Colorado fans probably don't want to hear it, read it or acknowledge it, but a quarterback battle is brewing in Boulder if the results of the first scrimmage of spring ball are any indication.
Junior Tyler Hansen and senior Cody Hawkins used evenly split opportunities Thursday afternoon at Folsom Field to produce similar results. However, Hawkins won on the scoreboard with four touchdown passes to Hansen's one.
Hawkins was the starter for the first five games last season as well as the two previous seasons. Hansen was the starter for the final seven games last fall, but hasn't been able to capitalize on that experience to create clear separation in the eyes of coaches between himself and the teammate he replaced.
Forget what coaches have to say or the coach's son for that matter. Perhaps the most telling indication of where things stand after seven spring practices and one scrimmage is Hansen's assessment of the competition to this point.
"To me, it's dead even right now," Hansen said. "So we've got to compete and make plays. I've got to do better. I can't have an OK day anymore. I've got to have a great day."
Any of the estimated 250 who attended the 2 hour, 15 minute scrimmage would likely confirm the offense is well behind the defense at this point. And as coach Dan Hawkins said afterward, chronic problems that haunted the team last season, such as penalties and sacks, need to get cleaned up.
The offense also suffered a setback late in the scrimmage when senior wide receiver Scotty McKnight suffered a lower leg/ankle injury. He has not been ruled out for the remainder of spring ball yet, but he is wearing a boot.
Offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau said he has been keeping track of the competition in detail down to the last rep this spring.
"It's a huge scale on how I'm grading them," he said. "It's very time consuming."
He said going into the scrimmage Hansen and Hawkins had combined to complete about 70 percent of all the passes they had thrown and both players were doing very well. He wasn't as happy with the results of the scrimmage.
Hansen completed 16 of 29 passes for 139 yards and a touchdown. He also threw an interception, and should have been intercepted on another occasion but cornerback Paul Vigo dropped the ball.
Hawkins completed 26 of 44 passes for 194 yards and four touchdowns. He also threw an interception, which would have been returned for a touchdown by Jimmy Smith if not for a touchdown-saving tackle by Brian Lockridge.
Both quarterbacks were sacked three times.
"Before today, I thought we were progressing well," Kiesau said. "We still have two weeks. Thank goodness."
Completion percentages for the quarterbacks could have been slightly higher if receivers had done a better job of catching the ball. Kiesau noted there were too many dropped passes in the scrimmage, including one on the first play of the day when Hansen found McKnight wide open down the left side. Hawkins also was victimized when Will Jefferson dropped what would have been the fifth touchdown pass of the day for Hawkins.
"I think those guys, and I said this a couple years ago, you could probably split them with a hair," Dan Hawkins said of the competition between his son and Hansen.
Freshmen quarterbacks Seth Lobato and Nick Hirschman also had several opportunities each to direct the team. They combined to complete nine of 16 passes for 28 yards.
The scrimmage covered 163 plays, including special teams. There were eight penalties.
Six different receivers caught at least four passes led by Jefferson, who finished the day with six catches for 81 yards and a touchdown. Toney Clemons and Clark Evans each caught five passes.
Dan Hawkins said it is "a little bit" typical that the defense would be ahead of the offense at this point in the year. Overall, he said there were too many penalties in the scrimmage, but he was happy with the defense, particularly its ability to pressure the quarterback.
"We just have to clean a lot of things up," Hawkins said. "We just have to get a lot cleaner. You know, penalties, turnovers, some of that kind of stuff. Not dropping the ball."