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Going for gridiron glory
Buffs turn to a ‘no-huddle’ offense, hoping to leave
foes breathless on Folsom Field
by Thom Hill
You know that feeling you got when you first moved to Boulder and walked from your front door to your car? The one that felt like John Madden was sitting on your chest eating a Turducken?
It’s called altitude. Mark Helfrich, offensive coordinator for the Colorado football team, wants CU’s offense to use it to its advantage. He wants opposing defenses that show up at Folsom Field this fall to feel like John Madden has stopped by for a bite to eat and is using them as a chair.
“It may be more of a mental thing, but it wears on you,” Helfrich said of Boulder’s mile-high altitude. “We want those big D-linemen (on the other team) getting up and down as many times as we can.”
In order to use Folsom’s thin air to thick advantage, Helfrich and CU’s other offensive coaches installed a no-huddle offense this past spring and plan to use it often in the fall. In theory, the no-huddle offense moves at a faster pace between plays. It gives the defense less time to rest, and, just as importantly, fewer opportunities to substitute players.
Colorado’s own senior defensive lineman George Hypolite doesn’t mince words when talking about facing a no-huddle, spread offense, like the Buffs will use.
“I really don’t like playing against it,” said Hypolite, an All-American candidate. “It throws you off the rhythm of the game. …And those two or three plays when a guy may be tired and a little slow against the spread, he misses a tackle and (the ball carrier) gets 15 yards. And now they’re in field goal range, or they’re in scoring range.”
The Buffs will need to score more points this fall than they did a year ago if they’re to improve on last year’s 6-7 record. Colorado averaged 27.6 points a game in 2007, which ranked them 62nd in the nation. Helfrich, along with head coach Dan Hawkins, had loftier numbers in mind when they decided to switch to a no-huddle look prior to this season.
Another reason they made the switch was to take advantage of an influx of talented young players. Recruiting websites ranked Colorado freshman Darrell Scott the No. 1 tailback prospect in the country when he signed with CU in February. At 6-2, 220 pounds, Scott has a rare combination of size and speed to make an impact in his first year in the Big 12. Classmates Ray Polk, a sleek speedster at tailback, and sophomore wide out Josh Smith also have untapped big-play potential. Coaches hope the trio, as well as the entire offensive squad, can benefit from the no-huddle’s simplicity.
“I think we can use a lot of our speed, a lot of our energy that we have on offense, with a lot of guys that are coming in,” said sophomore quarterback Cody Hawkins, who seemed to have no trouble picking up the offense in the spring. “That no-huddle aspect allows us to line up and pick a play based on what the defense is doing.”
If CU’s offense picks plays fast enough, eventually the opposing defenses will begin to wear down. That’s what senior wide receiver Patrick Williams plans on. He can’t wait to hurry up.
“We can take advantage of the altitude we have here,” Williams said. “Teams aren’t going to be able to catch their breath. They’re going to get run over.”
A look at Colorado’s 2008 schedule
Colorado State (at Invesco Field, Denver) • Aug. 31 • 5:30 p.m. (FSN)
No Sonny, no veteran quarterback and no defense? Colorado State is in the first stages of rebuilding as Steve Fairchild takes over for the beloved Sonny Lubick in Fort Collins. With his Rams pedigree and NFL coordinator experience, Fairchild looks like a good hire. But CSU doesn’t have the talent it had during Lubick’s heyday. The Rams are ripe for a beatdown in Denver.
Eastern Washington (Folsom Field) • Sept. 6 • 1:30 p.m.
For those worried this could turn into Montana State, Part II, stop it. EWU comes from the same lower-tier conference as Montana State, The Big Sky, but so much has changed since Dan Hawkins took over the CU program that embarrassed Buff Nation with an opening loss to MSU two years ago. I mean, gas prices have tripled, Billy Ray Cyrus made a comeback and the Buffs found a quarterback in Cody Hawkins.
West Virginia (Folsom Field) • Sept. 18 • 6:30 p.m. (ESPN)
If the Buffs aren’t 2-0 heading into their first-ever Thursday night game at Folsom, something’s gone terribly wrong. Beating the Mountaineers will be another challenge altogether, though. WVU boasts Heisman Trophy candidate Pat White, one of the nation’s best dual-threat quarterbacks. This will be an opportunity for CU to turn heads on the national scene early in the 2008 season.
Florida State (at Jacksonville, Fla.) • Sept. 27 • TBA
The Buffs felt like they let one get away last fall when Florida State beat them 16-6 in Boulder. Florida State could be unsettled at quarterback going into September, and frankly, the Seminoles aren’t as good as they used to be. The Buffs have just one road win against a quality program under head coach Dan Hawkins — last year’s win at Texas Tech. This game gives them the opportunity for another.
Texas (Folsom Field) • Oct. 4 • TBA
Texas fans talk a big game, and they’ll be talking about how the Longhorns will have CU freshman tailback Darrell Scott in their sites — payback for the fact Scott chose to play at CU instead of UT. But Texas coaches are smarter than to worry about one 18-year-old kid who had a change of heart in the heat of the night. Meanwhile, some CU juniors and seniors still smart from the 70-3 Texas win the last time the two teams played — in the 2005 Big 12 Championship.
at Kansas • Oct. 11 • TBA
Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing was too much for the CU defense to handle last fall. He’s back for his junior season. So are eight starters from the biggest reason the Jayhawks had their best season to date under coach Mark Mangino — the KU defense. Kansas allowed just 16.4 points a game in 2007. Some still think the basketball school is a one-year wonder in football. We’ll see this fall.
Kansas State (Folsom Field) • Oct. 18 • TBA
Head coach Ron Prince, perhaps feeling the heat after his team missed a bowl game last fall, went out and signed 19 junior college players. A savvy strategy or a sign of desperation? If they aren’t playing well by the time they roll into Folsom in the middle of October, we’ll call it the latter.
at Missouri • Oct. 25 • TBA
Missouri sported the best offense Colorado faced last fall. With Chase Daniel back for his senior year at quarterback, and speedster Jeremy Maclin a threat to score whenever he touches the ball on offense or special teams, don’t expect the Tiger offense to slow in 2008. If the defense continues to improve, Missouri will be the team to beat in the Big 12 North, maybe the entire conference and possibly the country.
at Texas A&M • Nov. 1 • TBA
New coach Mike Sherman has the 12th Man hoping the Aggies can go back to the future on defense. Don’t expect them to start talking about the new “Wrecking Crew” just yet, though. Sherman needs to recruit better players on defense first. The Aggies should be able to score, with veteran quarterback Stephen McGee running the new pro-style offense. Kyle Field is always a tough place for a visiting team to earn a W.
Iowa State (Folsom Field) • Nov. 8 • TBA
Iowa State isn’t settled on a quarterback in August, but will be by the time the snow flies. CU’s loss in Ames last year was the most troubling of the season. They let a defeated team come back and get an inspiring win. If CU is to play in a bowl game this fall, Iowa State is a team it has to beat.
Oklahoma State (Folsom Field) • Nov. 15 • TBA
The Cowboys could field the most potent offense in the Big 12 by the time all things are said and done. Defense, though, is another story. Look for former Centennial State prepster Zac Robinson to have a strong season at quarterback for Oklahoma State.
at Nebraska • Nov. 28 • 1:30 p.m. (ABC)
The Bo Pelini era is underway in Lincoln. The new head coach, who took over Nebraska on the heels of coaching national champ LSU’s defense, will rebuild Nebraska’s defensive tradition. But it’ll take a while. For now, NU’s talent is on offense.
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