Dan Hawkins. What does reading that name make you think of? The intramurals line, the colorful quotes, the terrible haircut? Sure, but to me, the name invokes the image of a guy with a lot of hype that couldn't win games. We (the entire Big 12) had a lot of fun kicking around Hawkins the past few years, and naturally KU's only league win last year was one of the biggest comebacks in college football history at the hands of the Buffs.
So why has Hawkins' name made me go from chuckling to feeling nauseous? Because I feel like I am watching Dan Hawkins 2.0 coach at KU. Am I over-reacting? When am I not? But just follow along with me for a minute, and you'll see why my Kool Aid intake has reached enormous proportions.
First, let's compare the two coaches' background and how their reigns of terror began. Both enjoyed success at a small school which made them the target of several BCS schools' coaching searches. Hawkins had enormous success at Boise State, and Gill's leadership helped Buffalo go from one of the worst programs in America to winning its conference. Both jumped to BCS schools that had just dismissed controversial coaches that enjoyed some success. Gary Barnett had led CU to back to back Big 12 North titles and had won the North four out of the last five seasons. Mark Mangino built KU from the ground up to Orange Bowl champions. Point being, they took over programs that were fresh off success, but the similarities do not stop there.
Both Gill and Hawkins had disastrous first seasons. Colorado finished 2-10 in Hawkins' first season, while KU struggled to a 3-9 finish. Now, Turner Gill enters year two at KU, and there are several signs that his time as KU's head coach might parallel Hawkins. Tell me if the following characteristics sound familiar to you:
Hawkins enjoyed considerable recruiting success early on, despite coming off a losing season. He was able to sign one of the top running back prospects and built up an offensive line stocked with depth.
Hawkins stockpiled a loaded backfield of talented and multi-faceted running backs.
Despite all the talent at RB, Hawkins was never able to find and develop a top quarterback. His son was average at best and horrible at worst, and the lack of a passing game ultimately doomed his offense.
Basically, Colorado's offense under Hawkins was what I fear KU's attack is turning into - A lot of depth on the line, several dangerous running backs, and no quarterback or consistent passing threat. Our (former) conference foe showed us first hand that a program can crash in a hurry and not recover (CU hasn't had a winning record since 2004 - Barnett's final season). They showed us that no matter how many good running backs and playmakers you have, and how stout your defense is, you must have a good quarterback to win games.
Obviously I am going to give Turner Gill the benefit of the doubt and see how he does in years two and three before I think about hoping off the wagon. However, the similarities between Gill and Hawkins' teams are a bit frightening. Hopefully this is all over-reacting and Gill turns things around. I don't think I could handle being on the other side of the joke.