Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Colorado coach Dan Hawkins is brimming with his confidence about his team for next season.
Despite the Buffaloes' 2008 struggles that resulted in a 5-7 season and four losses in their final five games, Hawkins didn't hesitate to predict his team would win "10 games with no excuses" in the upcoming season at the team's post-season banquet.
To get there, Hawkins will have to make a late recruiting charge much like last season, when he beat Texas for running back Darrell Scott as the most heralded recruit of his tenure.
An increase in finding depth and talent will be important after the Buffaloes suffered 10 season-ending injuries, lost three players to academic ineligibility and fielded the conference's youngest team in 2008. The team's final two-deep roster featured 27 freshmen or sophomores.
Hawkins' most pressing concern will be retooling a defensive front that loses starting defensive end Maurice Lucas, defensive tackle George Hypolite and nose tackle Brandon Nicolas. Behind them are three freshmen and a sophomore in the two-deep roster that is talented but lacks experience.
Starting outside linebacker Brad Jones and free safety Ryan Walters are Colorado's only personnel losses among the starting back seven. But additional depth at the position is needed as projected starting linebackers Jeff Smart and Shaun Mohler, who both will seniors in 2009.
The Buffaloes desperately need depth in their offensive line. Many of their offensive problems last season stemmed from early season-ending injuries that required surgery for tackle Ryan Miller and guards Mike Iltis and Maxwell Tuioti-Mariner. Their losses helped explain why the Buffaloes ranked 86th nationally in rushing, 100th in scoring in 102nd in sacks allowed.
After burning the redshirt of freshman quarterback Tyler Hansen late in the season, the Buffaloes should have healthy competition for the starting job with Cody Hawkins. An offensive is mandatory after Colorado produced just one 200-yard rushing game and was the only Big 12 team without a 300-yard passing game last season.
Considering the other personnel losses across the North Division, the Buffaloes could bounce back into title contention like their coach has predicted if they can find some more players and stay healthy.
But that could be a big if.