Buffs must counter FSU speed
Visiting Seminoles have plenty of big, fast players
Colorado students are encouraging every football fan who attends Saturday's home opener against Florida State to wear black to the game and help "blackout" the stadium.
Colorado players and coaches meanwhile are spending this week trying to find an answer for the electricity the Seminoles bring to Folsom Field.
Much was made last week in a loss at Arizona State about the Buffs' overall lack of speed compared with the Sun Devils. There is a grain of truth in there, but there were also plenty more reasons that led to the Buffs' giving up 33 unanswered points.
After all, Colorado wide receivers Patrick Williams and Kendrick Celestine weren't exactly plodding along when they beat coverage only to drop possible touchdown passes in the first half.
CU coach Dan Hawkins said the difference in overall team speed will be much bigger this week when Bobby Bowden, the winningest coach in major college football history, brings his program a mile high for the first time to the foot of the Flatirons.
"They can all run, particularly as you look at them on defense," Hawkins said. "Their front four can all motor. They've always had great skill guys with speed, and they still do have that. You look at all 11 guys on defense and they all can run."
The Buffs are expected to add a little speed this week with running back Hugh Charles and wide receiver Josh Smith returning to practice Tuesday. Both are expected to play in the nationally televised ESPN game. But those two players will only help level theplaying field a little when it comes to speed.
CU coaches will have to game plan against the Seminoles' athleticism as much as possible. Hawkins said the best way to counter speed is to execute all the small details of each play call.
Quarterback Cody Hawkins grew up rooting for the Seminoles because he liked their uniforms and they won all the time. This week he gets a chance to beat them.
Hawkins said the Seminoles have provided a lot of homework for him with the number of defensive looks they have offered up in their first two games this season — a loss to Clemson and a win last week against Alabama-Birmingham.
Going back to last year's film is only so much help because Bowden hired four new assistant coaches during the offseason. Those coaches have added entirely new approaches in some schemes and subtle wrinkles in others.
Cody Hawkins said the Seminoles' speed allows them a lot of freedom. He said on film he has seen them use six different defenses against one particular offensive formation already this fall.
"They're athletic enough to do pretty much anything they want," he said.
The Buffs need to be able to run the ball or beat teams deep when they load up to stop the run — "pound it and launch it" as coach Hawkins likes to say. That was the idea against Arizona State as well, but when Cody Hawkins launched it, his receivers didn't make the plays.
Cody Hawkins said he expects the Seminoles to gang up against the run just like the Sun Devils and make him beat them through the air.
"If I was a defense, I'd definitely want to come out and see what the freshman quarterback kid could do cause, I mean, I look like 95 percent of the guys on campus," Cody Hawkins said. "I, of all people, probably am Joe Schmo playing quarterback."
The CU defense is probably much better equipped to handle the Seminoles speed with players such as linebacker Jordon Dizon and cornerbacks Terrence Wheatley and Ben Burney.
But speed can still cause the Buffs problems if they allow the Seminoles into open space. That's a problem the Buffs have had this season. They stop teams two of three times or four of five times and then give up a big play.
"They're definitely a very fast team," linebacker Brad Jones said. "If you give them an opportunity, they're going to take it. Any mistakes you make, they're going to capitalize on your mistakes."