Neill Woelk
Neill Woelk
Feel better, Buff nation?

The Colorado coaching staff ended the "suspense" surrounding CU`s starting quarterback Saturday by announcing that Tyler Hansen will indeed be the man when the Buffs open the season Sept. 4 against Colorado State.

Not that the news should have come as a surprise to anyone paying even a lick of attention. While radio talk show hosts whined and Buff fans fretted over Dan Hawkins` refusal to name a starter, there really wasn`t much doubt among coaches or players -- and neither was there really any hurry.

Saturday`s official announcement simply confirmed what had become more and more evident as fall camp progressed.

Hansen won the job. The leader after spring ball and the leader heading into fall camp is now the clear No. 1.

The best news is that this was not a contest decided by default. Hansen not only didn`t lose the job, he solidified himself as the top choice withan outstanding two weeks of practice.

Cody Hawkins didn`t play poorly. In fact, he had a very solid camp.

But Hansen was just a little bit better. CU`s coaches put some pressure on Hansen by challenging him, and he responded. That`s exactly what they wanted -- and needed -- to see from their starting quarterback.

Both Dan Hawkins and offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau said the competition between Hansen and Cody Hawkins has been close throughout camp. True enough. Their passing statistics, by all accounts, were startlingly similar.


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But if you need a hint as to why Hansen emerged as the leader, Kiesau said it best:

"He`s going to make defenses defend 11-on-11."

That`s been the biggest difference between the two. The Buffs can include Hansen`s legs in the game plan, something they simply can`t do if Hawkins is the QB.

Hansen`s running ability has always been evident. But now, the Buffs can design their attack with that ability in mind -- and opposing defenses will be forced to take that into account.

It showed in the spring game when Hansen ran for 34 yards (not counting sacks) and a touchdown. It became more evident in the first fall scrimmage, when Hansen had a 16-yard touchdown run. And, while the second scrimmage was closed to public and media, reports are that Hansen`s legs again played a role in CU`s attack.

It`s that extra dimension that helped him win the job and keep it -- and it`s why he admits he wasn`t surprised when the coaches told him Friday afternoon that he would be the starter.

"I can`t say I wasn`t expecting it, because I think I`ve had a good camp," Hansen said. "But it was nice to hear. You always want to get confirmation, and I felt like I`d earned it."

The timing of the announcement is good for the team. While most players said they "assumed" that Hansen would be the starter, based on his number of snaps with the No. 1 offense, the affirmation nevertheless gives them clear focus for the next two weeks.

No questions, no doubts. The Buffs will begin installing the specifics of their Colorado State game plan on Tuesday, and every player on offense will be comfortable with the nuances Hansen brings to the table.

Kiesau and Dan Hawkins both made it clear that Hansen won`t be playing with a noose hanging around his neck. He`ll have the latitude to make some mistakes, and the chance to make some big plays.

But either way, he won`t have to worry about getting the hook at the first sign of trouble.

"I don`t have to win the game," Hansen said. "We`ve got weapons in a lot of places."

That`s the voice of experience there, something that Hansen didn`t have a year ago when he was rushed out of his redshirt and into action for the second season in a row.

This is a different Tyler Hansen and a different season. Now, he`s a quarterback whose natural ability is accompanied by confidence and experience, qualities that come only with time.

Now, it`s Tyler Hansen`s time.

As he said, he earned it.