put it to bed.”
• Stats and Scoring Plays: (Colorado does not give out individual statistics during fall camp scrimmages. Here are stats that the team made available)
60 rushes/322 yards
38 passes/308 yards/5 sacks for -31
Scores: Celestine a 5 yard run; Nick Nelson to Josh Smith for 54 yards; Cody Hawkins to Patrick Williams for 8 yards; Matt Ballenger to Jake Behrens for 4 yards; Hawkins to Williams for 8 yards. Kevin Eberhart converted all the PATs.
Terrence Wheatley blocked a 48-yard FG attempt.
Ryan Walters had the lone interception of the day (Nelson throw).
• The first team offensive line on the first series was made up of tackles Tyler Polumbus and Edwin Harrison, gaurds Devin Head and Kai Maiava, and center Daniel Sanders. Later, Ryan Miller and Mike Iltis got work at guard with first team.
Helfrich said after that Maiava has been the surprise of the offensive line in camp thus far. What he’s lacked in experience, he’s made up for with attitude, toughness and physicality. Erick Faatagi, Wes Palazzi and Keenan Stevens may still factor into the two-deep on the interior of the line once they get back into pads following time spent on schoolwork.
• On defense, Lionel Harris was running as a starting safety alongside Ryan Walters, with D.J. Dykes getting some work with Walters, too. Alonzo Barrett and Maurice Lucas were No. 1 defensive ends. Taj Kaynor was running No. 1 at DT with Brandon Nicolas and Jason Brace nursing minor injuries.
• Injuries: Nelson injured his throwing hand on the touchdown toss to Smith. Nelson was clobbered by Kaynor as he released the ball and didn’t see the result of his throw. He hit Kaynor’s helmet with his throwing hand, and though he continued to play the rest of the scrimmage, he was wearing ice on the hand afterward. X-rays found no break and Nelson is listed day to day.
Also, TE Riar Geer limped off with an ankle sprain. He is day to day, too.