Cornerback Terrence Wheatley doesn’t mind sneaking a peek at Colorado’s 2-10 record in the first season under Dan Hawkins.
“There are times when I don’t want to look in the rearview mirror at all; I might break it off and not use it. But then there are times when you’ve got to look at it, you’ve got to learn from it,” Wheatley said. “As much as I want to just throw it all away, I want to keep a little piece of it with me just to remember.”
Wheatley invites opponents to look at last year and make the mistake of expecting more of the same in 2007. He would argue the Buffs had chances to win most games in the fourth quarter and simply didn’t make key plays.
“You keep a piece of it and say, ‘We were close,’ “ said Wheatley, a senior. “Close isn’t good enough. But we were close, so I think we’re going to be a lot better than people think and I think we were a lot better last year than people give us credit for.”
The Buffs’ fourth-quarter foibles can be attributed to the transition from Gary Barnett to Hawkins. The players were still learning a new system and when crunch time came, they often caved.
“In the fourth quarter, you’re on edge, emotions are running high, you’re kind of getting anxious: ‘Man, we’re winning, we’re winning,’ or ‘We’re close,’” Wheatley said. “You start to push too hard and then with the system that’s fairly new to us, you start to forget stuff and when you forget stuff, you panic.
“Now, this year, I don’t think you’ll see us panic in the fourth quarter.” Defensive tackle George Hypolite said. Players can rely more on instinct after a full year under Hawkins and his staff. That alone will cut down on mistakes, he said.
“Now we know what the coaches want, know what the coaches demand and now we can demand that from ourselves and our teammates,” Hypolite said.
The Buffs, who open against rival Colorado State and face Florida State at home two weeks later, lost Big 12 sacks leader Abraham Wright but return nine defensive starters and just as many on offense, although quarterback Bernard Jackson is changing positions. The new quarterback will be either freshman Cody Hawkins, the coach’s son, or junior college transfer Nick Nelson. Jackson will be used in a “slash” role, running routes and taking handoffs and even snaps.