scrimmage, the team takes a knee around their coach. Their execution needs
work, he tells them, but the attitude was all he could ask for. Then comes a
peculiar digression: He scolds them for leaving energy bar wrappers on the
floor of the locker room. "It's about the details," he tells them. He
wants the team to focus less on big-picture goals and more on the process--the
details--that goes into achieving them. "The Zen master seeks not to hit
the target," he tells his guys, "but to become the bow."
He has been
hammering them on the little things since the day he arrived. "I'm not used
to having the head coach right behind me, telling me I just took the wrong
steps," says Mark Fenton, a senior center, who notes that Hawkins is far
more hands-on than Barnett. "He doesn't let you slide on anything."
difference between the two coaches: The tempo at practice is more intense now,
but the players don't seem to mind. Dizon, the linebacker who was still bitter
about Barnett's firing at that first team meeting, has bought in completely.
Under Barnett, he recalls, "guys would lag when practice rolled around. Now
guys are like, 'Practice! I wonder what we're going to do today? What'll he
think of next?' The whole climate is so different. Coach Hawkins's philosophy
is, You won't play your best unless you're having fun."
One player having
a blast is junior quarterback Bernard Jackson, who completed just two of three
passes in the scrimmage but scrambled like a poor man's Vince Young. On one
play he pulled the ball down, reversed his field and streaked 33 yards up the
left sideline with Hawkins chugging in his slipstream, shouting, "Nothing
wrong with that!"
talent, Jackson nonetheless languished for three seasons while Barnett's staff
tried to figure out what to do with him. Jackson was shuffled from quarterback
to kick returner to receiver to running back, then back to quarterback in 2005.
Last year, he says, "I would go to the line thinking, If I do this wrong,
I'm going to get yelled at."
slightest opening, Hawkins will expound on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. For
Jackson, one of those needs--the need to feel safe, physically and
psychologically--was not being met. After spending time with him, says Hawkins,
"I got this vibe that his spirit was broken, that he was in a cage. And I
just told him, 'I want you to break out, play your style, use your talents and
don't worry.'" Thus unburdened, Jackson had a strong spring and will
challenge fellow junior Brian White for the starting job in August. The X
factor in that battle could be the Buffaloes' top recruit, Cody Hawkins, who
graded out fourth among 12 high school players in the prestigious Elite 11
quarterback camp last July in Aliso Viejo, Calif., where it was noted that what
he lacked in height (5'11"), he made up for in natural leadership skills.
That is not surprising, considering that his father is a football coach. At
Dan Hawkins often
tells his players not to let their fears limit them, so he found himself in a
bind several weeks ago when Cody's sister Brittany, who is 20, challenged her
father to go skydiving with her. "If you don't do this," Brittany said,
goading Dan, "then everything you tell your guys is meaningless."
hurt," recalls the Hawk, who despite his fear of heights decided to take
nice-looking plane over there?" the skydiving instructor asked the coach,
when it was time to take off. "That's not ours." Instead, they boarded
a smaller, scruffier craft. When the pilot started the engine, Hawkins recalls,
it stalled. Finally, the plane took wing. "Got to get out of your comfort
zone!" he declares on a video of his adventure that can be viewed at
cubuffs.com. He also tells his wife, Misti, he loves her. During free fall he
is surprisingly calm until he shouts to the heavens, " Colorado Buffaloes
Not in '06, as
anyone who watched the offense lay a carton of eggs in last Saturday's spring
game knows. The poor showing was not wholly surprising. The offensive players
had been force-fed a new system, and on Saturday they played as if they had
indigestion. Close to 7,000 fans came to see the defense dominate on a
blustery, overcast day at Folsom Field--only 50,000 fewer than packed Memorial
Stadium in Lincoln, Neb., to watch the Cornhuskers' spring game.