“Guys are showing who they are”
Colorado conducted its last practice before the Spring game on Thursday, with the practice, at the last minute, being opened to the public. Jon Embree described the two-hour run-through as a “good practice. The defense had a couple of lapses, but otherwise they did well. Offensively, we got some things accomplished, some things done we wanted to get done as far as some install stuff. Guys are showing who they are.”
The Colorado head coach then raised some eyebrows when he was asked about whether there were some players who had not lived up to expectations. “It’s a privilege to be a Buffalo; it’s not a right,” said Embree. “If they can’t play, and they’re not doing what they are supposed to do academically, and buying into the program, they won’t be here.” Embree went on, ” Some won’t be back; everyone’s year-to-year. It’s simple. I don’t ask a lot. I want effort; I want you to compete. I want you to do it on and off the field. That’s basically all I ask … and for some guys, they can’t do that.”
Player Notes -
- Jon Embree spoke about his wide receivers on Thursday, noting that Toney Clemons, when he was available, along with Paul Richardson, have “done well”. But that’s about it in terms of wide receiver play. “After that, we haven’t had anyone really step up and say, ‘I’m the next one in line’.
- Paul Richardson drew praise from his head coach. “He’s fast; he’s good with the ball after he catches it; he has good hands,” said Embree. “He could have great hands. He’s almost to the point where literally anything near him, he will catch. He’s a football player. He really understands football. And he’s hard on himself. He wants to be really good.”
- Junior wide receiver Will Jefferson, according to Embree, “has been up and down”. Jefferson has tendinitis in both knees. “Some days,” joked Embree, ” it looks like I could beat him running.”
Jon Embree Quotes – Thursday
On the desire to build toughness back into the Buffs – “We’re physical … Guys have a little bit of an edge. It’s been a very good spring from that standpoint. I know that they understand how to practice. It’s been pretty grueling; we’ve done a lot … 95% of the guys have responded.”
On what he is looking for from the Spring game – “Health” and … “A couple of guys are pushing for some positions, whether it’s a number two at a certain spot, or a starter, or just a spot on the team – to have a chance to go to Hawai’i. When the freshmen come in (in August), we’re plugging them in, because we’re going to evaluate them. These guys have had 15 practices, they’ve had off-season workouts. They’ve had all their opportunities to show what they can do. So we’ve got to evaluate the young guys coming in to see what they can do so we can get the best guys out there … So, for some of the guys (the Spring game) is a big day.”
“Eric has two kids he needs to feed”
Colorado ran its second-to-last closed practice before the Spring game on Saturday (the next practice will be a light run through on Thursday, focused on special teams and “on-field” teaching). Colorado head coach Jon Embree was not dismayed by not being able to evaluate some of the injured personnel, either this week or throughout the spring. “I don’t look at it as being a negative,” said Embree. “I look at it as a positive, being able to evaluate who our backups could be, and maybe some starters. There are some guys who I thought would be backups, who have a chance to play a lot of football for us.”
- Sophomore tight end DaVaughn Thornton, ushered into an ambulance on Monday, was back on the field on Tuesday, though not practicing. “He’s fine,” said Jon Embree, noting that Thornton’s injury was related to the tight end’s back. “He’ll do some stuff on Thursday, and then we’ll decide if we’ll do anything with him on Saturday. He wants to play, but we’ll see.”
- Also in the “maybe” category for the Spring game is senior wide receiver Toney Clemons, who has been nursing a hamstring injury. “I have no idea (if Clemons will play in the Spring game)”, said Embree. “We’ll see if he can do anything on Thursday”, noting that he did not want Clemons to aggravate his injury just to put into action during the Spring game. “Once August comes, I don’t want any issues,” said Embree.
- The fullbacks, Tyler Ahles and Evan Harrington, are doing well in their transition from linebacker. “They bring a physical element to us,” said Embree. “They are a lot better than I thought they would be, being defensive players … I’ve been surprised by them, pleasantly. I think between the two of them, we’ll be fine.”
Jon Embree Quotes – Tuesday
- On what sophomore wide receiver Paul Richardson needs to do to become an elite performer: “He’s got to be better running routes; he’s got to get better understanding what the coverage is, and what the defense is trying to do to him … More consistent catching the ball. He’ll make the spectacular catch, but then he’ll drop some, too … He can be a great one.”
- On running backs coach Eric Bieniemy riding his players hard, making them do extra work and drills: “Eric has two kids to feed. So, if they (the running backs) fumble the ball, I’d rather be hard on them than tell the family we’ve got to move. We had a fumble; we had a back run out of bounds in (the) four-minute (drill), when we’re trying to run out the clock … They earn (the punishments) … If that’s too much for them, we’ll find some guys who will hold onto the ball, or understand that they will be held accountable when they don’t.”
Defense bounces back
Perhaps motivated by the impressive numbers put up by the Colorado offense in the second scrimmage, the Colorado defense made a statement of their own during Monday’s practice. “The defense had a great practice,” said CU head coach Jon Embree. “Very physical. They did a good job of tackling; forcing some turnovers … The (defense) won every situation today.
Embree saw the rise of the defense as an issue the coaches have had to deal with all spring. “Right now as a team, we’re not very good when things don’t go our way early,” said Embree. “We’ve got to get better about playing the next play. We still watch the scoreboard too much.” The flip side was true for the offense on Monday. After doing well in the second scrimmage on Saturday, the offense struggled in its first effort back on the practice fields. “(the offense) didn’t know how to handle success,” said Embree.
- Sophomore tight end DaVaughn Thornton was escorted off of the playing field by trainers during Monday’s practice, but Embree did not see the injury as serious. “He jogged off the field”, explained Embree, explaining that the injury was “something in (Thornton’s) back”, but that he felt the attention afforded Thornton was largely precautionary.
- Sophomore kicker Justin Castor continues to improve, according to Embree. “Each day, he gets better and better. He’s been fixing things from a mechanical standpoint”, explained Embree, noting that improved play from the snapper and holder was helping Castor be more consistent.
Jon Embree Quotes – Monday
- When asked if injuries to the defense was an excuse for the unit’s poor play on Saturday, Embree laughed off the explanation. “This is your opportunity to show you want to be on that plane going to Hawai’i,” said Embree, noting that there would be some freshmen coming into camp in August that would be more than happy to take the spots of these players if they are too tired this spring. “You want to be tired?”, asked Embree. “You can watch the game on TV”.
- Embree also spoke about an increased emphasis on special teams this spring (except for kick returns, which will be worked on more this fall, when some new players, who will be asked to fill some of those roles, will be in camp. “We’re trying to get our kickers, especially our punter, to understand how he can change the field; the importance of putting the ball where we need it from a coverage standpoint,” said Embree. “When you’re not the most talented, you need to win all three phases of the game. We need to make (opposing offenses) go a long way (to score)”.
“A good mental day”
Colorado went through a lighter practice on Friday (no pads, no tackling) in preparation for the second scrimmage of the spring season, set for 1:30 on Saturday (open to the public). Buff head coach Jon Embree indicated that it would be a regular scrimmage, with “1′s v. 1′s and 2′s v. 2′s” starting at the minus-30 yard line. Embree also stated that the Buffs would mix in “a little red zone, because we want to get in a little more red zone work”. There will also be some field goals attempted during the scrimmage.
“I don’t know how many plays it will be,” said Embree. “We’re beat up on one side of the line, the D-line, but we’ve got to go.”
Player Notes -
- Red-shirt freshman tight end Harold Mobley has been reinstated to the team. Mobley was held out of the first nine practices so that he could concentrate on school work (and remaining eligible). Embree noted that Mobley was “way behind”, but that “is his own fault”.
- Senior defensive tackle Curtis Cunningham has been nursing a sore elbow, but should be available for the spring game, so as to let his elbow “calm down a little bit”, according to Embree.
- Red-shirt freshman defensive tackle Kirk Poston, slowed by an ankle injury, will be allowed to participate in the April 2nd scrimmage.
- Sophomore defensive tackle Nate Bonsu should also play on Saturday. Bonsu’s injury has been a sore shoulder.
- True freshman offensive lineman Alex Lewis has been “down on himself”, said Embree, but needs to remember that he is still just a true freshman (Lewis was a member of the recruiting class of 2010, but gray-shirted, enrolling in January. He still has five years to play four). Embree remains high on Lewis. “He’s going to have a bright future here,” said Embree.
Jon Embree Quotes – Friday
Embree was asked after the Friday practice what the biggest issue is facing the Buff offensive players in adjusting to the West coast offense. “Details,” Embree replied. “It really falls on the receivers and tight ends. Those are the guys who have to do the most learning”. Still, Embree is pleased overall. “They have done pretty good with it. I’m pleasantly surprised at how well they’re picking up some things. It’s starting to click.”
The Colorado head coach was particularly impressed with the work of the offensive line under new line coach Steve Marshall. “They’re a lot farther along than the other positions,” said Embree. “That’s been very encouraging, because usually that’s the group that you have to hold things back for … The good thing is, we can put in as many passes as we want, as soon as (the wide receivers and tight ends) can learn the ones we have in.”
“I’m finding out who we can count on”
“Early on, the defense was wearing them out,” said Colorado head coach Jon Embree about Thursday’s practice. “The defense was very good against the run today.”
While Colorado has made it through its first nine practices without a significant new injury, there still have been a number of players who have spent time on the sidelines. The walking wounded total, though, does not bother Embree. “”The guys that are playing for the guys who are injured are doing a great job of taking advantage of their opportunities,” said Embree. “They’re showing up. We’re going to play 13 straight weeks, we’re not going to have everybody. As a staff, we don’t really talk about it. We just coach the guys that we have.”
Player Notes -
- Embree is encouraged by getting to see his new team on the field. “I’m finding out who we can count on,” said Embree. “The guys that aren’t necessarily workout warriors; the guys who are football players.”
- Colorado may be naming a starting quarterback sooner rather than later. “If there is a clear cut guy, then we’ll do it,” said Embree. “I’m not into playing games, or trying to make the other team figure out all that stuff. When I know, we need to let everyone know. The team needs to know who their leader is in the huddle.”
Jon Embree Quotes – Thursday
- On his tight ends: “They’re getting there. We need tight ends. We need more.”
- On the cornerbacks biggest problem: “Knowing what to do. No one does anything consistently. No one does it every play yet.”
“There’s nobody on this team that we need to go out there and lose”
Colorado passed the midway point of spring practice, 2011, on Tuesday, with the eighth of 15 practices. Overall, head coach Jon Embree was pleased. “This was the first practice that both sides did stuff good, so that was encouraging,” said Embree. “We continued to run the ball good. We’re still not sharp in the passing game, so we’ve got to clean that up.” As for the defense, Embree noted that “the defense created some turnovers at the right time.”
Still, there is plenty to improve upon before September. “We’ve got to start learning how to handle success,” said Embree, explaining, “The defense stops them twice, and they start feeling good about themselves, and then the offense scores a couple of touchdowns.”
Player Notes –
- Embree was asked about junior defensive end Nick Kasa, who Embree noted on Monday was amongst the walking wounded. “Something in his knee,” Embree said. “one of those L’s” – but Embree did not indicate that Kasa was being held out of practice, or that Kasa’s injury was long term.
- With Kasa limited, Embree noted the play of sophomore defensive end Chidera Uzo-Diribe, walk-on senior defensive end Tony Poremba, senior walk-on outside linebacker David Goldberg, and senior defensive end Josh Hartigan. “Guys are taking advantage of their opportunities,” said Embree.
- Senior wide receiver Toney Clemons has been bothered by a hamstring this spring. “He’s about 85%,” said Embree. “He caught a deep ball (Tuesday); about a 60-yarder.”
Jon Embree Quotes – Tuesday
- On the play of the cornerbacks: “I guess good and bad. No one is jumping out and taking the lead.”
- On the kicking game: “We have to be more consistent. And it’s not all on (the kickers). We’ve been inconsistent snapping (where the Buffs are replacing Joe Silipo) and holding (where the Buffs are replacing Scotty McKnight and Cody Hawkins), so it’s the whole battery which has to be more consistent.” Embree went on to note that he has not had to deal with kickers before, so they are not getting special treatment. “They’re not fragile. I’m treating them like everybody else.”
Only “Players” will earn the trip to Hawai’i
The best quotes from Tuesday’s practice came after Embree was asked about sophomore center Gus Handler, seen running laps. Embree said he wasn’t exactly sure about the nature of Handler’s punishment, but felt it had to do with Handler not getting treatment. Which led Embree to the following monologue:
“We can take 70 to Hawai’i, but we may not be taking 70. I’m going to take guys who can play and who can help us. I’ve told the team, ‘We’ve lost enough games with everybody, so there’s nobody on this team that we need to go out there and lose. We can lose without them.’ If you can’t do it right off the field, you won’t do it right on the field, either.”
Is it too early to start campaigning for Pac-12 coach-of-the-year?
Offensive line picture crystalizing?
Colorado only has one hole to fill along its offensive line this spring … but it’s a big hole.
Off to the NFL as a likely first round draft pick is CU left tackle Nate Solder. Rather than replace Solder at the all-important “protect the quarterback’s back” position, sophomore David Bakhtiari, who started 11 games at right tackle last season as a red-shirt freshman, has been practicing at left tackle.
Which moves the hole in the line over the right tackle position.
Through the first half of spring practice, sophomore Jack Harris has been getting the most repetitions. Harris was doing well in practice last fall before a shoulder injury kept Harris from playing. “We were almost done with camp, and everything was going well, but I ended up with a shoulder injury and I was out for about eight weeks,” Harris explained to BuffStampede.com. “It was definitely disappointing … It took me a long time to get all the strength back in my shoulder. I feel like I didn’t get back to 100 percent until winter conditioning with (strength and conditioning) coach (Malcolm) Bracken.”
Harris has done well at right tackle so far, but he still has work to do before he will be considered as a lock at becoming the Buffs’ next starting right tackle. “Jack has been up and down,” said Jon Embree after the March 28th practice. “He had an up-and-down day (Monday). He went the wrong way a couple times. But he brings a physical presence that you need on the right side.”
For his part, Harris appreciates the chance to prove his worth. “I am very grateful that I am getting an opportunity to work with the starting team,” said Harris. “I am going to try and keep my job, and fend off other guys who are coming up.”
In words which will be pleasing to hear from Buff fans confused by the use of the offensive line the past few seasons, Harris said, “(offensive line) coach (Steve) Marshall is different (from former offensive line coach Denver Johnson). He just has a totally different demeanor,” said Harris. He just seems more into it. He wants you to get it perfect, and, if you don’t, you’re going to hear about it.
“One word that I hear coach Marshall use a lot is ‘displace’. He definitely wants us to pound people into the ground in the run game, and be aggressive in pass pro(tection),” said Harris. “So I would say there is more emphasis on being aggressive all the time.”
“Really good practice for the defense”
Colorado conducted its seventh practice of the spring on Monday, with this week’s practices to be culminated with a scrimmage on April 2nd (at 1:30 – open to the public).
All of the players were back from spring break and accounted for.
Player Notes -
- Several players who have not been able to practice much to date are working their way back into the rotation. Offensive lineman Shawn Daniels, defensive end Nick Kasa, sophomore linebacker Derrick Webb, and defensive end Chidera Uzo-Diribe are amongst those walking wounded who are getting onto the practice fields more after the break.
- Sophomore Jack Harris has been practicing with the first team offensive line. David Bahktiari is doing well making the transition from right tackle to left tackle.
- In reviewing the tape of the March 18th scrimmage, head coach Jon Embree noted that senior defensive tackle Conrad Obi played well, as did senior linebacker Doug Rippy. Embree also noted that red-shirt freshman running back Tony Jones ran well.
Jon Embree Quotes – Monday
- On Monday’s practice – “A really good practice for the defense; a really good practice. I was very encouraged to see them come out and respond. They were really sharp.”
- On the play of the offense in the March 18th scrimmage – “I felt better about the run game. We do have to get better throwing it; I was happy with the quarterbacks running of the offense.”
- On the play of the defense in the March 18th scrimmage – “Defensively, the tackling could have been better at times; could have been better up front. Conrad Obi played well, Doug Rippy had a very good scrimmage.”
- On sophomore defensive back Terrel Smith, who tore off his red-shirt last midway through the 2010 season, compiling 60 tackles in six games – “I need to see more from him … I haven’t seen it yet.”
Back from break
The Colorado Buffaloes have had ten days off since their scrimmage on March 18th. Monday’s practice will be the seventh of 15 allowed practices (the April 2nd scrimmage and April 9th Spring game count against the total).
“I’m happy with the way they’ve responded, and now we’re going to pick it up again when we come back,” said Jon Embree. The Colorado head coach, did spend some time on the west coast meeting with boosters before spending some time with family in Boulder looking for a house for he and his wife and daugther.
On the sixth day, they rested …
After going through five straight days of practices, the Buff players had a day off on Wednesday. They will be back at it on Thursday, but in the meantime, let’s take a look at how the quarterback race is shaping up.
Five practices are in the books, with ten practices, including a scrimmage (April 2nd) and the Spring game (April 9th) yet to come. Still, if the season were to start tomorrow, it appears clear that senior Tyler Hansen would be the starting quarterback. Head coach Jon Embree has noted Hansen’s efforts on the field, and also named him as one of the leaders of the team.
What about Hansen’s position coach, Rip Scherer?
“I think Tyler, he has game experience, game maturity. I’ve been really pleased with him,” said Scherer. “Some of the things I saw on tape that were bad habits, that I thought he needed to correct right away, he has taken to heart and improved right off the bat. I like his leadership. I like his huddle demeanor. And he’s done a good job of playing with the pocket.”
Hansen, for his part, is embracing the challenge of having to prove he belongs in the starting role. “I am. That’s life; you have to live through and battle through the tough times,” Hansen told BuffStampede.com. “But I like it. I have to re-prove myself, it is more exciting. It’s fun to learn a new offense; it’s fun to compete.” Hansen also is embracing the role of being a senior leader. “Coach Rip has asked me to be more of a leader within our group, too, to help Nick and Brent along … I am teaching them tricks and trying to relate it to something I have learned in the past … As a senior quarterback, the coaches have asked me to be a leader, and asked me to be the guy the other guys look to and ask questions, and look to for leadership.”
This is not to say that the starting position has been ceded by Hansen’s competitors. Redshirt freshman Nick Hirschman, for one, is excited about the change in offensive philosophy. “It’s more pro style than we were last year,” said Hirschman. “That suits me a little better than last year’s offense did. I’m more of a traditional drop back guy who can run around with his feet if he needs to, but I’d rather stay in the pocket and throw.”
Junior transfer Brent Burnette has the advantage of being “more of a pocket guy – at least that’s how it looked on his junior college tapes,” said Scherer. “His team (Western Arizona) ran some spread and shotgun, so there’s still going to be a learning curve. But I think his forte is to play from the pocket.” Still, Burnette is under the handicap of not having spent time with the Buffs’ receiving corps, as have Hansen and Hirschman. “We’d throw a little bit in the bubble after we got done running,” said Burnette of the winter conditioning period. “But it really doesn’t compare to coming out here and strapping the pads on and going full against the defense and against the rush. That’s something I’m still working on, and figuring out how this receiver runs routes compared to another. That’s just something that with time, it will come.”
As a result, all three players have a great deal to learn this spring. “Anytime you go from a spread offense to a pro-style, it’s different for everybody, but more different for the quarterback,” said Scherer. “It’s a whole different perspective for the quarterback to take the ball from center and go back three, five or seven steps, put your foot in the ground and make a decision – as opposed to standing back there and kind of sorting things out.”
So, who will win the job?
“What will go into it is the guy that has leadership skills and also will handle the ball and value the ball,” said Scherer. “You know, if you don’t turn the ball over in this game, you’ve got a chance to win. So it doesn’t matter how talented a guy is, if he is going to spray the ball around and turn it over, you’ve got problems. so value the ball and then making plays.
“The bottom line with a quarterback is how many times do you take the offense and cross the last line? If you can put the ball in the end zone, you may not be the most stylish guy doing it, but the bottom line is making sure the ball gets in the end zone.”
Meanwhile, quarterbacks coach Rip Scherer is already looking to the future
“I think we’ve created a niche for ourselves in recruiting,” said Scherer. “We’re going to try and go nationally and recruit the top quarterback that we can every year. I think for a young player who has aspirations to play at the next level, you’re in this kind of offense you’re more readily prepared, and there’s not many of us doing it.”
College offenses, Scherer contends, are cyclical, with the spread offense the current rage. “It’ll cycle back to this, but we’ll be on the cusp of it, the front edge,” said Scherer. “We create an alternative for a top flight quarterback that has projected ability to move beyond college.” Scherer pointed out that 18 NFL teams “run a west coast offense of some sort. I think you can sit in front of a high school kid and his parents – not that that should be the only reason that a guy comes to Colorado or anyplace else – but the fact is, it gives us a different niche. The NFL’s not changing; the NFL’s not going to the spread offense. I think it will allow us to get our foot in the door of some of the top prospects in the country.”
The 2011 season? It may well be that Hansen, Hirschman or Burnette – whoever wins the job – will struggle to make the West Coast offense work in Boulder.
But the future looks bright …
Buffs have a more productive practice
- Head coach Jon Embree was asked after Tuesday’s practice to name players which were assuming leadership of the team. On offense, Embree named quarterback Tyler Hansen – “He’s taking the reins of the offense”; right guard Ryan Miller – “trying to do some stuff”; as well as wide receivers Toney Clemons and Paul Richardson. On defense, Embree had a tougher time coming up with names, noting that he wanted to see more out of defensive tackles Curtis Cunningham and Will Pericak. Jon Major was named as the linebacker doing the most in terms of leadership, while Embree named safety Anthony Perkins, who is injured and not participating in hitting drills, as the likely leader of the secondary. Of the players named, all are seniors except for Pericak and Major, who are juniors, and Richardson, who is a sophomore.
The running back corps has been getting a great deal of attention in the early going. (Yes, I know there is a rumor about a running back quitting the team. I would like to have that confirmed by the player or the team first, though, before taking that issue any further). Much of the discussion has centered around the coaching style of offensive coordinator and running backs coach Eric Bieniemy, who is known for his energy, as well as his fiery attitude. “Bieniemy is a little bit more experienced,” senior running back Rodney Stewart said when comparing Bieniemy to Stewart’s former position coach, Darian Hagan. “He’s more aggressive than Hagan, but Hagan’s pretty aggressive, too.”
“It think it takes a while to get used to,” said Bieniemy of his coaching style. “But one thing I always tell them is don’t confuse the message with the speech. Make sure you listen to what I am saying … When they do it right, I’m going to be the first one to praise them. When they do it wrong, I’m going to critique them and make sure they understand why they did it wrong, and make sure I stay on their tail so that they don’t make the same mistake again.
“I tell my guys I coach hard, but I coach fair,” said Bieniemy. “I’m your biggest fan, and I expect you to be great at all times. If we make a mistake, things happen. If we get physically beat, things happen. If we make a mental error, I take personal issue with that.”
Rodney Stewart, for one, doesn’t have a problem with Bieniemy’s style. “He wants me to be more of a leader, helping the other guys out,” said Stewart. “I’ve got to get better, too. There is a lot of things I need to work on to be a good back, and if I want to go to the next level and be good at that. I think he’s going to get me where I need to be.”
Jon Embree Quotes – Tuesday
Coach Embree was asked which running back is the number two back behind Stewart this spring: “Tony Jones is doing very well. He needs to get stronger, but he has a good knack of finding the seem.”
On how many backs he would like to have in the rotation this fall, Embree said he was looking for at least three backs to be ready (including Stewart and Brian Lockridge, who won’t be able to practice until August): “People remember Chris Brown for all those touchdowns against Nebraska, and he was the third back in. It was Cortlen (Johnson) who got a ‘hammie’; then (Bobby) Purify got an ankle sprain. And then Chris came in. You’ve got to have them. You’ve got to have them ready.”
On running nine-on-seven drills, something Dan Hawkins specifically went away from in his practices: “You could tell (Monday) that it was the first time doing it for some of them. For some of them, the first time ever. Today was a little better; the intensity. You could hear the pads. Yesterday, it was like a pillow fight. Today we’re hitting.” (Note: In a nine-on-seven drill, the offense pits the offensive line, a tight end, the quarterback, and two running backs against the front seven of the defense. The drill is designed to improve both the run offense and the run defense. It is considered a “high intensity” drill).
“We don’t know how to work yet … We’ll get it”
- There have been rumors about players leaving the team (specifically, a running back). Head coach Jon Embree was asked about player defections after practice on Monday. “Not that I know of yet,” said Embree. “I think there might be some guys that are on the fence, so we’ll see.”
- As to players who are standing out, Embree had several names in mind. “You know the guy I am really proud of?, said Embree. “Forrest West. After day one, I ripped him and demoted him, and all he has done since then is make plays. Now, he can still get better, but he responded.” Embree also singled out red-shirt running back Tony Jones. “He is responding,” said Embree. “He is stepping up his game and doing some things.” Embree also gave props to quarterback Tyler Hansen, wide receiver Paul Richardson, the tight ends, and the offensive line.
Jon Embree Quotes – Monday
On “Separation Day”: “Oh yeah, some guys got exposed, and that is good because their teammates will know about them. It is habits right now. That is the problem right now, habits. They want to feel sorry for themselves a little bit. We don’t know how to work yet … We’ll get it.”
On intensity during Monday’s practice: “We are still up and down. We can’t get to a certain level and just sustain it. Offense beats the defense in nine-on-seven and then we go to team run offense and offense does well again and then defense dominates the rest of practice. We can’t be like that.”
On focusing on running plays: “I feel like we are really progressing. There are going to be some plays we can hang our hat on. Short yardage scrimmage, like I said, the defense got us. But we put in new plays and new personnel groups for that, but when we ran the plays that we’ve been running; we were very good at it. So I am encouraged by that. But yet, at the same time, we have to be able to take new stuff on the field, and get going. We can’t keep taking a day to figure it out. We have to do better. We have to have some football IQ to be able to take some of that to the field.”
“We can run, but we can’t throw worth a dang”
Sunday’s practice, the last practice open to the public, brought about mixed reviews from the Colorado head coach.
“I was pleased from a running standpoint,” said Jon Embree. “I feel like we can run the ball, but we can’t throw worth a dang. Some of that is because we installed new plays today. So guys are swimming, but we have to get better. We can’t have center-quarterback exchange (problems); we can’t keep putting the ball on the ground. We can’t have that.”
Sunday was the last for the Buffs in shoulder pads and shorts. On Monday, the Buffs will conduct the first full contact practice of the spring.
“It counts tomorrow,” said Embree, who called Monday “separation day”. “Anybody can play in shells and shorts, but when you really have to tackle and not tag off, we are going to find out who can play. It is going to separate who can play from the pretenders”.
- Sophomore linebacker Liloa Nobriga sat out Sunday’s practice with a minor hamstring injury.
- Senior wide receiver Toney Clemons suffered a minor hamstring injury during Sunday’s practice.
- Junior wide receiver Will Jefferson has been hobbled, but has practiced this spring. “Will just has knees older than mine, that’s his problem,” said Embree. “He just has to take care of them … I think he’ll be alright. He has tendinitis.”
- Sophomore defensive back Parker Orms continues to recover from his torn ACL, suffered in the first quarter of the Colorado State game. “Prior to that, I hadn’t missed a game since I was seven years old,” Orms told BuffStampede.com. “Last fall was the toughest time of my life, for sure.” Orms is doing some light workouts this spring. “I am about 90 percent right now, they say the last ten percent is the hardest,” said Orms. “There is definitely still some pain … They say six months after the injury is the projected time when I should be getting close. It will be six months (on March 24th), so we will see. After we come back from spring break, I will see if I can participate. It is better to come back a little late than too early.”
- Sophomore offensive lineman Maxwell Tuioti-Mariner is also on the mend, recovering from two torn ACL’s. “He has done a good job of re-habbing it, we’re trying to give him an ample opportunity to get back,” said Embree. “I don’t want to get him out there too soon and then have to shut him down for sure … So it is just a matter of when he is going to put in some actions.”
Jon Embree Quotes – Sunday
On reported struggles by kicker Justin Castor: “The issue is our snapper and holder. We have to get that worked out. One time the ball was four inches inside the spot; another time it is behind it.”
On the overall effort through three practices: “Yeah, they are (learning new plays), but, as I told the coaches, we can’t accept, ‘Oh, we almost did it,’ or, ‘That is close enough’. If we say a six-yard split, (it has to be) a six-yard split. There is going to be a standard you can’t bend on … They are doing a lot of things right, but we are not doing everything right. I was told my job as a coach was not to be satisfied, so I will find something.”
On closing the next eight practices: “(It’s) so we can get some work done with the players … As we get going, as this program progresses, I want people around all the time.”
Offensive line moves
With starting center Mike Iltis out for the spring, and All-American left tackle Nate Solder waiting to hear his name called during the first round of the NFL draft, there has been some movement along the Buffs’ offensive line. Sophomore David Bakhtiari, who started 11 games at right tackle last season, has been running with the first team at left tackle.
“I actually practiced at left tackle last spring, so I feel comfortable there,” Bakhtiari told BuffStampede.com. “I am still good friends with Nate, so when he came back for (pro) timing day, we went in the practice bubble and we did some sets. He taught me some new tricks he learned while training for the draft.”
In Bakhtiari’s place at right tackle, grey-shirt freshman Alex Lewis has impressed head coach Jon Embree in the first two days of practice, but it has been sophomore Jack Harris who has been lining up with the first team at the position.
At the center position, sophomore Gus Handler has been getting most of the snaps with the first team, with both Iltis and possible backup Shawn Daniels out for the spring recovering from off-season surgeries.
Starting offensive lineup – first weekend
The Colorado depth chart lists players alphabetically, and Jon Embree has taken pains to remind everyone that each and every starting job is up for grabs, but someone has to run with the first team. The first weekend of practice, the “ones” on offense are:
QB – Tyler Hansen; TB – Rodney Stewart; FB – Tyler Ahles; WR – Paul Richardson; WR – Toney Clemons; TE – Ryan Deehan; LT – David Bakhtiari; LG – Ethan Adkins; C – Gus Handler; RG – Ryan Miller; RT – Jack Harris.
This could all change several times before fall (it could change several times before the spring game), but, if the Hawai’i game were next Saturday, this might well be the lineup the Buffs would trot out onto the field in Honolulu. Not bad …
- Junior offensive lineman Bryce Givens is being held out of practice until his fate is decided by the Office of Judicial Affairs. Givens was caught on video vandalizing three cars in a Denver parking garage in December. Teammates Eric Richter and Will Pericak were with Givens that night, but both are practicing with the team.
- Harold Mobley may never get his shot at quarterback. The red-shirt freshman tight end is being held out of practice for undisclosed disciplinary reasons. Mobley may be back to practice sometime this spring, but no timetable was given by Jon Embree for Mobley’s return.
- Quarterback turned defensive back Justin Gorman may have found his way onto the field. Gorman is being given a look at holder for extra points and field goals. The job was held down by Cody Hawkins and Scotty McKnight the past few seasons.
- Red-shirt freshman defensive lineman Kirk Poston is concentrating on playing inside at defensive tackle.
- There are a total of six new walk-ons listed on the Colorado roster (Hunter, a transfer, would not be eligible to play until 2012):
Drew Ebner WR 5-11 200 Fr. HS Arvada, Colo. (Pomona)
Jacob Frost PK 6- 0 170 Fr. HS Bakersfield, Calif. (Liberty)
Harrison Hunter DB 5-10 170 So. TR Fountain, Colo. (Fountain-Fort Carson/Fort Lewis)
Andre Nichols DE 6- 4 220 Fr. HS Colorado Springs, Colo. (Rampart)
Alec Parker OLB 6- 0 210 Fr. HS Westminster, Colo. (Standley Lake)
Conner Wilhelm WR 5-11 170 Fr. HS Los Angeles, Calif. (Hamilton)
Jon Embree quotes – Saturday
On the second day of practice: “The intensity stayed up high. Anyone can do it once. They answered the call; competed well.”
On the coaches getting on players for making mistakes: “Someone’s in their ear. Someone’s on them when they make a mistake. So they have that constant pressure on them, and I told them that we’re going to keep the pressure on them. We’re not going to let them breathe and relax.”
Concerning some of the fights between the players, and whether that was okay with him: “Yeah, I expect it. When I was a player here, we fought each other. That’s part of the deal.” Embree then went on to explain that going against the same players every play, with them trying to prevent you from doing what you were trying to do, it would get to him as a player, and he expects it to get to his players now. This is a deviation from the policy about fights under Dan Hawkins, when the entire team had to run “gassers” if a fight broke out. “When you are on the football field, emotions are running high so that is bound to happen,” said sophomore offensive tackle David Bakhtiari. “I got in a tussle with Josh Hartigan today, and, shortly after, I went up to him and said, ‘Good (****)’. We are good friends, it is nothing personal.”
“Intensity” the word of choice by players after practice
“For the record, it’s intense,” said senior wide receiver Toney Clemons of the Buffs’ practice regime. “But it’s what we need. It feels good to have everything crisp, everything real militant and everything real professional. They’re teaching us how to become young men and young football players, and we’re getting a feel for what the game is like on the next level. You want that high level coaching, and we’ve got it here.”
Red-shirt freshman quarterback Nick Hirschman agreed. “I thought the level of intensity was so much higher,” said Hirschman. “It was a lot more enthusiastic, and that makes it a lot more fun for the players and the coaches.”
For senior linebacker Jon Major, the first practice was just a continuation of what the players have seen since winter conditioning began. “It’s really attention to details, maximum effort, and if you don’t do it right, then you’re going to do it again or you’re going to get punished,” said Major. “That’s definitely going to carry over I think in the fall.”
Former safety – now cornerback – Deji Olatoye concurred. “It was a rough program for everyone (this winter),” said Olatoye, who had an interception in the first practice. (New strength and conditioning) Coach (Malcolm) Blacken did a good job of getting us prepared for this. It was a lot of running, it definitely opened up our eyes, and I feel like I am a part of a college football team now.”
Sophomore wide receiver Paul Richardson, who joined the team just a few days before the start of fall practice last summer, is going through his first spring practices as a Buff, and, at least for now, he is enjoying the ride. “The coaches wanted us to get used to facing adversity,” said Richardson of the winter conditioning program. As for his goals this spring, Richardson said that “getting in and out of my breaks better, and having the role of a leader. “I like the weight the coaches have put on my shoulders,” said Richardson, “and the level of responsibility that I have”. Richardson also indicated that he had decided to return to Colorado even before Jon Embree was hired, and that he made it through his first Colorado winter without any difficulties.
There are some new names on the Colorado roster. These are names not likely to make the starting roster, but you never know …
Linebacker Alec Parker, defensive end Andre Nichols, and kicker Jacob Frost, all walk-ons, appeared on the rosters handed out to the media at the first practice.
There is also a potential transfer, Hunter Harrison, a defensive back from Fountain, Colorado. Harrison comes from Fort Lewis, and the walk-on would have four years to play three after sitting out the 2011 season.
Colorado opens Jon Embree era with afternoon practice
“I am going to have to get some throat lozenges,” Jon Embree joked after his first practice as the 24th-head coach in Colorado football history.
“I have to be me”, said Embree of his raising his voice on a number of occasions during the shorts-and-helmets opening practice. “I am very demanding. I am going to be on them. There is a standard, and either you do or you don’t. And we can’t bend or compromise it.”
Embree’s no-nonsense approach hasn’t been lost on the players, with one player describing it as “a lot more professional.”
It is the intent of the coaches to install the basics of a West Coast offense this spring, but not cloud the players’ minds with too much information. Rather, the coaches want to see which players have the physical skill to run the playbook, and the heart to help bring back a winning tradition to the program. “It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be intense,” said senior quarterback Tyler Hansen. “It’s going to be hard work, a lot different than it was.”
Hansen, for one, likes the look of the new offense. “I like it a lot,” said Hansen. “I don’t have to run the ball as much, take as many hits, and we’re getting the ball off on time. Stuff like that. It’s good stuff.”
On defense, many eyes will be trained upon the secondary, where the Buffs have lost two cornerbacks, Jimmy Smith and Jalil Brown, to the NFL. “The big issue is we’re going to have to replace two proven playmakers in Jimmy Smith and Jalil Brown,” said defensive coordinator and secondary coach Greg Brown. “Behind that, there weren’t a lot of guys who stepped in at that corner spot for the last two or three years because of the play of those two guys. So corner is a large unknown right now, and it probably will still be an unknown going all the way into the fall.”
The defensive playbook will also be vanilla this spring, as the coaches evaluate talent. “We’re evolving right now,” said Brown. “There is no way of knowing where the thing is going to end up. Our focus right now is on spring ball and just trying to line up and play it straight and see if we can win some one-on-one battles.”
- There were four players who were already known to be “OUT” for spring practice due to off-season surgery: Tight end Matt Bahr; offensive lineman Blake Behrens; center Mike Iltis; and offensive lineman Max Tuioti-Mariner. Joining that list now are four players who were previously listed as “TBD” … Out for the spring are: defensive back Anthony Perkins; defensive back Parker Orms; offensive lineman Shawn Daniels; and defensive end Chidera Uzo-Diribe. The only name which was not on the “TBD” list earlier was Uzo-Diribe, who had surgery on a broken toe in late February. While listed as out for the spring, Uzo-Diribe believes he could be available for the second half of spring practices.
- With center Mike Iltis out, three players will see time at that position this spring … sophomore Gus Handler; red-shirt freshman Daniel Munyer; and red-shirt freshman Kaiwi Crabb.
- Senior guard Ryan Miller, rumored to be moving to left tackle to replace the departed Nate Solder, isn’t going anywhere. Miller will remain at guard.
- As it turns out, there will be more competition at quarterback. With a lack of depth in the secondary, it was thought that red-shirt freshman Josh Moten would be asked to concentrate on learning the defense. Moten will, however, be given a tryout at quarterback, as will red-shirt freshman tight end Harold Mobley. Both Moten and Mobley played quarterback in high school, and Moten believed that he was to be given a chance at quarterback by Dan Hawkins, but that did not work out.
- Perhaps in return for Moten, the quarterbacks are sending Justin Gorman, a walk-on red-shirt freshman, over to the secondary (interestingly enough, in his post-practice comments, Jon Embree was surprised to learn that Gorman was listed as a quarterback on the depth chart. Embree had been under the impression that Gorman had always been a defensive back).
- Junior Eric Richter, listed on the depth chart as an offensive lineman, will be moving to the defensive line.
- Red-shirt freshman Deji Olatoye, who practiced at safety last fall, will be tried out as a cornerback this spring.
- The Buffs have a new walk-on kicker. His name is Jacob Frost (no further information currently available).
Jon Embree Quotes – Friday
Overall view of first practice: “I think the guys are starting to understand a little bit about what’s expected … They had a pretty good grasp of what we’re asking them to do. They know what to do. They weren’t great in the details.”
On coaching college players instead of NFL players, and not being too hard on the team: “Skill has nothing to do with effort”.
On bringing a fullback into the offense: “The fullback is very important … We want to run the football. Having a fullback will allow you to mess with the defensive spacing.” (Embree also mentioned that Tyler Ahles and Evan Harrington, both former linebackers, volunteered to make the move to fullback).