Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Identity? Answer at the Q

A quick look at the calendar this morning was enough to cue the thought of an old college football adage: Winners are built in August…while champions are crowned in December. The saying must be old because champions are crowned in January and at the current BCS pace, February might want to start looking over its shoulder.

As much as the saying reeks of cliché, it holds some meaning. After all, teams that can’t play well in August (especially when only in shorts) probably aren’t going to be all that good in December…or September, October and November. Look no further than CU last year. Five touchdowns in three fall scrimmages should have screamed PANIC and provided enough indication that CU’s offense would go through “some struggles.” Now replace “some” with “a lot” and there you have the 2006 football season.

While the Buffs would love for their name to be associated with the word “champion,” crowning a quarterback is the first step needed to regain respectability and a winning record.
Early in camp, the coach-speak is flowing predictably in regards to the quarterback battle. Both Cody Hawkins and Nick Nelson are performing well, but the coaches need to make a decision sooner rather than later. While making a hasty decision could be disastrous, the team needs a leader. Now.

Eighteen days.

That is all that stands between Colorado and Colorado State. And while no one game will ever define a team, there is no denying the truth about this years’ opener: it is a must win. Not only for the team, coaches and future of the program, but also for an exasperated fan base that might implode if the team falters against CSU.

The reality of the situation is that several key positions need to be established by the first game. The offensive line, defensive end, linebacker (due to the ambiguous status of Michael Sipili) and cornerback all stand out as question marks.

But none of those positions are as important as quarterback. The quarterback is the face and identity of a team. More than anything, the Buffaloes need an offensive identity after last year’s debacle. An offense will always be a reflection of their quarterback. There was no identity on last years’ team—and much of that could be attributed to the murky situation at quarterback. That is not to say anything about the talent of hybrid-quarterback Bernard Jackson. While he struggled mightily with his passing accuracy, the first-time starter was hard-working and dedicated. But he always seemed to be filling a role rather than confidently leading the charge and running the entire version of Mark Helfrich’s offense.

Whether the coaches decide on Hawkins or Nelson is anyone’s guess. Most speculate that Hawkins will win the job, although there has been no indication from Helfrich, the man allegedly in charge of making the decision.

This much is certain—the sooner the Buffs find a quarterback, the sooner the team can establish an identity that has been missing for too long. But August is passing quickly and as the adage says, the building needs to begin now.

Buffs in the Pros...
Things are looking pretty good for second-year tight end Quinn Sypniewski. After playing in every one of the Ravens games last season, Sypniewski has been receiving plenty of looks with the first-team offense in Baltimore, and he scored his first NFL touchdown. Although a TD reception in an exhibition game might not seem like much, the late-blooming Sypniewski waited six years at CU to score his first touchdown, and ended with five TDs in his third, and final senior season. Despite his reputation, Sypniewski is a very capable pass catcher and sure contribute when afforded the opportunity. Look for his primary responsibility to continue as a blocker, as the Ravens heavily depend on the sure hands of Todd Heap.

Michael Lewis…was back to his old hard-hitting ways in the season opener against the Broncos. Lewis led the 49ers in tackles against Denver, and after a frustrating 2006, it appears that Lewis is back on track and happier than ever. Although I would imagine $30 million would make anyone happy. Money aside, Lewis has always been a tremendous run-stopping physical safety with enough athleticism to help in coverage.

Abraham Wright…The man who left a gaping hole on CU’s defensive line just might find himself filing a sizeable gap in his new home. Wright was working with the Dolphins first-team defense on passing downs in the preseason exhibition opener and recorded a sack. The newly-turned linebacker is still acclimating to his new position, but with Joey Porter looking at continued knee problems, the door is open for Wright to impress.

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