Colorado OC Eric Kiesau and QB Tyler Hansen.
Colorado OC Eric Kiesau and QB Tyler Hansen. ( CLIFF GRASSMICK )
Tyler Hansen is ready for whatever the college football season throws at him.

It`s apparent in many ways, from his command of the offense and leadership on the practice fields to how he handles himself in interviews with the media and how he spends what used to be free time.

The junior from Murrieta, Calif., is willing to admit that he wasn`t ready to be thrown to the wolves two years ago and probably didn`t do all that he could have just last year when he once again replaced Cody Hawkins as the Buffs` starter mid-year.

But somewhere along the way he began to recognize where he was falling short and how to fix it and he made the necessary corrections over the past nine months. For instance, he used to be satisfied watching a few hours of film and wasn`t very detail oriented in doing so. Now he said he spends much more time studying and he has taken the time to learn what he should be paying attention to.

"I`m down there to the late hours of the night watching film," he said.

Hansen is eager to prove himself beginning Saturday at noon when he gets his first crack at the Colorado State Rams in his career. Tuesday he called the game a "must-win" for the Buffs while discussing whether he feels pressure to produce now that he is the starter at the outset of a season.

"I guess there is pressure, but I don`t really think of it as pressure," he said. "Just to get off on the right foot, if you get a win against your rival, that`s great, but just because it`s the first game of the year, that`s so important. If we were playing whoever, it would be a big game just because it`s our first game."

Coach Dan Hawkins said the biggest difference in Hansen is that he knows what he`s doing. He trusts the offense and his coaching now. He doesn`t guess where he should throwthe ball. He goes through his reads and is "more methodical."

Hansen used to be inclined to run at the first sign of trouble. Now he scrambles but not necessarily with the idea of running beyond the line of scrimmage in mind.

"I think this year his feet are leading him to those secondary and third reads," Hawkins said.

Hansen completed more than 70 percent of his passes in the three main fall scrimmages. If he can continue that kind of efficient play on Saturdays it should lead to a big jump in offensive production and more victories.

Hansen said it was difficult to be a leader during his first two seasons even when he was in the starting role because older players don`t typically follow freshmen and sophomores, especially when there are questions about how long they might be starters.

Those issues are no longer concerns as he starts his junior season with the full backing and support of the coaching staff and his teammates. He says he is no longer looking over his shoulder wondering if one mistake will get him replaced by Cody Hawkins. But the fact that he has conquered some of his old challenges doesn`t mean he has arrived. It`s just leading to more learning.

"I can`t go out there and just suck it up," Hansen joked. "The most important game is always the next game. So after this game is done on Sept. 5, the most important game is the Cal game."