A week ago today during the Colorado football program's Tuesday press conference, senior quarterback Tyler Hansen joked that he was "the weird guy" as one of the few completely healthy players on the team.

One week later, the Buffs don't know who their starting quarterback will be this Saturday when they travel to Arizona State to take on the No. 21 Sun Devils.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Nick Hirschman was called on last week in a loss to Oregon after Hansen suffered a concussion on a hit coach Jon Embree thought should have been a penalty. Embree did not know Monday whether Hansen would be healthy enough to play this week and he might not have any better idea until Wednesday or Thursday.

That leaves Hirschman in position to possibly make the first start of his career.

"I just approach it the same as I approach it every week," Hirschman said. "Coach Rip (Scherer) always stresses that you prepare each week like you're the starter, and that's exactly what I do every week.

"It's a little different when you're the starter. You always say you prepare like the starter, but it's a little different. I'm sure there is going to be a lot more hours in here in addition to the hours I'm already here. But it's an exciting thing to go start your first college game possibly."

Hirschman has played in the past three games, the first three of his career. Against Stanford and Washington, he was on the field only briefly in mop-up duty, but he played more than a half of football against Oregon.


He has completed 13-of-27 passes for 125 yards so far. He hasn't thrown a touchdown pass or an interception and he has been sacked five times by defenses that have expected him to be passing.

During the Oregon game, Hirschman said he felt as if everything was going wrong. He was frustrated. He said it was only by the second and third time he reviewed film of the game that he was able to take some positives away to begin building on this week.

He said he must be more accurate with his throws and wishes he had started fast as soon as he entered the game instead of taking some time to develop a better feel for the game before finally making some plays.

"I feel I didn't look like a freshman out there," Hirschman said. "I didn't freak out. I wasn't so tight to make a mistake. I went out there and tried to play not tight and let myself go out there and do work the way we practice out here."

If Hirschman does make his first college start in place of Hansen, it won't be an easy assignment. The Arizona State defense features several pro prospects, including linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who is one of the best defenders in the nation.

The Sun Devils are ranked in the middle of the pack in the Football Bowl Subdivision in most major defensive statistics, but they do create a lot of turnovers.

The Buffs probably won't get wide receiver Paul Richardson or running back Rodney Stewart back for this game either, compounding the challenge no matter who is under center. Richardson and Stewart are recovering from a sprained knee.

Hansen isn't the only player recovering from a concussion in the Oregon game. True freshman defensive back D.D. Goodson, is in the same boat.

In the 1980s when Embree was a player, team athletic trainers handled players who suffered head injuries during games with smelling salts. Sometimes those players would be allowed to go back into the contest after being knocked out and revived.

These days, any CU player diagnosed or suspected of having a concussion is held out until they can pass a test that proves they are OK. Each player takes the test in the offseason to establish normal cognitive function, which is what they have to achieve when they are "dinged" during practices or games.

Coaches and trainers are eager to see how Hansen responds and to know if they will have to turn to Hirschman. True freshman John Schrock would serve has Hirschman's backup.

Hirschman will battle for the starting job in 2012 throughout the offseason, but playing time now could be extremely helpful to his chances. A starting assignment and a full 60 minutes on the field in a road game against a ranked opponent could be huge in his development.

"I think any time you get to play in a game, it's going to improve your odds of being successful every time you go out there," Hirschman said. "It's a very exciting thing. It's very good experience for me. It's unfortunate it had to happen this way with Tyler getting hurt. He's a great guy and I feel terrible that happened to him, but we've got to move on. I don't say that to be mean or anything at all. That's the way football goes. People get hurt and you've got to move on."


Embree said some of the seniors have stopped by his office to talk about what they want to accomplish in the final month of the season. But the entire group hasn't given him an indication of its goals. Embree said he didn't know if the seniors would stop by individually or as a group when he told them after Saturday's game that he wanted to hear from them Monday. He said he was interested to see how they would handle it. ... Freshman D.D. Goodson will likely remain at defensive back the rest of the season and maybe permanently. Embree said Goodson played well before suffering a concussion against Oregon. He had spent just two practices as a defensive back last week before starting his first collegiate game.