February 18, 2008

Will Cody Hawkins get challenged?

Who's back -


Cody Hawkins* (So.) Ranks eighth in school history in TD passes after just one season
Nick Nelson (Sr.) Saw action in three games; threw for 22 yards on 3-of-6 passing
Matt Ballenger (R-Fr.) Redshirted last fall; could challenge Hawkins for the staring job

Who's gone -

Bernard Jackson Academically ineligible and did not play in '07 after starting in '06

* - Indicates player started in 2007.

Overview -

After throwing for more than 3,000 yards as a redshirt freshman, one might assume Cody Hawkins is a lock to remain as the Buffaloes' starter in 2008. As Lee Corso might say, "Not so fast my friend".

Head coach Dan Hawkins stated after the season that there is open competition at every position.

"I don't care if you are Cody Hawkins or Matt DiLallo or "Girthy" (Daniel Sanders)," Coach Hawkins stated. "It's been that way for a long time."

While redshirting last fall, Matt Ballenger turned heads on the practice fields. Hall-of-Fame quarterback and ABC commentator Dan Fouts watched just one practice before making a bold prediction. He stated that Ballenger is destined for greatness.

At 6-foot-4, Ballenger has the height advantage over the 5-foot-11 Cody Hawkins. But whether or not Ballenger possesses the same intangibles that Cody Hawkins has remains to be seen.

Hawkins came one interception short of the school record for most in a season. But he showed improvement in this department as the regular season wore on. Hawkins had attempted 70 passes without throwing a pick, until Alabama intercepted a pass on the first play of the Independence Bowl.

"I had a lot of fun but I think my productivity could have been a lot higher, actually I don't think, it definitely could have," Hawkins said in late November when asked about his freshman campaign. "Hindsight is always 20/20 and you always wonder why you didn't make some decisions but it is only going to help me grow because I have three more years to play if everything goes the way that I want it to."

Not to be forgotten is Nick Nelson. With just one more year of eligibility remaining, the former Saddleback College transfer will competing this off-season with a sense of urgency. Nelson saw action in three games last season in back-up, mop up duty.

Two more quarterbacks will join the mix this summer.

Tyler Hansen, from Temecula High School in Chaparral, Calif., will come in on scholarship. He earned an offer after showing well at the Buffaloes' summer camp last June. Hansen led his team deep in the playoffs as a junior and senior and was named the SoCal Bowl Offensive MVP in January.

"I know Coach Hawkins' son [Cody] is there and he'll probably redshirt his first year there, but Tyler is going to be ready to compete," Hansen's high school coach Tommy Leach recently told BuffStampede.com.

Cameron Wright will join the team as a preferred walk-on with hopes that he can earn a scholarship down the road. The dual-threat quarterback from Ralston Valley High School in Arvada, Colo., accounted for 2,000 yards of offense and 27 touchdowns as a senior. He was named first-team all-state, first-team all-conference and was selected to play in the Colorado All-Star game.

While Nelson and Ballenger will get every opportunity to steal the starting job, Cody Hawkins clearly has the lead going into spring ball. The Buffs would probably like to avoid fielding a first year starter at the quarterback position for the third straight year.

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