Just three days ago, Darian Hagan had no idea how Colorado was going to fill the vacancy on its football coaching staff.
Hagan hadn’t even talked with head coach Mike MacIntyre about his plans for the position.
Then on Friday, Hagan was invited into MacIntyre’s office for an impromptu meeting. He left the office as the Buffaloes’ new running backs coach. CU made the official announcement on Saturday.
“He pulled me aside and brought me in his office and told me some good things,” said Hagan, who had served as CU’s director of player development the past three years. “He said he’s been watching me, watching how I prepare and how I work and my passion and all of that stuff and he thought it was the best fit.”
MacIntyre has moved a few parts to try to find the best fit for the Buffs (4-9, 1-8 Pac-12 last season).
In addition to Hagan, the Buffs announced that Klayton Adams, who has coached running backs and tight ends the past three years, will be the new offensive line coach; and Gary Bernardi, who has coached the line, will now coach tight ends and fullbacks.
Previously this offseason, the Buffs lost receivers coach Troy Walters and replaced him with Darrin Chiaverini, who is also co-offensive coordinator; they fired strength and conditioning coach Dave Forman and replaced him with Drew Wilson; and lost special teams coordinator Toby Neinas, who resigned in December. Hagan’s hire replaces Neinas.
Hagan, who quarterbacked the Buffs to their only national title in 1990, could not be more excited to get back on the field. He was an assistant coach for the Buffs from 2005-10 before moving into the office in 2011.
“I just miss being out on the field with the guys, and just rallying with the guys, being in the heat of the battle with the guys and preparing,” he said. “Preparation is key. I just missed it.”
A fiery coach during his first stint, Hagan said he is a “more relaxed” person now. He credits the change to the tragic loss of his 19-year-old son, who committed suicide in December of 2010.
“Going through the suicide with my son, I’ve gained an appreciation for younger people,” he said. “I think what it’s done, it makes you more sensitive to their mindset. In this day and age a lot of kids are really sensitive and they think their world is crashing in around them. The old Hagan would tend to say, ‘Grow up. Don’t worry about all of that.’ Now you talk to them and you try to get them on the right path.
“Every kid learns differently, every kid understands differently. You have to find a way to coach each kid differently, but at the same time coach them the correct way and not discourage them. Make it a fun environment.”
In addition to coaching, the Buffs view Hagan as a strength in recruiting.
“Darian brings a lot of pride and passion to our football program with his history here, and also brings expertise to our running backs,” MacIntyre said in a press release. “He’s also an excellent recruiter because he loves the University of Colorado and is so passionate about it.”
While Hagan has not coached CU’s current running backs, he knows them very well and believes that will make the transition easier for them.
The Buffs have a stable of talented running backs, including last year’s leading rusher, junior Phillip Lindsay. The Buffs also expect to have Michael Adkins II back; he led the team in rushing through the first two games last season before missing the last 10 with a hamstring injury. In addition, the Buffs also have versatile Donovan Lee and talented youngsters Patrick Carr, Dino Gordon and incoming freshman Beau Bisharat.
“I’m not opposed to rotating, and I’m not opposed to having one single guy do it all,” Hagan said. “At the same time, it’s a 12-game season and guys get beat up at that position, so you have to have guys ready.
“I think right now every one of those guys could be a feature back, given the opportunity. But it’s a long season and guys get banged up.”
Ideally, Hagan said, the Buffs could get to a situation where they can rely on one player each game to carry the load.
“I think as a running back, the better you get the more carries, the more touches you have because you get a better feel for the game,” he said.
The Buffs are hoping Hagan has a good feel for the game. His former coach, Bill McCartney, has no doubt.
“If you did research, you would find more often than not former quarterbacks make the best coaches, because they’re forced to see everything and be responsible for everything,” McCartney said. “He’s got a special spirit to him, and he’s got all that experience.
“I think he’s going to hang the moon. I couldn’t be more excited.”