BOULDER — After a second look, Hugh Charles’ performance Saturday was perfect, with the exception of one troubling blemish.
Colorado Buffaloes running backs coach Shawn Simms said the sophomore tailback earned a grade of 92 percent after coaches reviewed film of his 101-yard, two-touchdown performance in a 31-28 win over Colorado State on Saturday — a mark
well above the standard given for a strong game.
However, Simms was less than pleased with the way Charles secured the football, an issue that led to two fumbles, both lost, and one close call where the ground dislodged the ball.
So even though Charles lived up to nine months of hype by displaying his game-breaking ability and left the CU campus buzzing about his world-class speed, he’ll have to improve in one crucial area if he’s to get the ball again.
“There’s only one way to carry that football, and you’ve got to be conscious of it at all times. As soon as you relax, you lose it,” Simms said. “I talked to him about it, and if he listens, he’ll be fine. If he doesn’t listen, he’s going to lose some more balls.”
Charles said he doesn’t consider himself a fumbler, but that he needs to be more aware of the ball, especially because of his quick, elusive style.
“It’s natural to put your arm away from your body whenever you go to the side, but you just have to teach yourself to keep the ball close whenever you make a cut,” he said. “It’s just a matter of having that feel whenever you carry the ball and knowing, no matter what move you make or how fast you go, to always have that feel.
“I’ve put it in my head, and I’ll work on it in practice and think about it every time I have the ball.”
Simms said he is confident Charles will correct the problem, as long as he makes the necessary mental and technical adjustments. If Charles can, the Buffs believe they have a player who can change the course of a game.
The sophomore touched the ball 18 times Saturday and had six significant gains, two of which went for crucial touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
“Every third time he touched the ball, it was a big play,” Simms said.
Charles impressed his coaches most with his open-field running, which not only was an improvement from last season, but seemed to improve during the game. On both of his touchdown runs, he made at least one defender miss.
Simms said Charles also showed control and patience behind his blockers, instead of trying to outrun everyone with his 4.37 speed.
“He was aware, and he was under control. He knew when it was time for him to kick in the speed,” Simms said. “He’s got to use his speed by setting up blocks and waiting for holes. It isn’t just getting the ball and running really fast, and I think that’s something he learned last year.”
Those skills will mean little if Charles puts the ball on the ground. But after a stern wake-up call in an otherwise positive film session, Charles vows to improve.
“We learn from our mistakes, and I’m going to learn from that and never let it happen again,” he said. “The coaches believe in me, and they don’t expect me to have another fumble.”