Not for the Faint of Heart
Six straight losing seasons … A 3-10 record in 2011 … No offensive skill position starters returning … Best player on the team, Paul Richardson, already lost for the season due to injury … A defensive line so thin the team couldn’t even conduct a normal spring game … A team ranked 100th or worse last season in rushing offense, scoring offense, total defense, scoring defense, punt returns and kickoff returns …
Need I go on?
Unfortunately, the preseason prognosticators will have no choice but to go on … and on. With pages to fill in their preseason magazines, it will be hard to find an optimistic tone in any 2012 predictions. The odds of Colorado cracking the Top 25 are astronomical (Las Vegas has the chances of CU winning the national championship pegged at 500-to-1, odds similar to teams like Hawai’i, Syracuse and Nevada), so don’t look for any preseason picks to buck the trend and consider the Buffs to be a title contending team.
Still, the beat goes on, and the predictions are coming out. Below is a repository for what is being said …
Latest – and last? – commit moves USC into the No. 1 position
Can we call it good now?
Due to NCAA probation, USC only has 15 scholarships to offer next February, instead of the normal 25 schools are allotted.
Good thing, otherwise the Trojans might have signed the best Class in recruiting history.
With its 15th verbal commitment, four-star defensive back Max Redfield (4th-best cornerback in the country; 37th-best player overall), USC should be done for this recruiting cycle.
At least for now, USC has the No. 1 recruiting Class in the nation. While other schools, with more total scholarships to offer, will likely overtake the Trojans in terms of overall score, there is no denying the quality of the 2013 recruiting Class. The average number of stars for the USC recruits is 4.19. The next highest average to date for any school is Ohio State, whose 15 recruits average 3.86 stars. (The average for Colorado’s 12 verbal commitments is 2.86).
To date, Colorado’s 2013 Class is ranked 45th by Rivals; 55th by Scout. The Buffs’ Class so far is considered the 7th-best in the Pac-12 by Rivals; 8th by Scout.
USC not having any issues with NCAA probation
At least it’s almost over …
In the past week, USC picked up three more commits from the recruiting Class of 2013. First came four-star offensive lineman Nico Falah, rated by Rivals as the No. 12 offensive tackle prospect in the nation. Then came another four-star offensive lineman, Khaliel Rodgers, rated as the No. 1 offensive guard in the country. Finally, defensive end Eddie Vanderdoes, considered to be the No. 5 defensive end overall, said yes to the USC coaching staff.
Overall, probation-saddled USC has three five-star players and 11 four-star players. The lowest rated player on the list is wide receiver Sebastian Larue, who is merely the No. 23 wide receiver prospect in the country. Larue is rated as the No. 162 nationally, with all of his future teammates rated higher.
The good news? Under NCAA-imposed sanctions, USC can only sign 15 players next February. If all of the present commitments hold, the Trojans can take only one more highly-rated recruit this cycle. Highly rated prospects will have to look elsewhere.
Lucky us …
Phil Steele bowl projections
While not a surprise, Colorado did not make the list of bowl projections at Phil Steele.
- Washington (Pac-12 No. 7) vs. Air Force (MWC No. 4) in the New Mexico Bowl
- Utah (Pac-12 No. 5) vs. Boise State (MWC No. 1) in the Maaco Bowl
- UCLA (Pac-12 No. 3) vs. Kansas State (Big 12 No. 5) in the Holiday Bowl
- Cal (Pac-12 No. 6) vs. Navy in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl
- Stanford (Pac-12 No. 2) vs. West Virginia (Big 12 No. 3) in the Alamo Bowl
- Oregon State (Pac-12 No. 4) vs. NC State (ACC No. 4) in the Sun Bowl
- USC (BCS Pac-12 No. 1) vs. Wisconsin (BCS Big 10 No. 1) in the Rose Bowl
- Oregon (BCS at-large) vs. USF (BCS ACC No. 1) in the Orange Bowl
Steele projects that Florida State and Oklahoma will advance to the BCS championship game. Oregon makes the BCS pool due to ACC champion Florida State making the title game.
While it’s hard to argue with Steele projecting USC, Oregon, and Stanford at 1, 2, and 3 in the Pac-12, projecting UCLA and Oregon State as the No. 4 and 5 teams may be a stretch.
Doing the math, Steele projects that eight of the teams in the conference will be bowl bound, with Washington State from the North joining three teams from the South – Colorado, Arizona State, and Arizona – as teams which will stay home for the holidays.
Insert Colorado whereever you see “Arizona State” …
An Arizona State blogger, Brad Denny, has posted an article entitled, “ASU Football: The Myth of the Sleeping Giant“.
In reading the article, I couldn’t help but to insert references to the Buffs as Denny went on about the Sun Devils.
See if you agree …
Over the fruitless Koetter and Erickson eras at Arizona State, the disappointment, heartbreak and frustrations far outweighed the successes. For every win over Cal moment, there were three blocked extra points against USC.
Those sustained failures have taken a significant toll on the fanbase, but at the end of the day, the fans continued to comfort themselves with a single recurring thought:
Arizona State is a sleeping giant.
Hate to break it to you. No. Not it’s not. And it never has been.
First off, that phrase and supporting belief carries with it a degree of presumption that hasn’t fit ASU on a legitimate basis since about 1977. It makes it seem like the lack of success for the Sun Devils has come from being just one or two steps away.
“Hey everyone, all we need to do is nudge the giant awake and watch the success roll in.”
Supporters of the “sleeping giant” theory have pointed to the appeal of the area to recruits, the new and improved facilities, the assorted Pac-12 membership benefits and so on .
“All the pieces are in place. We just need to catch a break.”
Not content with just being a rallying cry for fans, this view seemed to seep into the thought process of administration. Making decisions based on that belief had kept the program mired in mediocrity, having finished higher than third in the Pac-10/12 just twice since 1987.
That is not symptomatic of a comatose state, but rather a far more serious condition: complacency.
Left untreated for a few more seasons, the damage that such a perpetuation could have done may have been incurable. But in the nick of time, the proper diagnosis seems to have recently been made.
Since hitting rock bottom last December, the powers that be have finally realized the real issue with the program. It has not been in need of that elusive wake up call. Rather, it needed to be blown up.
No, a new coat of paint and some rearranged furniture wouldn’t do. That’s been proven (painfully). Sun Devil football needed to be stripped to it’s foundation, then have that foundation smashed to pieces. This program needed a full-strength rebuilding effort.
Thankfully, the moves since that dark December have been with that focus firmly in sight.
They didn’t just bring in a new coach, they brought in one who is instilling long forgotten–and necessary–values and standards.
They aren’t just recruiting talented football players, they are targeting young men with character.
They are no longer dictating to a fan base, they are making them an essential part of the effort.
They are no longer ignoring the past, but letting those lessons and legends help shape the future.
Being successful in college football–beyond the ASU “one good season every decade” approach–takes a complete infrastructure. The giants that the Sun Devils hope to join have excellent coaching staffs, successful ideologies, fertile recruiting bases and ties, forward-thinking administrations, top notch facilities, and support from fans and boosters among many other key factors.
ASU never was just one piece away. They know that now.
The factors that many cited to support the “sleeping giant” theory were never incorrect on their own merits. ASU either has in place or has made great gains on many of those crucial fronts, especially over the last seven months. Those will help to speed up the rebuilding process…should they remain committed to the plan.
In any event, the building of a perennially successful program will be a long and difficult one. There will be losses on the field and anguish off of it. But instead of being wasted, those difficulties will hopefully each be another brick laid down, another beam set in place in the grand construction of Sun Devil football.
That should prove to be a better use of effort than prodding a giant who never existed.
Phil Steele: Colorado dead last in the nation in two-deep experience
Colorado fans understood that, with a huge senior Class graduating this past year, that there would be inexperience in many areas.
Colorado fans understood that, with a new coaching staff, there would be attrition which would do further damage to the depth chart.
But dead last … in the nation?
According to Phil Steele’s methodology, yes.
Here is Phil Steele’s formula:
Experience can be a big thing in college football. A player gains valuable experience for every year he plays and becomes a better player because of it. Players also mature physically while they are in college and there is a big difference between a raw 17 or 18 year old true freshman and a mature and physically stronger 22 year old senior. Some teams that send their players away on missions, like BYU, routinely have Seniors up to 25 years old. There is also a coaching adage that for every freshman starter you have, you lose one game. With that in mind, we compiled the following chart. It lists the total amount of senior starters on the team as well as seniors in the two deep. It also shows all of the juniors, sophomores and freshmen starters and the total amount in the two deep.
To formulate a point system, I awarded 3 points for every senior starter (2.5 for every additional senior in the two deep) 2 points for every junior starter (1.5 for every additional junior in the two deep) 1 point for a sophomore starter (0.5 for every additional soph in the 2 deep then subtracted 1 point for every frosh starter and .5 for every frosh in the two deep. The total points column uses that formula to figure out the points awarded to a team. The number before the team is where they came up in my overall ranking of all the teams in the NCAA. This list was compiled during magazine season and there have been some changes to the 2 deep since it went to press, which may not be accounted for. This chart will give you an idea of the most experienced and least experienced teams in the NCAA this year.
The most experienced teams when using the old chart were usually the service academies which play a lot of seniors and juniors. Using the old method (which is listed below) the top 5 most experienced teams in terms of upperclassmen in the two deep are: 1. Kansas St 1. Navy 3. Idaho 4. Iowa St 4. Louisiana Tech 4. Arkansas St.
The least experienced teams using this method are: 124. Colorado 123. Tulane and 122. Bowling Green.
Phil Steele ranks the Pac-12 as follows:
24. Arizona State
41 (Tie). Washington State, Oregon Sate
103 (Tie): Stanford, Cal
119. USC (not much consolation here, as the Trojans can insert four- and five-star freshmen into their lineup when an underclassmen leaves them with little “experience” in the two-deep. USC will be inexperienced – and ranked in the top two or three nationally come August).
Athlon predicts no Pac-12 wins for Buffs
The 2011 season was tough on the Buff Nation, and the CU record books.
Colorado endured its sixth consecutive losing season, tying the stretch between 1979-84 for the longest run in school history without a winning campaign. The Buffs also ran their road losing streak to 23 (the previous record, during the dark days of the early 1980′s, had been ten) before finally posting a 17-10 victory over Utah in the season finale.
This season, if Athlon is to be believed, another long standing record will fall.
The last time the University of Colorado finished alone in the basement of a conference was in 1915, when the Buffs, as a member of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, finished with a 1-6 record, 1-5 in conference play.
For almost a century, first as a member of the RMAC (1900-37), then the Mountain States Conference (1938-47), then Big Seven/Eight/12 (1948-2010), and finally the Pac-12 (2011), Colorado has never finished alone at the bottom of its conference. It’s a claim that none of the other Big Seven/Eight/12 members (save Oklahoma, and yes, including Nebraska) could claim.
But that record may, if Athlon is to be believed, will come to an end in 2012.
Athlon is predicting a 3-9 record for the Buffs. The mark is actually a slight upgrade from CU’s 3-10 finish last season, but how the Buffs get to 3-9 is the issue. Athlon predicts the Buffs will start hot, with a 3-0 non-conference record, only to fail to win any Pac-12 conference games.
“The Buffaloes were the Pac-12′s worst team last season and may not be any better in 2012 … Simply put: Colorado is a long way from being a factor in the Pac-12. The Buffs should win all three non-conference games, but is heading for an 0-9 mark in league play.
“Patience ran out in Boulder a long time ago, but frustrated Colorado fans might have to endure another season of more losses than wins before the Buffaloes are ready to return to the postseason. Coach Jon Embree’s team has targeted a bowl game as its goal, but that looks like a tall order … Did we mention there are only eight scholarship seniors on the roster – six who figure to see much action – and that Colorado will be one of the youngest teams in the nation this fall? … It’s not a comforting thought for fans of a program that has won one road game in four years and lost six conference games last season by more than 20 points.”
Hard to read … also hard to argue with.
Pre-Snap Read Ranks Colorado 89th in the nation
An extensive preview of the 2012 Colorado Buffs has been posted by Paul Myerberg under the heading of Pre-Snap Read. While the entire preview is worth reading, here are some excerpts:
Players to watch
By default, Connor Wood was Colorado’s starting quarterback during the spring. Come the first Friday in September, Wood should remain Colorado’s starting quarterback. For now, however, as C.U. heads into the summer, Embree is playing his cards close to the vest – though not too close. All signs point to Wood, a former Texas transfer, settling into the starting spot left vacant by Tyler Hansen, a multiple-year starter who gamely battled injuries and occasional ineffectiveness to complete a fairly strong college career.
Wood can make the throws. A major recruit into Austin, he left after encountering a logjam at the position; his search for playing time led Wood to Boulder, where his eligibility clock ticked alive just in time to match Colorado’s opening at the position. After a solid spring, albeit one spent getting in rhythm with the Buffaloes’ changing cast of characters at the skill positions, Wood hit on 7 of 10 attempts for 137 yards and a pair of scores in the spring game. That pushed him into the summer on a high note, and gave Embree and his staff – including offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and quarterbacks coach Rip Sherer – reason to believe that the offense will be in good hands.
But there’s still a quarterback competition to resolve. The hold-up is due to the status of sophomore Nick Hirschman, who sustained yet another foot injury just prior to the start of spring ball. C.U. projects that Hirschman, who completed 18 of 35 attempts for 192 yards as Hansen’s backup in 2011, will return in time for fall camp. It’s not merely a matter of getting back on the field for Hirschman, however; it’s a matter of getting there and staying there, which has been an issue. Wood is starting against Colorado State on Sept. 2. Whether he remains the starter depends on his own play and Hirschman’s right foot.
In all, C.U. must replace 86 percent of its offensive production from a year ago. The lion’s share of that yardage came in the body of running back Rodney Stewart, one of the lone beacons of light over Colorado’s recent swoon. With Stewart gone, C.U. loses its most consistent offensive weapon. The search is on for his replacement. It’ll likely be another diminutive back, sophomore Tony Jones (297 yards), who served as Stewart’s primary backup last fall. The Buffaloes also have junior Josh Ford as a bigger option; he played well in brief stretches in 2011. Also in the mix are sophomores D.D. Goodson, Justin Gorman and Malcolm Creer, if the latter’s healthy, as well as four incoming freshmen.
It’s hard to get a read on this offensive line. On one hand, you see that C.U. must replace both starting guards – including Ryan Miller, an all-American in some circles – and two key interior reserves. On the other hand, C.U. brings back six linemen who made at least two starts in 2011. Junior David Bakhtari returns for his third season in the starting lineup, and his second at left tackle. Junior Gus Handler returns at center. After starting the first three games at center last fall, sophomore Daniel Munyer moves out to right guard, stepping into Miller’s huge shoes.
Junior Jack Harris returns at right tackle after suffering a season-ending injury against California on Sept. 10. Now healthy, he pushes his replacement in the starting lineup, senior Ryan Dannewitz, into a reserve role. Dannewitz might also be an option at left guard, where he made one start in 2011, but the job is currently held by sophomore Alexander Lewis, who is athletic to have been used as a tight end in certain situations as a freshman. Colorado’s story up front is one of youth, especially in terms of depth, and relative inexperience. The line could break out; there’s enough talent here for the line to gel early and stay there. But the line could also be a constant nuisance. We won’t know until the Buffaloes take the field against Colorado State.
Most of Colorado’s defensive losses come up front, where the Buffaloes are retooling without three of last year’s starters. The losses were heavily centered inside, where C.U. must replace Conrad Obi and Curtis Cunningham, so it made sense for defensive coordinator Greg Brown to shift senior Will Pericak (64 tackles, 2.5 for loss) inside from end, where he started 10 games a year ago. An honorable mention all-conference pick last fall, Pericak is the most experienced – and the most valuable – member of the defensive line. Steadiness is an underrated virtue for a lineman; Pericak is certainly steady.
For now, he’ll be joined inside by sophomore Kirk Poston. That will change once C.U. gets a healthy Nate Bonsu back in the mix; at 300 pounds, Bonsu would team with Pericak to give the Buffaloes a nice interior pairing. Pericak’s move inside opens up a spot at end for sophomore Juda Parker, a lightly-used reserve as a rookie. Given Parker’s inexperience – and his untested backups on the left side – there might be a role at end for incoming freshman Kisima Jagne, one of the jewels of Colorado’s recent recruiting class. For now, Parker, who has his share of athletic ability, will join junior Chidera Uzo-Diribe (18 tackles, 5.5 sacks) in the starting lineup. Uzo-Diribe may be close to tapping into his potential.
The biggest move at linebacker has senior Jon Major (85 tackles, 9.5 for loss), last year’s leading tackler, returning to the strong side after being forced inside last fall due to injuries. With Major – an all-conference candidate – back in his natural position, C.U. just needs senior middle linebacker Doug Rippy (62 tackles) to return to full health. He injured his knee seven games into last season, just as he was blossoming as a starter; he’s expected to be back by August, which is great news for this defense. Colorado’s dream threesome has Major on the strong side, Rippy in the middle and junior Derrick Webb (54 tackles) on the weak side. Sophomore Brady Daigh will keep Rippy’s seat warm, but he should be ready to go by September. Rippy and Major make a great pair.
The secondary will be better, and not – wait for it – because this group couldn’t get any worse. The Buffaloes made Kevin Price look like Matt Barkley; made Barkley look like Joe Montana; made Andrew Luck look like, well, Andrew Luck. There is tremendous room for improvement, to put it lightly. And this secondary will grow, improve, get stops and force turnovers – it’ll be a better group, if not quite improved to a point where C.U. is going to move from the bottom of the F.B.S. to the top. Think somewhere in the middle.
The Buffaloes took their lumps. Cornerbacks like Greg Henderson (58 tackles, 1 interception) and Josh Moten will come out stronger on the other side. Both were thrust into the starting lineup – Henderson for all but one game – a tad ahead of schedule; Henderson responded wonderfully, earning honorable mention all-conference honors. A year later, Henderson’s one of the up-and-coming defensive backs in the Pac-12, while Moten and sophomore Jered Bell, soon back in the mix after last season’s injury, can help bottle up receivers on the other side. Perhaps all three could use a little more seasoning; that doesn’t mean they won’t be better, or that Henderson isn’t a keeper.
C.U. also has an all-conference contender at free safety in senior Ray Polk (80 tackles, 1 interception). It’s hard to imagine, but Colorado’s defense would have been even worse without Polk anchoring the back end; C.U. credits him with eight touchdown-saving plays, which sounds about right. There’s a hole at strong safety, where C.U. must replace Anthony Perkins. Junior Parker Orms, a four-game starter at cornerback in 2011, will get first crack at the position.
Season breakdown & prediction
In a nutshell You can’t imagine what sort of situation Embree walked into last December. You can look at the standings and get an idea – the story of Colorado football’s steady decline, told in wins and losses – but you really can’t put into words the sort of weak, sloppy, ineptly-coached group he inherited as Hawkins’ successor. Then you get to this idea: Embree had to reverse the program’s entire culture, where mediocrity was the goal and losing an acceptable result. Not even Embree knew what he was getting into. We’re now a year-plus removed from his arrival; now, today, Embree knows what it’s going to take. It won’t take a miracle, merely more hard work and even more patience. Colorado’s already getting better. Heading into 2012, C.U. looks far stronger along the back seven on defense, especially in the secondary. There’s a nice blend of experience and potential along the defensive line. The offensive line could falter, yes, but the group could be pretty good, if the Buffaloes can survive along the interior. This team does have issues at the offensive skill positions, however, especially at wide receiver. Is this a particularly good team? Nope. Is this a better team? Absolutely. And you’ll see that improvement manifested in the win column, if only with one extra win in one fewer regular season game. C.U. still looks like the weakest team in the Pac-12, but a good portion of the gap between the Buffaloes and the rest of the league has been closed. C.U. needs to remain patient.
College Football News gives a fair assessment
College Football News is posting its previews, and writer Richard Cirminiello has put together a pretty fair assessment of the 2012 Colorado Buffaloes.
Last season was tough on Embree, who was accustomed to different results as a player and an assistant with the program. He knew his Buffaloes had slipped considerably under Dan Hawkins, but this far? The losing was a bitter pill to swallow, but so was the state of the program, which wasn’t ready to compete on a high level in its debut in the Pac-12. So, the coaches went to work with a bottom up approach, hitting the recruiting trail as hard as the practice field. Colorado may not have been bowl-ready in 2011, but it wouldn’t be because of a lack of trying.
The Buffs will likely remain on the outside of the postseason picture, but after a full season under the new regime, they should be better positioned to compete on a week-in, week-out basis. The stark reality is that Colorado simply lacks the depth and overall talent at this time to make a lot of noise in the conference.
… The last time the Buffaloes finished above .500 it was 2005, so the transformation in culture will be an ongoing process in Boulder. Fans must be patient. The players and coaches just need to keep giving maximum effort in order to endure this lean time.
Colorado is still in the early stages of a difficult rebuilding plan. However, there’s cautious—and justifiable—hope that the second chapter of this story won’t be quite as traumatic as the first one.
The team will be much better if … it can find a way to increase its total of takeaways. In 2010, the Buffaloes created a mere 19 turnovers. In 2011, the number dipped to 15, lowest in the Pac-12 and just 105th in the country. If Colorado is going to narrow gap on the conference’s more talented members, it’ll need to locate an edge in less conventional ways. Special teams is one possibility, but the Buffs are very good in that area yet. A more attainable goal would be to generate a few more big plays that halt drives, and shift the momentum of a game.
The Schedule: The Buffs start out with three of the first four games away from Boulder, but that counts the season opener against Colorado State in Denver. With a little bit of luck they could be just good enough to start out 4-0 if they can get through the new coaching staffs at Colorado State, Fresno State and Washington State, then they get home dates against two more new coaching staffs against UCLA and Arizona State. Any and all fun over the first half of the season will go bye-bye with back-to-back road dates against USC and Oregon, but three of the final four games are at home including a winnable date against Washington before closing out against Utah.
Five Buffs make Phil Steele’s All-Pac-12 teams
Phil Steele has released his All-Pac-12 teams. In the four-deep roster, there are 112 slots filled (12 each on offense and defense; plus four special teams performers for each team). Of those 112 slots, five are filled by Colorado Buffaloes.
In the glass half empty category … If each team was represented equally, there would be almost 11 players per team, so the Buffs’ five representatives falls just a bit short of average. Joining Colorado in the un-loved category were: Oregon State, also with five representatives; Washington State and Cal, with six each; and Arizona, with seven. Naturally, USC, with 16 representatives (including seven first-teamers) and Oregon, with 14 honorees (four on first-team) led the way.
In the glass half full category … Here’s to the five Buffs who did make the squad:
First team – offensive tackle David Bakhtiari
Second team – defensive tackle Will Pericak
Third team – linebacker Jon Major; safety Ray Polk
Fourth team – punter Darragh O’Neill
As a point of reference … in Phil Steele’s 2011 preseason All-Pac-12 rankings, there were seven Buffs listed in the four-deep roster (including Bakhtiari, who was fourth team, and Will Pericak, who was a second-team honoree in 2011 as well).
ESPN Power rankings put Colorado at No. 12
Ted Miller of ESPN.com has posted his “Pac-12 post-spring power rankings“, and, not surprisingly, Colorado came in at No. 12.
“12. Colorado: The most crushing injury this spring was Buffaloes WR Paul Richardson blowing out his knee. On the plus side, the offensive line looks solid, and Tony Jones stepped up at running back. If everyone stays — or gets — healthy, the linebackers will be first-rate. And DE Chidera Uzo-Diribe could be a breakout player. But there are huge questions at receiver, on the defensive line and in the secondary. Colorado may play as many freshmen as any team in the country this year.”
Miller ranks the top four at USC, Oregon, Stanford and Utah … with Oregon State, Arizona and Arizona State joining the Buffs at the bottom of the conference.
Phil Steele doesn’t see any All-Americans on Buff roster
Phil Steele magazine has released its picks for 2012 All-Americans. Steele goes down to four teams, but no Buffs make the roster.
Out of the Pac-12, nine teams are represented, with Arizona, Washington and Colorado the only teams shut out. USC has three first-team All-American candidates in quarterback Matt Barkley, wide receiver Robert Woods, and safety T.J. McDonald. Washington State (wide receiver Marquess Wilson), Utah (defensive tackle Star Lotulelei) and Stanford (linebacker Shayne Skov) also had first team honorees.
Overall, USC led the league with five picks, while Stanford and Oregon had three each.
Embree still getting no respect
Talk about piling on.
Athlon, The Sporting News, and ESPN have all rated Colorado head coach Jon Embree as the worst coach in the Pac-12 … but it gets worse.
The Sporting News has posted its overall rankings of all 124 FBS coaches, and Jon Embree comes in at No. 106. Embree is not only last amongst Pac-12 coaches, but, according to TSN, ranks above only three other BCS conference coaches – Doug Marrone (17-20 in three years at Syracuse), Frank Spaziani (20-19 in three years at Boston College), and Kevin Wilson (1-11 in his debut at Indiana last fall).
In the Pac-12, Embree is closest to Todd Graham, the new head coach at Arizona State, who rates a No. 75 ranking.
Other notes from the rankings …
The Orlando Sentinel does an annual countdown of teams, starting with No. 120. It would be nice to get into June or July before appearing, but the Buffs are already on the list, at No. 99. Ranked just ahead of Colorado is Mississippi (2-10, 0-8 in the SEC in 2011), while just behind, at No. 100, is New Mexico State (4-9, 2-5 in the WAC last season).
The only teams on the Buffs’ 2012 schedule ranked behind Colorado are CU’s first three opponents: Colorado State (No. 105); Fresno State (No. 109); and Sacramento State (a 1-AA school, and No. 121 by default).
Part of what the Sentinel had to say:
Strengths: With only 10 returning starters, experience will be at a premium for this team this season. That being said, the defensive unit returns six starters including linebacker Jon Major, who was the team’s leading tackler in 2011. Major, along with Douglas Rippy and Derrick Webb make up the most experience part of the squad: linebackers. Ray Polk, who was tied for second on the team in total tackles (80) and interceptions (1), leads the secondary. The offensive line returns three starters including center Gus Handler. That group will be called upon to provide support to an inexperienced offense.
Weaknesses: Plain and simple, the offense is going to take a huge step back this season with the loss of Tyler Hansen and Rodney Stewart. The pair combined for over 3,500 yards of total offense and 27 touchdowns last season. Nick Hirschman was expected to be the leading candidate for the starting job but the sophomore broke his foot in the spring opening the door for Connor Wood. It could be Wood’s job to lose. Tony Jones will step up in the run department. The New Jersey freshman rushed for 297 yards and two touchdowns as a backup to Stewart.
Outlook: Colorado fans will need lots of patience over this next season as Embree continues to mold this team into his vision. With only 10 returning starters from a three-win squad, it’s not going to be pretty for much of the year. However, with lots of young talent on this team, the Buffaloes can set the stage for bigger and better things in the future. Colorado needs to hope for a quick start to the season with some winnable games against Colorado State, Sacramento State and Fresno State because after that, the schedule gets much tougher with road games at USC and at Oregon along with home contests against Stanford, Washington and Utah.
Other rankings …
ESPN, Athlon and The Sporting News have issued their ranking of Pac-12 coaches. Colorado’s Jon Embree, entering his second season in Boulder after a 3-10 start, is ranked last by all three.
Here’s what The Sporting News had to say about Jon Embree: