Colorado offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau stood for a moment after practice one day and pondered a question he really didn't have an answer to. He was asked to name quarterback Cody Hawkins' biggest shortcoming.
"I don't know," he said. "Every now and then he will try to take a chance, and he probably shouldn't."
Kiesau took over as coordinator and quarterbacks coach at CU this summer, making him the man with the most to say about who wins the starting job under center. He says the competition between Hawkins and Tyler Hansen is close.
Buffs head coach Dan Hawkins said a decision on the starting signal-caller could be made after Saturday's scrimmage.
Cody Hawkins is trying to win the job for the third straight year. There are several factors that could give him an advantage. He is as competitive as they come. He has a mind for the game and he's a football junkie who sometimes spends as much as 18 hours of his summer days watching film, throwing balls and picking Kiesau's brain.
"I think when you get that guy and he understands what we're doing, he is phenomenal," Kiesau said. "I truly mean that. I'm not just saying it. He is very smart. He knows his reads and if we can put him in a position to do that, we'll be all right.
"The guy is 5-11 and I don't care. I don't, because the guy is so smart, and he can anticipate things and see things happening before guys. He can see coverages. He can see fronts. He can see blitzes. There is a guy, Aaron Rodgers at Cal, who was very similar. I mean wicked smart. And that's Cody's asset. That's what we've got to use. It's what we've got to pull out of him."
Hawkins recently spent part of one of his afternoons talking about himself and the sport he loves and the coming season.
DC: Do you think you had a sophomore slump last year?
CH: My situation isn't going to be scrambling around, running and making things happen. I've always kind of been more of a field general and a leader. You know, when we've got guys in place, I think Cody Hawkins can be pretty good.
I just got to the point last year, and I think it was because I was so competitive, that with a lot of the injuries we had I was focusing so much more on the end result. Like if we can't block this blitz, how am I going to complete this pass. Rather than, this is my drop, this is what I've got to do and I've got make sure I have good mechanics.
I feel more comfortable than I've ever been. I feel like I'm practicing and I'm playing better than I ever have been just because it's so much about the details. I feel like we have enough talent, and enough experience and enough depth right now that when guys are focused on the little things, the big plays are going to happen.
DC: You play in a conference with Heisman trophy candidates at quarterback and when people talk about up-and-coming quarterbacks in the league they mention Blaine Gabbert at Missouri or Robert Griffin at Baylor. Why do you think you get overlooked?
CH: If I'm winning ball games, I could care less. If I don't throw a pass this season and we win a Big 12 championship, I'm going to wear that ring and walk around and be proud because that is something we all put a lot of time in for and gave a lot of ourselves to it.
I'm good friends with kids in the conference who have thrown for a ton of yards. I've been places, like camps, and thrown around and they aren't supermen. A lot of it is their situation, the personnel and what they're putting into it. I just try to take that and bring what I can to the table for my team ever y single day.
I can't do anything more than bust my ass and do everything I can to win a football game. I feel like if I keep working, I'll get put in the right situations, and if I'm doing things the right way, it's going to happen eventually.
DC: What's your relationship with Kiesau like and what do you think of changes he has made?
CH: I have such a great relationship with him. I think as a person and as a player, he's a guy I respect the heck out of, and I like being around him. I mean, I want to be in there all the time, hanging out with him watching film. It's so much more black and white than it was.
I mean, I feel like I'm a very cerebral quarterback. I'll give you $20 if you can find a guy on our team who can draw up Xs and Os better than I can and explain stuff out on the field better than me. I feel kind of like last year I knew what was supposed to happen on every play, but when there is so much gray area in your mind like, 'Oh my gosh, this is what is supposed to happen against Cover Two, but I may not have time to hit that if we aren't holding up on the right side.'
Or I'm sprinting out and he's the only X we've got and I know he's supposed to be a winner here, but can I trust that? I've stopped worrying so much about what the result of the play is and I'm just focusing on my job. It's so black and white that I can just go out and play and just be me.
DC: Are you a football junkie?
CH: I mean, I'm pretty into ball. It's funny. This camp I've had absolutely no social life. I'm here at 7 a.m. and I leave at almost 11 o'clock at night.
I try to watch extra film before the meetings and stuff just so you kind of know what to expect. That's one great thing about Kiesau is I feel like I'm a smart guy and I know what's going on, but I can almost coach myself the more we're going through this stuff just because he has helped us so much and totally put all the cards out on the table.
You know, this is what needs to happen on every given play. It might seem like a lot on a quarterback's plate, but when you get it down and absorb it, I mean you're banging through stuff and playing with a lot of confidence and you get a little bit of swagger going. I love football more than anybody you will ever meet and I'm really loving it right now.
DC: When and where and how did you develop that love for the game?
CH: Baseball was my best sport growing up. Not that I didn't see the payoff, but I feel like I am social and I do like to enjoy stuff and the whole atmosphere of baseball and basketball just wasn't the same.
It's fun, but I also like that when you get thrown in the fire and you've got stuff flying at you, you learn a lot about yourself and you learn a lot about your friends. In all athletics, you're expected to put so much trust in other people and when you're on a football team, you really learn a lot about everybody else.
When I hit my sophomore year in high school, I started thinking, 'Hey, I might play college football.' I wasn't a kid who was physically huge the whole time. So I knew I was going to have to make some things happen. When I really started diving into the whole football thing, you kind of learn to love it.
DC: Why do you pattern yourself after Joe Montana?
CH: He wasn't a guy who was going to drop back and throw it through a wall, but if you watch him on film, he was very poised. He knew what to do in every situation and he was just such a competitor.
DC: How much of the team's success do you put on your shoulders this season if you are the starter?
CH: I don't care who is playing quarterback. We're going to have a great team this year if we continue to run the football, we stay healthy and we hit the passes we're supposed to hit and hit some that might be close. We're going to be a damned good football team.