UPDATE: Here is the press release from the CU athletic department:
BOULDER – University of Colorado head football coach Jon Embree announced Thursday the indefinite suspensions of five players for failing to meet the expectations of being member of the team.
Four of the five are sophomores: outside linebacker Liloa Nobriga and defensive backs Ayodeji Olatoye, Parker Orms and Paul Vigo; the fifth is redshirt freshman defensive back Josh Moten.
Orms, from Wheat Ridge, was the only starting player among the five. He missed the last game with a leg injury and was likely out for this Saturday’s game at Stanford. Vigo, from New Brunswick, N.J., has been nursing a pulled hamstring and missed the last two games, while Moten (Carson, Calif.) and Olatoye (Dublin, Ohio) have seen spot action this season. Nobriga (Summerlin, Nev.) has not appeared in a game in 2011.
“We are disappointed that these student-athletes have not lived up to the high expectations we have here at the University of Colorado,” Embree said. “While not going into specifics, there are no issues with law enforcement, but they have not met their obligations and responsibilities to be active members of the team.”
Embree said the five are prohibited from engaging in any football-related activity, but are still responsible to meet all academic requirements.
Five players suspended
Can it get much worse? (Don’t answer that).
The Colorado secondary, already hit with injuries to seven players since August, has sustained a body blow from which it may not recover.
Colorado coach Jon Embree has indefinitely suspended five defensive players for violations of team rules just days before the program is scheduled to face Stanford … and Andrew Luck.
All five players — Parker Orms, Ayodeji Olatoye, Paul Vigo, Josh Moten and Liloa Nobriga — were notified of the decision on Wednesday and the entire team was told during a post-practice team meeting. None of the problems that led to the suspensions involved the police, according to sources, but the rules violations were serious enough that Colorado may announce Thursday that none of the five will play again this season.
As to how the suspensions affect the game against Stanford, the most immediate impact will be the loss of sophomore Ayodeji Olatoye and red-shirt freshman Josh Moten. While neither cornerback was a starter, they were both at least healthy and available to play at the decimated position. Sophomores Parker Orms and Paul Vigo, meanwhile, have both been out for the past few weeks with injuries, and were listed as “day-to-day” in the latest injury update.
Sophomore linebacker Liloa Nobriga, while he has dressed for the three games played in the state of Colorado, had yet to see the playing field as a backup to junior Jon Major.
A press release concerning the future of the five players is expected Thursday.
Jon Embree Post Pratice Quotes
On Wednesday’s practice – “It was good … looked really physical. I thought they did a good job of getting after it.”
On Brian Lockridge – “He didn’t do much. He was walking in boots today, maybe that’s a step in the right direction.” Is Lockridge out? “We’ll see (Thursday). I’d say yes at this point”.
On the next player up after Lockridge – “Who’s next? (Jonathan) Hawkins is back. He had a family issue. He’s back. (Arthur) Jaffee’s trying to come back. We are working (freshman) Will Harlos some at safety. I think that’s it. That’s all that’s left.”
On the Stanford offense – “They have balance, but I think they are more of a run team, that uses that deceptive pass because of the way they get their tight ends down the field. I think if you ask them, they look at themselves as a run team first, and a pass team second.”
On pulling any other red-shirts – “(Linebacker) Woodson (Greer) is up working. Woodson’s up working, and he looked good. So he’s the only guy right now we’d be looking at.”
On Parker Orms – “Parker will not be available this week.”
On freshman kicker Will Oliver making two long field goals after having a kick blocked – “That’s Will. I don’t think anything really bothers him or phases him. He’s had this temperment from day one that I’ve been around him … I don’t know if he doesn’t know any better or not, that he’s supposed to be rattled. He just goes out and does it.”
On freshman offensive lineman Paulay Asiata – “He’s been getting a lot of reps. We just had to get him up to speed because when he hurt his shoulder, he missed a lot of practice. He’s getting up to speed. He’ll be playing before it’s all said and done. He’ll be playing some regular snaps here pretty quick. What he’s done this week has put him in a position (to earn some playing time).”
Jon Embree Weekly Press Conference Quotes
On Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck – “I told out team that he is the Peyton Manning of college football right now. He has great grasp of the offense. (Stanford head coach) David (Shaw) let him run some plays last week, call his own stuff … He did a good job of staying with offense … He runs well. He runs better than people think … He’s a big kid … He’s a complete package.”
On whether going up against Andrew Luck prohibits the Buffs from having a chance to win on Saturday – “I’ve been honest the whole time with these guys. I believe (Luck is the Peyton Manning of college football), but that doesn’t mean he can’t be beat. He’s been beat. But I do think it’s important to know what you are up against, and everything I’ve said about (Luck) is true.”
On embracing the role of underdog – “No. We’re going to just keep preparing, go out there, and do the best we can. There are no breaks in the Pac-12. Every week, you’ve got to bring it.”
On the Stanford offense – “You’ve got to stop the run first. I think that’s the misnomer with having Andrew Luck, you have to go in there thinking you’ve got to stop the pass. If you don’t stop their run, look out. They’re a power running team; they’re a very physical team … It’s a street fight when you play them.”
On Stanford being a program he would like to emulate – “Yes, because what they do upfront with their guys, how they have the ability to run the ball, but still get the ball down the field. How they use their tight ends. We’re trying to recruit some guys in here to use in that manner. It’s a program I have always admired from a distance, since Tyrone (Willingham) was there. I always felt that if I was building a program, I would like to build it in a similar manner.”
On playing starters, like Rodney Stewart, on special teams – “(Stewart) played a lot of plays. He’s making tackles; he’s returning kicks. Josh Hartigan played a lot; Doug Rippy played a lot; Jon Major played a bunch … there were a lot of starters who played a lot of plays … I think our special teams were dramatically improved, and will continue to make that area more of a strength, instead of a weakness.”
On Tyler Hansen trying to match up with Andrew Luck – “I expect Tyler to play well. Tyler is our leader; I love Tyler. I think he has a great grasp of the offense. I love his thought process. I think his teammates feel the same way about him. So I expect Tyler to play well. I really do.”
On improving the Buffs’ defense on third downs (CU is giving up first downs at a rate of 48%; Embree said he wants 35%) – “Part of it is tackling. There have been times when guys have caught the ball short, and we miss the tackles, that happened a couple of times (against Washington State). And then, we just have to be better getting off of blocks on run situations … And then we have to do a better job as coaches.”
On Buffs’ struggles on the road – “We seem to be tentative, playing early”.
On maintaing focus when the team is heading for a losing season – “You’ve just got to believe in your plan. You’ve got to keep in contact with your players, making sure that they are on board. You can’t lower your standard. You’ve just got to keep doing it, recruiting, finding guys to fit your system. As you start winning, your players start developing confidence. Then it kind of takes itself over. When you have a really good team, they take over a lot internal issues, you don’t deal with as the head coach, you don’t have has many things ‘pop up’ per se when you’re winning, when guys are all on the same page, when guys have the same goals. You’re just getting them to the game safely, and letting them do their things. When you are at that point, you have a successful program”.
On injuries unreported on Saturday – “(Brian) Lockridge had an ankle (injury); (wide receiver Kyle) Cefalo had an elbow. That might be it. There might be one more.”
On players like Brian Lockridge, Jason Espinoza, and Tyler Ahles, who are taking on new positions – “There are a lot of selfless guys on this team. Those guys, it’s important to them. When it’s important to you, you’ll generally play well. I thought those guys all did admirably (against Washington State). The teammates did a great job of picking them up, letting them know that they don’t have to do it by themselves, they don’t have to do anything special … I was happy for them, because they just want to play.”
On Embree and his teammates learning how to win – “When we had had enough. There were a couple of watershed moments for us in this program as a player. The first was playing Missouri, my junior year (1985). We were their warmup game for Nebraska. It seemed like, the first two years here, they beat us 59-20 and 52-7. They came out here, and we had them, 35-nothing, I think early in the second quarter. That was kind of the first step. (Here is a link to the 1985 CU/Missouri game). When you – and I’ll get hammered for this – but it’s like the NFL. You have to control your division first. Before we could talk about beating Nebraska, and really believing you could do it, you had to beat the Missouri’s, the Kansas’, the Iowa State’s. You had to be able to beat them, so that you could focus on the next hurdle. We did that my junior year. The next moment was, actually, (in 1986) the loss to Ohio State (and a link to the 1986 Ohio State game). That started us at 0-4; we lost three of those games by seven points, combined. We had Arizona, Oregon – a very tough schedule. There was some seniors – myself, Eric Coyle, Barry Remington, Solomon Wilcots, Conley Smith, Darrin Schubeck – just said, ‘Enough’. And then there was an incident at Oklahoma State. We had just beat Nebraska, and we were losing at Okie State. And there was a guy who had a tantrum (at halftime), and somehow, we came out and won. I’ll let you guys guess who it was who had the tantrum at halftime, who rallied the guys to get going. That’s who I’ve been – and we’ll see if we can change (things now in a similar fashion)” (and yes, a link to the 1986 CU/Oklahoma State game).
Jon Embree Post Practice Quotes
On reviewing the last five minutes of the Washington State game – “I know both guys (offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and defensive coordinator Greg Brown) want some calls they want back … I’ll just leave it at that.”
On talking to the team about his post-game comments – “I’ve talked to the team, and told them exactly what I meant. I explained to them that I am not questioning them, I’m just asking them, ‘When is enough, enough?’ What I meant was that I’ve been here five weeks, and I’m tired of it, I know they’ve got to be tired of it after five years … I’m not questioning them. I was just trying to let them know, ‘You’ve got to be sick of this, because I’m sick of this’. I know they’ve got to be tired of it too, after going throw losses like this for the past five years … I explained it to them, and I think we’re okay there.”
On the psyche of the team – “You’ll have to ask them; I’m not in the locker room. The true pulse of any team is what happens in the locker room. You’ll have to ask the guys on the team where they are; where they stand with it … But, I feel like they’re tired of it.”
On the learning curve as to knowing what to say publicly – “I’m learning some things the hard way, there’s no doubt. Words I shouldn’t use. The hard thing for me is that I wear my heart on my sleeve, especially when you just come off of competition like that, and you feel like your heart has been ripped out, and you see your players, and some of your guys are just devastated. It’s like when you are a parent, and you see your kid hurting, it bothers you. I’ll get better with it as I go, there might be some pretty boring press conferences in the future.”
On saying that he doesn’t have many good players, or that the team will not be the most talented on the field – “I’m just speaking the truth. I told them, it’s not just on them. People look down at us because I am a first time head coach. I’ve said that to them, too. They know how I feel about them … just because I’m a first-time head coach doesn’t mean we can’t win … The great thing about it is that it doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t. That doesn’t mean you can’t win … When you look at it, and the teams we’ve played, they have better players, but we have good enough players. We can compete, and that’s why you play … We’ve got to find a way to make those plays (and the end of the game), that’s the last part of the equation. Whether its players, coaches, all of it, we’ve got to find a way to win those games.”
On the progress of Kyle Cefalo – “I don’t know, we’re hoping to have him back this week”.
On the progress of Parker Orms and Deji Olatoye – “I don’t know about Parker, but we won’t have Deji this week (violation of team rules)”.
On moving players around – “They’ve gotten in there, and played with great effort, and that’s all you can ask for it … Everybody’s hurt. Arizona’s beat up. You’ve just got to keep going.”
On Tyler Ahles – “He’s working at both (fullback and linebacker). He can be a two way guy. That will probably be his role the rest of the year.”
On sophomore linebacker Liloa Nobriga, who was seventh on the team in tackles last year, but has not played in 2011 – “Jon Major’s been healthy, and we’ve been in some nickel games … and Derrick Webb has come on, so we’ve moved some guys around. Right now, there are just some guys who are better than him”.
Buffs open as a 29.5 point underdog
In theory, it could have been worse … the game could have been so lopsided that Las Vegas could have decided to take the Colorado/Stanford game “off” the board.
Instead, No. 7 Stanford has been installed as a 29.5 point favorite over Colorado, and it’s hard to argue the numbers. The Cardinal has won 12 straight games, the longest current streak in the nation, while Colorado stands ready to double the old team record of ten straight road losses (set in 1980-81).
Andrew Luck is the consensus No. 1 draft pick for the 2012 NFL draft, and will be facing two former running backs (Ray Polk and Brian Lockridge) and a former wide receiver (Jason Espinoza) dressing up as Colorado defensive backs.
On the other side of the ball, the under-appreciated Stanford defense leads the nation in fewest points allowed, while the Colorado offense has struggled even against weak defenses.
Perhaps if the weather is bad … (nope, current forecast is for 73 degrees and sunny in Palo Alto this Saturday).
Anything else … short of letting the air out of the tires Stanford team bus??
A model for success
Stanford, with four straight losing seasons already on the ledger in the early part of the past decade, bottomed out in 2006 with a 1-11 record.
The following year, the Cardinal brought in Jim Harbaugh as head coach, and the team showed moderate improvement, upping the win total to four.
In 2008, Stanford looked to be on the brink of a breakthrough – and the first bowl game for the Cardinal since 2001 – but three straight losses at the end of the season to rivals Oregon, USC, and Cal turned a 5-4 start into a 5-7 and home-for-the-holidays finish.
In 2009, the Cardinal finally went bowling after an eight year drought, finishing with an 8-5 record after a Sun Bowl loss to Oklahoma.
Then, last fall, Stanford broke through, with a 12-1 campaign marred only by a 52-31 loss to Oregon.
Now, Stanford is setting school records for winning streaks and consecutive weeks spent in the top ten.
But only five short years ago, Stanford finished its season with only one win. Cardinal fans went seven seasons without a winning campaign or a bowl game.
Yet look at Stanford today.
Does this mean that Jon Embree is the second coming of Jim Harbaugh? Or that Connor Wood, Nick Hirschman, or Shane Dillon will become the next Andrew Luck?
But it can be done …
Colorado/Washington game time set
Kickoff for the Buffs’ game against the Washington Huskies next weekend has been set.
The Collorado/Washington game, to be played in Seattle on October 15th, will kickoff at 12:30 local time (1:30 MT). The game will be shown on the Root Sports Network.