Monday, May 21, 2007

Cody Hawkins - Buffalo Gunslinger

CFN is reporting today that true freshman Cody Hawkins is looking like the uncontested starting QB this fall for the Buffs. So, without giving up a spoonful of the benefit of the doubt, doesn't this whiff faintly of nepotism?

Cody is Coach Dan Hawkins son, which raised my eyebrows at least, and I suspect I'm not alone. See 'Who is this Kid?', where one poster close to the program, Katie Hnida, sums up the uncertainty of the people thusly:

"My guess is they are wondering if he is a rapist or just a pot smoking hippie that can't get it done in the big game."

Well, all internet chin music aside, there are some facts about Dan Hawkins latest gambit that deserve a little more superficial examination and conjecture (assuming of course the Hawk will anoint his son the starting QB come September).

As recent as two years ago, a kid from Idaho's pre-eminent Catholic school (which doesn't even play in Idaho's toughest high school football division, 4A out of 5A) would not have a chance of starting at a prestige program like Colorado. Now, it's fair to ask, could he even start at Boise State were it not for his Dad's influence?

Is this Dan Hawkins' decision because it's best for Cody? Or because it's best for CU football? The key to CU's season will rest on this decision. Daddy issues for Cody or another losing season for CU? But just maybe the Hawk can have it both way!

Fact: Cody jumped ship from his commitment to Boise State last year and followed Dad to Boulder. What motivated this? Could it be the competition was suddenly looking fiercer at a Boise State program that was on the eve of a 13-0 season and BCS Bowl victory over Oklahoma? Were Cody's gifts suspect in such an environment?

Quite possibly. Though to be fair the idea of that and Cody being the rightful starting QB at CU, are no longer mutually exclusive. The nagging idea that Cody's best chance to play was wherever Dad is drawing up the depth chart and calling the plays, would probably have been easier to demonstrate had the Hawkinses stayed at Boise State where the benchmark would have been maintaining an astounding level of success rather than building up from a 2-10 season and a new low for a once proud program effectively ruined by the one-two punch of Neuheisel and Barnett. The point is there is a greater margin of error at CU, and the bar is lower than at Boise State, which seems funny to say. (But I like it.)

That said, and having never seen the kid play myself, I must rely on what I read about his talents as a football player. And the journalists at CFN seem convinced, writing, "with a nice arm and great passing touch... Hawkins has the biggest upside and might be allowed to work out all the kinks now with the hope that he'll be a star in 2008."

A star? Really? The little kid (5'11"/190) from the second best league in the mighty high school football state of Idaho? (I should know, I grew up there.)

My dubiosity aside, the truth of this review hinges on whether the impartiality of this 'reporting' can be trusted. Generally the guys who write these previews are people quite close to the program, bloggers or local beat reporters, bought for peanuts on the dollar, to put together 'scouting reports' that get repackaged and sold to stoke the faintest hopes of each fan of each program that this is their year. The 'secret sauce' in all of this? That the reporters themselves actually believe the hype they're peddling.

Good little PR schills. Their careers depend on it. What fan's going to keep reading prognostications of doom and gloom? What boosters will show up on opening day for Baylor's 87th gridiron campaign without first being convinced in the naive parts of their brain that this season just might be different?

But the writer here, Michael Bradley, Sports Illustrated's own El Hombre, is a hired gun with some old school street cred. Writing out of Philadelphia he doesn't have a local fan base to appease or a program to build up for the lift it could provide his own career. So it just might be genuine optimism.

Anyway, with a program as down in the mouth as Colorado, non-fans won't be reading period (unless they're archrival fans, or anti-fans, my assertion holds) so impartiality (balance as Fox would say) is a nicety not a necessity, and as a reporter you're after the lowest common denominator, or in this case those Buff fans at the bottom looking up where all the news is good because shit can't get any worse.

Which in the end is a kind of hope for Cody Hawkins. I will buy into the hype and believe that Dan Hawkins isn't making the choice that's best for his relationship with his son, and that for maybe the first time in this unfair world, the answer to Coach Hawkins second pressing question is the same as the first - Cody Hawkins. It would, after all, make a hell of story if father and son together rescue CU from the absolute, fucking dumps.