Spring Practice Notes
Jon Embree’s Post-Spring Comments
Worthy of re-printing in full here, Embree talked Monday about everything from the size of the Class of 2013 to playing freshmen to meeting fans’ expectations …
“Everybody’s out, they left yesterday. The two off the road this week are Eric [Bieniemy] and [Greg Brown], so they can get some things finished out this week from an offensive and defensive standpoint, then they’ll be out on the road. Coaches will all be in next week, but they’ll out off and on for the remainder of May.”
On When He Can Go On The Road And Recruit
“I can’t go out until December 1. I can phone call, so I’ll start on that phone calling from a recruiting standpoint over the next five or six weeks.”
On Junior Day
“Junior Day went well; I would imagine we will hear from some kids here. There were a couple kids in particular. There were seven kids that came, that it was good they got here, they made a great effort to get here, so we’ll see on that. We had kids coming in all last week, and really the week before because they couldn’t make that particular day. We’ll continue to recruit to get some guys in here and see what happens.”
On Expected Size Of 2013 Class
“Probably 16 to 20″
On Having A Young Team
“It’s always important to keep the standard or set the tone, so they understand what you’re trying to do. Every game counts for us, we don’t have the luxury of trying to let guys ease their way into it. We have to go. It’s important we get off to a fast start and it’s important for the kids who play to understand they can help us get off to a fast start.”
On WR Paul Richardson
“He goes in today, I was with him this morning for 15 minutes and he’s in great spirits. I had to talk to him about some of the things he’ll go through a little bit, from that standpoint, I’ll probably see him tomorrow and keep checking in on him.”
On Players Not Returning
“We’re in the process of evaluating a few things and seeing who’s doing what. Never say never, but it would be a minimum amount I’d imagine. For the most part kids are handling their business, doing what they’re supposed to do, giving us maximum effort on and off the field. Last year I had a good idea what the number was and this year it will be minimal if at all.
On The Leadership Of Returning Players
“I feel very good about the direction of the leadership coming from the juniors and seniors. The sophomores and juniors and seniors are doing a freshman dinner tonight, so all the freshmen will be at my house tonight so I’m excited about that and getting to spend some time with them. This is a critical time for them because a lot of them are coming off a redshirt year and want to finish the school year strong, but I want to impress upon them if they’re going to be here this summer, the urgency and sense of purpose they need to show if they’re going to be around here this summer. It’s going to be a good time and good environment to get that communicated.”
On The Advantage Of Clearly Communicating Where Players Need To Be
“I felt like a lot of things around here, from what they’ve done, they have raised. From their expectations to their work ethic, to from when they do hit something to raise the bar themselves, not having me or the coaches or Malcolm [Blacken] do it for them. They have been very good about that, about understanding self motivation and raising their own expectations and standards as they continue to hit some things.
“It may be more of a game-by-game basis, rewarding kids for playing. Sometimes when you just say, ‘Hey, you’re the guy,’ last year if you look at our captains, two of them were hurt and done for a signification amount of time. To me I want to try to promote and foster an environment of leadership by committee not by one or two people.”
On Who He Expects To Emerge As Leaders
“Off the top of my head, Doug Rippy, [Will] Pericak, [Nick] Hirschman, [Connor] Wood. I expect [Paul Richardson] to still be involved, David Bakhtiari, [Gus] Handler, Ray Polk, Chidera [Uzo-Diribe], those are the guys off the top of my head who I’ll look to. No shortage. Jon Major. They’re all different and I think that’s the good thing about it because kids respond differently to different people, the more diverse your leadership is the better your chances of getting to more people. The thing about all those guys too, they’re all comfortable in their role and their position on the team. That’s important because we’re bringing in new guys, so are you about the team or are you about you? Are you going to help the new kids coming in for summer school, show them how to work out and how to do it, or will you step back and hope they fail because you think it helps you? We’ll find out about a lot of those guys to see if they’re about the team or about themselves.”
On Instilling The Culture Of Players Helping Incoming Freshmen Learn The Ropes
“As we continue to build as a program, it becomes second nature. We have a lot of freshman, who last summer they know how things went for them. So if it was bad for them, they know what not to do and how it felt, so they can make sure the next guy doesn’t feel that way. As you continue to build as a program, pretty soon that expectation is standard and more of an automatic thing for them.”
On Freshmen Getting Early Reps
“That’s every year, but it probably won’t be on the same kind of scale as this year. It’s something I think you have to do, you have to find out early which freshmen can help you and what’s there role. A classic example, Rashaan Salaam wanted to play, so his freshman year was primarily special teams and a carry here or there. If you have a kid who is adamant about playing and can help you a little bit on offense, you have to evaluate him quickly from a team standpoint, so you’re not completely wasting his year. Those are the kinds of things we need to find out and find out early is who can do what and if it’s something we need and if it’s better than what we have.”
On His Philosophy Of Giving Freshmen An Opportunity
“If it can be helped, I don’t want the better player standing next to me. I think as a coach you have to look at it as what is that you’re not getting done. It’s easy to always say he can’t learn it, but why can’t he learn it, let’s find out the why and if it’s something we can fix, let’s fix it. That’s the first thing. As a coach, sometimes you’re comfortable putting the guy in who knows what to do, but it doesn’t do any good if he knows what to do but can’t do it. Let’s try to put the kid in who can do it and try to figure out what it is he can do and not ask him to do what he can’t do. For some coaches, it’s just a comfort level, and we have to find out how to get the best guys out there.”
On Whether He Expects QB Shane Dillon To Redshirt
“I’m not, I want to see what he can do. I want to see what all these guys can do. If you come in expecting to redshirt, sometimes on the offensive line that’s going to happen. If I’m 6-5, 255 pounds at tackle, I’m going to redshirt, but I want to see what we have, I want them to come in working, expecting to play. The other thing about playing freshmen, this is the only time they’re really healthy. You redshirt and save them, then they leave early for the draft or they break down and you don’t get four years out of them anyway. This is the only time you know for sure they’re healthy and they’re happy for the most part. Then things start to happen.”
On Being Around A Team This Young Before
“Have I been around a team this young before? I felt like the team Neuheisels’s last team (1998) I felt like was a pretty young team, Dan [Graham] and Victor [Rogers] and Andre [Gurode] and Mike Lewis. We had some veterans sprinkled in there, Ben Kelly and Damen Wheeler, but I felt like that was a young team because I was trying to think about that too. A lot of the guys who went on to win the Big 12 Championship (in 2001), I remember a lot of those guys at the Aloha Bowl (in 1998). If you have enough leadership and things fall the right way, it’s a huge benefit to play some guys when they’re young.”
On Whether The Approach Changes When Coaching A Younger Team
“You have to have more patience. There’s no doubt on that. You have to have more patience with them when they’re younger. You probably have to put your arm around them more than what you’re used to. They’re going to do something wrong, and score a touchdown and be excited and you’ll have to tell them that wasn’t the right thing to do. They will be like, ‘But I just scored.’ Then they’ll do something wrong and give up a touchdown the very next play. You just have to have some patience as they grow and get caught up to speed with the college game. It’s a different game, it’s a big leap. For other kids like Greg Henderson, it was fairly natural for him, but there’s going to be some kids that will be like, ‘Holy cow,’ then they come to me and ask to redshirt, do the job for you.”
On Managing Fan Expectations
“You can’t manage the fans’ expectations. You’ll have some who won’t think you will win one game and some who think you should win them all. You can’t manage their expectations and you can’t let that affect how you handle and prepare the team. There’s a lot of enthusiasm and excitement out there at the couple places I have been. I know there are some things coming up and it’s always good to be around and see the excitement. I always wish I could take the players with me, because I don’t think they always realize the support out there and how the fans feel about them and the excitement they have about the upcoming season. It’d be great to do that but obviously you can’t. But I don’t worry about trying to manage their expectations because it’ll be whatever it is for them anyway.”
On Positions That Freshmen Have An Opportunity To Make An Early Impact At
“Defensive line, defensive back, running back, receiver, tight end, don’t have any linebackers coming in.”
On Freshmen Playing At Safety
“If one of those guys ends up back there, they could, if there’s one that’s a good fit for the back end. We signed five of them, they all have good size and range, so there might be an opportunity for one of them to play quicker back there. That’s part of the evaluation, we need to get them quickly into training camp and see who’s what. If they’ll help in the return games, that will change things too. There are a lot of things we need to see in a short period of time to make sure we get the right guys out there.”
On The Difficulty Of A Freshman Starting At Cornerback
“To me, on the edges, so corner and receiver, is probably the easiest position from a transitional standpoint to play as a freshman. Greg is working like he’s not going to give his job up. He had a very good camp, obviously he wasn’t around for the Spring Game. He had a good spring, we did a lot of different things with him. I was pleased that he was more physical, whether it was jamming at the line of scrimmage or tackling in the run game and his awareness of things like pattern reading. Some of those things, I feel like he was better at. He’s working hard, because he knows how it can happen, because he was that guy last year and he wasn’t that highly touted, so we have some guys who are obviously highly recruited coming in, if anyone understands how quickly it can happen, it’s him.”
On CB Jered Bell
“I’d love for him to come back, I think he’ll be cleared either early July or early June to do everything, it will be good to get him back out there and see what he can do. He’s been great, he was helping coaching guys, he was into it, even though he couldn’t go through spring. That will give us another person back there to evaluate and give us a good opportunity to get our best players out on the field. He can really run and do some good things too. He’s got good size, Yuri [Wright] has good size. Marques [Mosley], Jeff Hall, all those guys have good size and good length, so between that group, I’m sure there’s somebody that could possibly be a safety-type.”
On Who Will Be Limited At The Start Of Fall Camp Other Than Paul Richardson
“No, there shouldn’t be. Jered’s back, Rippy’s back. I think Malcolm [Creer] will be back and Parker [Orms], yeah.”
On DT Nate Bonsu
“I haven’t seen him play much. I’m not sure he played much for us last year as far as what we’re asking him to do this year for his role. This is a big summer for him, big summer.”
On Graduate Assistants
“T.C. [McCartney], and Cha’pelle Brown will be the new GAs on August 1. They do a lot, breaking down film. Self-scout, helping to put together playbooks. Helping some coaches when their computers aren’t working, getting them fixed while they’re watching tape. It’s a thankless job, but it’s how everyone came up through it. I told them at least they’re not getting cars washed and filled with gas. Some coaches may still do it, it was kind of like that when I was here as a volunteer coach, a lot of none football stuff you may have to do and you’re like, ‘Really?’”
“We’ll stay as is. I went to Nike more about some stuff, some possibilities for the 2013 season. Nothing radical. We have great colors a great scheme, so let’s not mess it up.”
On Objective Of Spring Practices
“This year it was to not get hurt, so we didn’t meet that. There were 15-20 kids that we identified that from a learning and teaching standpoint we had a few little things we wanted to get done whether it was a technique or playing the run better, playing the pass better, making sure we addressed that issue with those kids. I feel good coming out of spring from that standpoint, obviously P-Rich getting hurt is the only negative.”
On Will Harlos Getting His Year Back
“Yes, he did. But he was hurt, he had some hamstring issues, that’s why he wasn’t in the Spring Game. I want to say two Thursdays before the Spring Game, he tweaked his hamstring, so that’s why he wasn’t out there.”
On What Will Change This Summer
“We’ve already met with Malcolm [Blacken], and talked from a training standpoint about some things we will do. From a playcalling standpoint, we’ll stay as is and keep fine tuning that. Really this summer just have the guys over to the house as much as we can, do some reading, start planning that first team meeting on August 6.”
Post-Spring Depth Chart provides a few insights
The Post-Spring depth chart was released prior to the Spring Game, and there were a few surprises.
At running back, it was no surprise that sophomore Tony Jones is atop the list. However, sophomore D.D. Goodson was moved ahead of junior Josh Ford (of course, this was before Ford had another great Spring game, rushing for 141 yards on only eight carries).
The quarterback race, far from settled, remains slotted as before. Sophomore Connor Wood is listed as the starter, followed by red-shirt freshman John Schrock and red-shirt freshman Stevie Joe Dorman. What remains unresolved is how injured sophomore Nick Hirschman and incoming freshman Shane Dillon (and, in all likelihood, junior transfer Jordan Webb) will change the depth chart come August.
Your starting wide receivers, if the CSU game was next week, would be sophomore Tyler McCulloch and red-shirt freshman Nelson Spruce. Next on the list are junior Jarrod Darden and senior Dustin Ebner. Junior DaVaughn Thornton, a tight end until late last year, is listed fourth on the depth chart at the “Z” wide receiver position.
Along the offensive line, senior Ryan Dannewitz projects to be a busy man. Though injured this spring, Dannewitz is listed as a co-starter at both right guard (along with Daniel Munyer) and at right tackle (along with Jack Harris). Dannewitz started the last ten games of the 2011 season at right tackle, but may have to slide over to right guard if neither Munyer or true freshman Alex Kelley are ready to assume a starting role.
The Colorado defensive line is, well, a mess. Yes, nine defensive line freshman will invade Boulder this summer, and yes, injured starter Nate Bonsu will be back, but, as of right now, the University of Colorado is listing four defensive linemen as starters, with three of the four under 255 pounds (Juda Parker, Kirk Poston, and Chidera Uzo-Diribe). With many offensive lines now averaging over 300 pounds per man … well, you get the picture.
The linebacking crew appears to be set for fall, pending the return of injured Douglas Rippy. Sophomore Brady Daigh occupies the starting position at middle linebacker – until Rippy returns – with junior Derrick Webb and senior Jon Major entrenched at the other two starting positions.
In the secondary, two jobs were open this spring. It is no surprise to find cornerback Greg Henderson and free safety Ray Polk slated to return as starters. At the other cornerback position, sophomore Josh Moten is listed at starter, ahead of red-shirt freshman Sherrard Harrington and injured sophomore Jered Bell. Meanwhile, at the strong safety position, oft-injured junior Parker Orms remains the projected starter, ahead of freshman Will Harlos.
To summarize … losing 28 seniors, and picking up only one freshman to date (fullback Clay Norgard, who enrolled early), the Colorado roster is thin and small. Of the 44 spots on the two deep, 27 are already occupied by underclassmen, and Jon Embree has indicated that as many as 21 of the members of the Class of 2012 may see action this fall.
So you can add “young” to “thin and small” when describing the 2012 Buffs.
CU Spring Game losing luster
It has long been reported that, due to a lack of healthy defensive linemen, that the 2012 Colorado Spring Game would be nothing more than a scrimmage.
Now, it’s looking more and more like it won’t even be much of a scrimmage.
With the black cloud from the news of the loss of wide Paul Richardson for the season still hovering over the Dal Ward Center (to be joined by actual black clouds on Saturday, if the weather forecast proves accurate), the Colorado head coach has very little in the way of goals for the last practice of the spring.
“I want to see everybody walk off the field” said Jon Embree when asked what he hoped for on Saturday. “That’s all I want to see.”
In addition to losses to injury – Nick Hirschman, Parker Orms, Paul Richardson, Ryan Dannewitz, Ray Polk, Nate Bonsu, Doug Rippy and Malcolm Creer among them – there are several other players which will be held out of the scrimmage to prevent the possibility of further injuries. Irreplaceable defensive linemen Chidera Uzo-Diribe and Will Pericak will watch from the sidelines for precautionary reasons, as will Greg Henderson and Ray Polk.
Those who are left to practice will participate in a scrimmage not unlike the three others which the Buffs have conducted this spring. Embree said the spring game will include about 30 live scrimmage plays, the same as in each of the previous spring scrimmages. There also will be about 20 7-on-7 plays, some red zone work and kickoff coverage and punting work on special teams.
One player everyone does want to see is transfer quarterback Connor Wood. Seeing his first action in a Buff uniform before anyone other than coaches and teammates, Wood will have his entire evening scrutinized.
“Connor’s been good,” Embree said Thursday after practice. “He finished strong. His problem is he just needs to relax. At times he presses. Whether it’s over gripping the ball or trying to throw it really hard, he’s got to relax and spin it. But he had a good spring and I’m anxious to see Nick come back and see those guys compete. It’s fun when you have quarterback competition because it forces them to really push themselves and really be on. Every day. Every pass counts.”
Indeed. With only 30 plays of live action, every pass will certainly count …
Wanted: Punt and kick returner
Looking for a punt or kick returner to emerge from Saturday’s action? Not likely, as Embree hinted that his kick and punt returners for the 2012 are still in high school. The belief that the punt and kick returners will come from the long list of speedy athletes from the Class of 2012 is a sound one, but it also a cautionary tale.
Last spring, in his first season as head coach at Colorado, Jon Embree also went without tryouts for returners, confident that the answer lay in the long list of speedy athletes coming to Boulder as part of the recruiting Class of 2011.
That strategy did not work out so well.
The top kickoff returner for the Buffs in 2011? Senior Rodney Stewart.
The top punt returner for the Buffs in 2011? Senior Rodney Stewart.
No true freshman in 2011 returned a punt, and of the dozen players who recorded a kickoff return in 2011, only two were member of the recruiting Class of 2011. Malcolm Creer and D.D. Goodson tied for seventh on the team in kickoff returns, with five each.
Here’s hoping that coach Embree’s strategy of waiting until fall to find his returners works out better in 2012.
Adjusting to life without Paul Richardson
It’s only one player after all …
Of course, Paul Richardson was the only skill position starter returning from the 2011 team.
And he was, arguably, one of only a handful of players on the Buffs’ roster who would be a starter for USC or Oregon.
But he’s only one player.
“You don’t replace him,” said Jon Embree. “What we have to do is find out what other people can do and ask them to do those things. Then find a way to as effective as you can be and continue to move the ball. You’ve got to be creative. There’s a lot of different things you have to do. The great thing about football it is a team game at the end of the day. So other people will have to pick up the slack. That’s what we’ll do.”
CU wide receivers coach Bobby Kennedy wasn’t willing to annoint an immediate successor to Richardson in the play-maker role, deferring comment until this fall, when three new wide receiver recruits hit Boulder. “It’s all up in the air,” said Kennedy. “There’s no clear guy yet that I’ve decided or coach Embree has decided is going to step into that position. We’ve got to find the next-best guy, whether it’s one of those freshmen . . . those guys have to come in, we have to see what they can do and we’ll make that decision in the fall.”
Jeffery Thomas (Dallas), Peyton Williams (Southlake, Texas) and Gerald Thomas (New Orleans) will be given ample opportunity to impress, and as Embree has told the receivers currently on his roster, “The tie goes to the youth. So you’d better win it.”
As to the two most likely candidates – at least for now – to be in the starting lineup on September 2nd, there is at least an acknowledgement of tough task which lies ahead. “That’s a big role to fill because ‘P-Rich’ is just a special, special player,” sophomore receiver Tyler McCulloch said. “It doesn’t necessarily create pressure but there’s just a lot more urgency to have everyone step up. Everyone is going to want to step up individually, but as a unit, as a whole, we all need to step up.”
Added redshirt freshman receiver Nelson Spruce: “It’s going to be a collective thing. We all have different specialties and are different receivers. I think we’ve been coming together; as long as we continue we should be able to keep producing.”
As for Richardson himself … The junior wide receiver was having a fantastic spring after an off-season which witnessed a turnaround, not only in the weightroom and classroom, but in Richardson’s attitude and decision to be a leader on the team. Embree said Richardson’s focus already has shifted to school work and increased work in the weight room. Said Embree: “We talked about a plan we’ll put together from a weight room perspective and an academic perspective, just so when he does come back he’s ready to go and when he hits his fifth year he’s ready to graduate. He’s upbeat, in pretty good spirits, but he’ll be up and down. It’s a natural process to go through that.”
Richardson, and the Buff Nation, have every reason to be down right now.
And there is nowhere to go from here but up …
Paul Richardson injured … and will be lost for the year.
UPDATE – A day after coach Embree dismissed a Monday practice injury to star wide receiver Paul Richardson as being slight (see story, below), the University is now reporting that Richardson will be lost for the season.
The University press release:
BOULDER – University of Colorado junior wide receiver Paul Richardson suffered a torn knee ligament late in Monday’s practice and will be lost to the Buffaloes for the entire 2012 season.
At best, it’s a minimum six month rehabilitation following surgery, which will be scheduled once swelling subsides. He tore it simply planting and trying to make a turn in a non-contact special teams drill. Since he played as a true freshman in 2010 and as a natural sophomore last fall, Richardson has a redshirt year and his intentions are to use it and come back at full strength in 2013.
“Obviously, it’s a blow to our team, but it’s a part of the game,” head coach Jon Embree said. “It’s an opportunity for others to step up and try to lessen his loss. I thought at first he just rolled his ankle, and it turned out to be this. It’s a shame because he’s worked real hard and was doing a great job both on and off the field, leading by example and improving on all the things he needed to work on.”
Richardson was CU’s third leading receiver last year despite missing four games with a sprained knee with 39 receptions for 555 yards and five touchdowns. He set a school record with 284 yards in CU’s 36-33 overtime loss to California, when he also tied the school mark for single game receptions with 11. In just two years at CU, the 6-1, 170-pounder from Gardena, Calif., is already 21st in all-time receiving yards (1,069), 25th all-time in receptions (73) and tied for ninth in touchdown receptions (9).
“I told him that when I played, a torn ACL was doomsday for a skill position player,” Embree said. “Now, he’ll be able to come back stronger and faster. He’s obviously disappointed, but he is in great spirits about what happened and will make the most of his redshirt year available to him.”
Colorado can not afford to lose too many starters to injury this season.
There simply isn’t the depth.
This spring, the Buffs have been spared from too much in the way of bad news by way of injury. Several Buffs are recovering from off-season surgery, while a few others (notably Parker Orms and Nick Hirschman) have missed significant time this spring. To date, however, everyone on the roster is expected to be ready for Colorado State on September 2nd.
So the Buff Nation held its breath went it became known that star wide receiver Paul Richardson was injured in practice on Monday.
Fortunately, it does not appear to be serious. “I think it’s an ankle or something, fatigue,” Embree told reporters on Monday. “I think he had class. So it’s like, ‘Let’s get him up there and evaluated and off to class.’”
Embree said he had planned to hold Richardson and several other Buffs out of Saturday’s spring game to protect them from injury. Two others are defensive linemen Will Pericak and Chidera Uzo-Diribe.
On the good news side of things, Embree noted that Richardson, who was once considered an academic risk, is on pace to make the honor roll this spring. “How about that?” Embree said. “How about that? Shoot, he might make it. We’ll see.”
“If you’ve got nothing else going on Saturday, come on out”
Jon Embree understands that the Spring Game this year does not have the draw of previous seasons. There has not been the hype (no concerts; no “Fill Folsom” speeches from Coach Mac), and the game itself, which will only be a controlled scrimmage, will not be as exciting.
Still, Embree is hoping for a good turnout. With 40-50 potential future Buffs coming to Boulder for Junior Day, Embree wants to show the recruits that the team has plenty of support.
“It’s important our fans come out because a lot of those kids saw what kind of crowd we had last year,” Embree said. “That lets them know football is important to the community and to the university. It’s not like that at a lot of schools. You go to the spring game and they get a thousand. So when you get in that 15,000 to 20,000 range, it means a lot.
“The way our fans reacted to the Oregon Game last year went a long way to us getting some kids because they saw that they stayed and cheered us on and supported us despite the fact that we were getting beat up pretty good. The fans really helped so they can never underestimate the importance they have in helping us in recruiting. So if you got nothing else going on Saturday, come on out.”
Three CU assistants sought by NFL
In an article in the Daily Camera concerning the CU coaching staff, two points of interest are made.
The first is that the CU coaching staff remained in tact over the off-season. Newsworthy in and of itself, it came as a surprise that Colorado has only been able to keep the staff in tact twice since 1989.
“It just helps this program as we continue to try to have success” said head coach Jon Embree. “There is a comfort level with the players and trust between them and their coaches. You don’t always have to keep rebuilding it. It’s huge. Hopefully we can have the same streak next year.”
The other note of note is that Colorado had three assistants who were pursued by the NFL … but stayed.
If the same continuity is to take place next off-season, some of the new Pac-12 money will have to be spent on assistant coaches’ salaries.
Last year CU paid Embree’s assistant coaches approximately $850,000 more than it had paid Dan Hawkins’ assistant coaches in 2010.
Embree said higher salaries and multi-year contracts are a big advantage to those programs that can offer them to the best assistants and recruiters.
“I know Mike (Bohn) and Phil (DiStefano) and president (Bruce) Benson are committed to athletics,” Embree said. “They don’t go to the Pac-12 just to be in the Pac-12. They want to win and obviously with the success that Tad (Boyle) had winning the Pac-12 championship like that, they saw the excitement that it created among our alumni and not just our fan base here but out there in Los Angeles and the California area.
“That will translate to money for the university through donations. I think they truly understand athletics and want it to be successful and understand what is necessary to do it.”
Sounds good. Sucessful teams bring in money. CU needs to keep its commitment to have successful teams …
Here is a three-minute video of Thursday’s scrimmage … http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Ot6ng6WqiaE
Embree: Overall, Thursday’s scrimmage “went really well”
Post-scrimmage notes and quotes
On the scrimmage overall – “The defense got a turnover – a bad decision – but they were able to get it, which is good. We had some in-game scenarios and they did well in that. The offense looked really sharp when they got it going”.
On spring practices, with 12 of 15 practices in the books – “I’m pleased with how it’s been going this spring. The guys are responding and competing; we’re doing things to them and doing things they haven’t been used to doing (or) asked to do. But each day they’ve come out and keep getting better and working, so it’s good.”
On going for 41 plays during the scrimmage, rather than the 30 which were planned – “So I’m in trouble. Whenever we go over like that it means we’re having fun . . . things are going well. So I have a tendency to keep going.”
On the improved play of the defense this spring – “Tackling . . . there’s been a vast improvement there. And we’ve been better about when we get our hands on the ball and getting it, instead of having PBUs (passes broken up) or almost recovering a fumble. We’re getting the ball … I see better communication back there; sometimes that’s an issue with us . . . those are the biggest areas of improvement I’ve seen.”
On the improved play of senior tight end Nick Kasa, who moved over from the defensive line last fall – Kasa “caught the ball well. He’s struggled this spring but he made some really good catches in traffic, took some shots.”
On the play of junior linebacker Derrick Webb – Webb, said Embree, is “starting to play like a man. He had a couple of huge hits (Thursday) – one on the goal line to keep the offense from scoring on fourth down. He’s playing fast; he’s always been able to run, but he hasn’t always been able to play fast. His mind hasn’t been freed up. He’s always thinking . . . he seems to be using his speed a lot better than he has in the past because I don’t think he’s thinking as much. I’ve seen a lot of good stuff out of him.”
On junior safety Terrel Smtih who had an interception of Connor Wood on Thursday, who Embree sees as playing more under control - “You mean not running and just hitting anything? Yeah, he’s doing a lot better hitting the guy with the ball. You can tell he’s a little more comfortable. But a lot of the guys are . . . as coaches it’s like a foreign language to the kids. It’s good to have them understand what we’re saying. They’re playing faster; there’s just a whole different comfort level.”
Other players of note from Thursday … Sophomore running back Tony Jones, who scored on a 60-yard run … Sophomore linebacker Brady Daigh, “We thought he was going to be a good player (last fall as a freshman),’ said Embree”, and he’s picked up where he left off.”
Thursday scrimmage last before spring game
The Buffs conducted their third scimmage of the spring on Thursday, the last controlled scrimmage before the Spring Game on April 14th.
Names of note, offense …
Sophomore quarterback Connor Wood played well at starter, “with the exception of two plays,” according to head coach Jon Embree.
Sophomore running back Tony Jones, the presumptive replacement to four-year starter Rodney Stewart, had two rushing touchdowns.
Sophomore wide receiver Keenan Canty, who is battling with Tyler McCulloch in the chase for the No. 2 wide receiver post, had a touchdown Thursday.
Senior tight end Nick Kasa, converted from the defensive line last fall, made some “tough catches in traffic”, according to Embree. “Athletically he’s capable of doing everything,” said tight ends coach J.D. Brookhart. “Right now, it’s just a matter of comfort in the pass game, which is not second nature at all. It’s a long ways away for him. That’s the biggest challenge for him. In the run game, I’m confident we can get him to 80 percent of where he needs to be by September.”
Names of note, defense …
Thursday’s scrimmage was highlighted by a touchdown-saving tackle by junior inside linebacker Derrick Webb.
“D-Webb is starting to play like a man,” Embree said. “He had a couple of huge hits.”
The defense also came up with a turnover at the 2-yard line.
Secondary battles: Two sophomores (Greg Henderson and Harrison Hunter) and a redshirt freshmen (Brandon Brisco) are competing at left conerback.
The battle at right cornerback is between a sophomore (Josh Moten) and two redshirt freshmen (Sherrard Harrington and River Thompson).
Parker Orms, a junior vying to fill the shoes of departed senior Anthony Perkins, is out for the rest of spring with yet another injury (hamstring). Junior Paul Vigo will be getting most of the reps at strong safety.
The only known starter in the secondary is Ray Polk, the returning free safety. The coaching staff held him out of Thursday’s scrimmage to make sure his surgically-repaired wrist and sternum continue the healing process uninterrupted. “You know when Polk is not in there,” CU head coach Jon Embree said after Connor Wood and the offense moved the ball well during the 41-play scrimmage.
Special teams report
Finally, some news about special teams …
Incumbent kicker Will Oliver will miss the remainder of spring practices, having undergone shoulder surgery during spring break last week.
Still, the job as kicker will be Oliver’s to lose this fall. Special teams coach J.D. Brookhart told cubuffs.com that Oliver, who hit 29-of-31 PATs and 11-of-16 field goals last season, had shown improvement during the first eight spring practices.
“He’s getting the ball up better – which was his challenge,” Brookhart said, adding it would be up to head coach Jon Embree as to how much kicking would be emphasized over the final half of spring work.
Kickoff/punt returners will not be identified until well into August camp, and kickoffs, noted Brookhart, will not receive extensive spring attention because the staff still is determining the best approach to deal with rule changes for kickoffs.
In an attempt at increasing players’ safety, the ball will be kicked off from the 35-yard line instead of the 30 and a touchback will bring the ball to the 25-yard line instead of the 20. Additionally, players on coverage (kicking) teams will only be allowed a running start of 5 yards.
Embree believes junior Justin Castor is capable of regularly kicking the ball into the end zone and said Castor currently is “the leader in the clubhouse” to handle kickoffs. But Brookhart reiterated that the staff still must determine its kickoff strategy: “Do you want to give (the offense) the ball at the 25? I don’t know. From a defensive coordinator’s standpoint, you say, ‘No way.’ But as a coach in kickoff coverage, you say, ‘Heck yeah.’ With the returners we see in (the Pac-12 Conference) . . .”
Brookhart wants sophomore punter Darragh O’Neill, who had a 38.8 yard net average last season in his first full football season, to improve in “kicking to his left” as well as on his rugby-style punts. O’Neill, who can punt with either foot, “didn’t quite understand” the value of the rugby punt because of his lack of football experience, Brookhart said. “He just didn’t understand (its) usefulness . . . it’s not just a changeup.”
As for punt protection and coverage, Brookhart contended what he’s seen this spring is “light years ahead” of where the Buffs were a year ago. “We understand what we’re doing now.”
It was not all good news on the special teams front, however … Brookhart said he expects his kickers and punters “to come in more game ready” when August camp opens. “The off-season is a chance to improve yourself. I didn’t feel like we did (during the winter). We weren’t very good the first half of spring. We need to be ready on the first day of camp and not have them take their time getting in the groove.”
First, a link to a short video of the CU practice on Tuesday, including interviews with defensive backs Terrel Smith and Greg Henderson … watch?feature=player_embedded&v=CwR929FERng
Offensive line working out?
Colorado offensive line coach Steve Marshall is pleased with how the spring is working out for his charges.
In a cubuffs.com article, Marshall reported, “I’m pretty excited about where this group can go – if we stay healthy and can keep them on the field together. They’re going to be a young group, but I like where we are. We’re much farther along as far as the knowledge of the offense and the things that we can do well and not do well. We just have to keep growing and playing together and being able to handle the run, the pass and all the multiple things we do.”
Currently working with Marshall’s first unit at guard are sophomores Alex Lewis (left) and Daniel Munyer (right). Lewis has moved inside from left tackle (he also played some tight end last season as a true freshman), while Munyer is seeing some spot duty at center (he opened the 2011 season there).
Said Marshall: “If we played in a week, (Lewis and Munyer) would be our starting guards.”
Health issues have prevented the full participation of redshirt freshman Stephane Nembot (tackle), senior Ryan Dannewitz (tackle) and sophomore Kaiwi Crabb (guard). Nembot, in fact, was scheduled to practice for the first time on Monday, leaving him seven practices – counting the spring game on Saturday, April 14 – to demonstrate any strides made since switching from defense last fall. Nembot has been slowed by a knee injury suffered during winter conditioning.
The continued development of junior Gus Handler at center has allowed Marshall to give Munyer a full-time opportunity at right guard. Last fall, that pair was viewed as nearly neck-and-neck at center until Munyer was injured in the Colorado State game. Handler took over at Ohio State (Game 4), wouldn’t relinquish the job and started the rest of the season.
“He was a guy early on last spring who was kind of deep down the depth chart,” Marshall recalled. “It’s a classic case of a guy getting his chance, keeping working and getting better and better. He’s a guy we can win with in this league. He’s worked physically to get in the 290 range. He’s a consistent worker and he’s smart. He seized the opportunity and hasn’t let go of it.
Backing up Handler has been redshirt freshman Brad Cotner, a fall transfer from Ventura Community College who sat out last season. Marshall called Cotner “a good young prospect,” and for depth purposes he emphasized the importance of developing Cotner, Mustoe, Nembot and grayshirt Alex Kelley, a January enrollee.
“It’s real important as we finish up this spring that we bring these young guys along,” Marshall said. “They’ve got to get a bunch of ‘reps’ as we go down to these last six or seven practices. Our depth – we’ve got what we’ve got. So those guys have to learn multiple positions.”
Marshall’s current top tackles are juniors David Bakhtiari (left) and Jack Harris, who opened the first two games last fall on the right side before suffering a foot/ankle injury that required surgery and ended his season. Marshall called Bakhtiari and Harris “our two best guys,” adding that Bakhtiari “probably was our most productive player (in 2011) game in and game out . . . Jack is an impressive guy, but the key with him is can we keep him on the field? He’s got to stay healthy; that’s kind of been his MO. So far he’s had a good spring. He’s back healthy and we’ll try to get him through this spring and then he’ll have the whole summer to get right.”
If Dannewitz, who started last season’s final 10 games at right tackle in place of Harris, and Crabb can stay healthy, Marshall would come close to pegging seven dependable, capable interior players. “If those guys are healthy, our depth is better,” he said. “If not, then these young guys, we have to work to get them up to speed.
“For the most part, the guys who played last year know what to do. Now they just have to do it better, keep getting better at setting the tempo for the offense . . . it’s got to translate in the fall to winning football. But I like where our start is.”
Good info on the status of the Colorado offensive line.
Let’s hope that Marshall can keep his charges progessing … and healthy.
First practice back after spring break
The good news: Apparently all of the players made it back from spring break, and there were no incidents of note (which is always good news)
The better news: The first practice back (on Monday) “there was good energy” according to head coach Jon Embree. The Buffs practiced in shells on Monday, in order to “get back into the flow”. Embree noted that there was “good recall” from what the Buffs were working on during the first half of spring practices.
Other notes and quotes:
On injured players coming back – “(Offensive lineman Stephane) Nembot, though he is still limited. (Tight end Nick) Kasa? Yeah, he’s going. (Offensive tackle) Alex Kelley’s going a little bit”, while offensive lineman Ryan Dannewitz and safety Parker Orms are out for all of spring practices.
On the next scrimmage – “Thursday. We’ll go this Thursday. Because we’re go limited (along the defensive line), it’s not really a scrimmage. There’s a number of plays that you would like to run (but we can’t)”.
On talking about transfer quarterback Jordan Webb – “Nothing’s happened officially yet. I know he’s trying to cram and get school done and all that. When I know, I’ll definitely say something … We’ll see what transpires with all that, but things went well when he was here.”
On whether bringing in Jordan Webb should be seen as an indication that he is unhappy with the play of the current quarterbacks – “No. I’m happy with what I’ve seen out of Connor (Wood). I”m excited to get Nick (Hirschman) back. When I got here, we had two quarterbacks, Tyler (Hansen) and Nick. That’s one place you can’t afford to not have depth. And we need to have someone who has played some football. Nick has had a few snaps; Connor hasn’t played; Shane (Dillon) hasn’t played. I don’t want to liken it to signing Steve DeBerg, but if it’s going to happen, it will be that sort of thing. Maybe it will be like with John Elway and Steve Young and all of those other guys he backed up. If Jordan comes in this summer, it doesn’t reflect on the guys and what they have done so far.”
On injured junior defensive tackle Nate Bonsu – “We don’t really have him (for the spring). He can just do individual work and all that. So he won’t do any contact. It’s not like we ‘have him have him’. It would have been nice.”
On senior defensive lineman Eric Richter – “He’s been up and down all spring. We need him to have more ups than downs. He’s got six more opportunities (this spring), then we’ll see how the other guys do. He has to continue to progress; have more consistency.”
On D.D. Goodson’s move to tailback – “He did good today. He caught the ball well; ran well. He’s just a football player. Good instincts, good ball skills. We’ll see where he fits in with everything.”
On Kyle Washington’s move from safety to linebacker – “He’s not doing well at all (laughing, with Washington standing within hearing distance). No, Kyle’s doing well, he’s picked it up. He definitely has the physical aspect. It’s a hard transition when you move closer to the line of scrimmage, and learn some things in the run game. But I am pleased with him so far.”
Tony Jones makes his mark
Last Saturday, the first 30-play scrimmage of the spring belonged to quarterback Connor Wood and wide receiver Paul Richardson, who connected on two long touchdown passes.
At Thursday’s scrimmage, running back Tony Jones posted the statistic of note. The Buff sophomore, a/k/a “ToJo”, scored twice, once on a long run, then on a screen pass from Connor Wood.
“We moved the ball pretty good and made some plays down the field,” Bieniemy told cubuffs.com. “Tony ran the ball well. (Wood) did a good job of managing the offense once he got his feet under him. The O-line has done a good job . . . we’ve got to keep them coming.”
Bieniemy said the running game – a point of emphasis when Jon Embree took over as head coach two Decembers ago – has been more efficient this spring and Jones’ productivity Thursday was in line with his earlier spring work.
“Tony actually has been pretty consistent,” Bieniemy said. “He’s been running the ball exceptionally well. Obviously, it goes in conjunction with everybody. The O-line is coming off the ball, the tight ends are doing a great job. The thing I want to keep pointing out is that those big plays don’t just happen by chance.”
Jones, who played in all 13 games last season mostly as Rodney Stewart’s backup, said his spring goals were to “pay attention to details like coach Bieniemy always says . . . I’ve tried to sharpen up on everything, stay focused, and take my game to another level since I’m trying to be a starter.”
Last season, he rushed for 297 yards and two touchdowns, with his best performances coming against Oregon (19 carrries, 71 yards) and Utah (12 carries, 72 yards).
Aside from the academic pause, Jones said spring break would almost be business as usual for him. “I’m staying around (Boulder),” he said. “I’ll be in my playbook . . . I’m not taking any breaks, I can’t afford to take any.”
Also competing with Jones at running back this spring are junior Josh Ford, sophomore D.D. Goodson and sophomore Justin Gorman, who has been impressive at the position after stints at quarterback and defensive back.
Bieniemy on quarterback race
Connor Wood isn’t getting the competition from the main source he expected this spring after sophomore Nick Hirschman suffered a broken bone in his right foot that will keep him sidelined until the summer. But Wood, noted Bieniemy, has enough to work on within the offense and within his game to keep him focused.
“We’re trying to bring him along the right way (and) make sure he has a complete understanding of what we’ve installed,” Bieniemy said of Wood. “He’s still at baby steps offensively . . . we want to give him the ability to feel comfortable and go play. We’re pleased with where he is.”
In Hirschman’s absence, redshirt freshman John Schrock is getting more looks at quarterback. Schrock, impressive from the outset last August as a walk-on, said Hirschman not being on the field hasn’t altered his approach.
“I came into the spring expecting to compete,” Schrock said. “Just because Nick’s out doesn’t mean I won’t be competing with him when he comes back. I always put a lot of pressure on myself to perform well. Coach (Rip) Scherer says we’re not competing with each other, but ourselves to make ourselves better. I’ve gone into it with that mindset. However many reps I get, I’m trying to do the best with those. Having Nick out doesn’t really change how I went about it.”
Schrock said the entire offense’s familiarity with the playbook and concepts in Embree’s and his staff’s second spring was obvious. Plus, he said the offense “got pretty wordy last year . . . there was a lot of verbiage. The coaches have tried to make it easier on everybody. Now everyone is on the same page, which makes it great.”
When practice resumes, Schrock said he hopes to improve on his accuracy and “take more ownership of the offense. I’d like to make more protection calls, too. I’ve felt good about that, but I need to get better.”
Wood, who transferred from Texas last fall and sat out the 2011 season and directed the scout team, hasn’t had this much work since his senior season in high school. “It’s great experience,” he said. “I haven’t felt this ‘in charge’ of the team out on the field since that time when I was a senior. It’s good to get back into it and get that experience.”
Embree: Team “So much farther ahead than last year”
One practice short of the halfway mark of spring drills, Embree’s overall grade for his second spring is a B+.
Even that mark, however, comes with a qualifier. Embree noted Tuesday that his grade for the team could go up or down based on Thursday afternoon’s second scrimmage and the ability for players to stay healthy. “The kids are a lot better at details; I’m sure they’ll tell you their comfort level and knowledge of what we’re trying to do is just so much farther ahead than it was last year,” Embree said.
Embree added that the players were working hard but also having fun and developing camaraderie. “We didn’t have that last year; we were just 85 guys … You didn’t hear this last year, kids talking and laughing and having fun. I think last year they were so worried about showing us what they could do you missed that element of having some kind of fun out there. It also shows they like each other and they’re comfortable around each other.”
On Thursday, the Buffs will go through a 30-play scrimmage, much like the one they put together last Thursday. “It’s like half of a practice, it’s so short,” Embree said. “It’s not like the old-school ‘Mac’ (Bill McCartney) 100-play scrimmages.” Some seven-on-seven work will precede the scrimmage. A third scrimmage prior to the spring game on April 14th is also scheduled .
Additional Embree post-practice quotes:
On Tuesday’s practice – “We were just in shells, so that we’ll have plenty of juice for the scrimmage. We got a lot of good teaching done, especially on defense, the zone read and the zone option. There was some pretty good competition; some one-on-ones, some three-on-threes.”
On the most heated competitions this spring – “Quarterback. That’s really it right now. A lot of guys (the recruiting Class of 2012) aren’t on campus yet … We’re still looking for the No. 2 receiver … I’m sure Eric (Bieniemy) would say that we’re looking for more consistency out of the running backs.”
On quarterback play this spring – “They’ve all had their moments. Connor (Wood) just keeps getting a grasp of the offense, making good decisions and making timely decisions. The thing about him is that hs is a hard worker. Nick (Hirschman) is back there helping.”
On freshmen coming in and competing for jobs this August – “They will have an opportunity to compete for a job and obviously we signed five DBs and nine d-linemen and I didn’t sign them to stand next to me on the sideline. Now having said that, they have to have the skill level and they have to be good enough to play and do the things we want to do out there. And I think all those guys know that.”
On players who have had a good spring – “Josh Moten is having a good spring so far and he is not going to let one of those guys just come in and take the job. It is good that he has that mindset like that. Same on the d-line, there are guys out there scrapping. Chidera [Uzo-Diribe] and obviously Will [Pericak] have done a real good job of cleaning up techniques and really just awareness of things and then we’ll see what happens with the other guys. Juda Parker has to keep coming because we have four ends coming in. Inside guys are coming in. Eric Richter and [Kirk] Poston, who is going to different spots in and out, they have to understand and they do, that we got some guys coming in.
On what he expects for competition during fall practices: “It’ll be interesting to see. It is going to be like that every year. The whole goal is to try to bring in guys that are better than what you have and I tell that to the players. And I said, ‘if they are not [better than you] then that means you are doing your job.’ But it is never going to be like, ‘hey, it is my job and no matter happens it is my job.’ Every year they have to have that sense because if you want to play in the NFL, every day you have to come out and earn your job and that is part of the culture and the environment we are trying to create here, that sense of urgency. And that is one of the things that I think has been great about some of the leadership on the team.”
Eric Bieniemy: “We’re right where we need to be this spring”
Colorado offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy is having more fun this spring.
After a year of “changing the culture” in Boulder last season, the CU coaching staff is working more this spring on details, as the players know now what to expect from the coaching staff.
“We’re a year better than what we were last season,” Bieniemy, who also coaches the Buffs running backs, told cubuffs.com. “We as a staff have grown tremendously, grown in the system together. There’s a better understanding from each other of what we want and how to do it. And communication is so much better with our players in getting what we want out of them.”
Bieniemy and his offensive staff went into spring drills with the goal of having the Buffs emerge with a “complete understanding about our offense in the second year, understanding concepts in the run game and what our goals are. And right now, it’s so far, so good. Our kids are much better, but we have a long ways to go. But we’re playing with more confidence, playing faster because they know what to do.
“Now we’re teaching and coaching football, rather than having to worry about a lot of different aspects of taking over a program. From that standpoint it’s been fun. The developmental process has been good, but we’ve got to keep grinding, keep working on the little things to help take this team to another level.”
Bieniemy likes what he’s seen so far at several positions. At receiver, Paul Richardson has carried a strong off-season commitment to the field. He continues to make eye-popping catches, but he’s also impressed Bieniemy with his blocking. “I’ve stopped drills, pointed to ‘P-Rich’ after a block and said, ‘That’s what I’m talkin’ about,’” Bieniemy said in a voice dying for a spring break. (And it’s coming on fast; after the Buffs practice Thursday, they’ll be off until April 3, with the spring game on Saturday, April 14.)
At Richardson’s position, Bieniemy also singled out redshirt freshman Nelson Spruce and sophomore Tyler McCulloch, and at running back he said sophomore Tony Jones is “growing into the offense.” Reinforcements are on the way at tight end, but a trio already here – senior Nick Kasa, sophomore Kyle Slavin, junior Scott Fernandez – is showing that same development, and the offensive line – without naming names – “is becoming cohesive,” Bieniemy said.
And at quarterback?
Connor Wood, said Bieniemy, “has his good moments and when he has a bad moment, he learns from that and doesn’t repeat it. That’s what I appreciate about him. It’s been fun watching the growth process with him – that’s what you get excited about.”
Bieniemy wasn’t sure how Hirschman’s absence is affecting Wood: “I don’t know if it’s affected him or not. More than anything, you’d love for both of those kids to be out there for the competition . . . from that standpoint, we lose just a little bit. I will say this: John Schrock has taken on a tremendous role and accepted it as the backup. He’s done a great job. I do know that we’re growing more together as an offensive unit. Obviously you want all hands on deck. That’s the unfair part about this business; injuries do happen.”
And overall …
“We’re right where we need to be in the spring.” said Bieniemy. “The whole objective is, we’ve got 15 practices that will help us prepare for the season. Everything doesn’t need to be in for the spring. We need to make sure our guys are getting prepared to play Week One.
“Our biggest goal coming out of spring is giving our guys the confidence to go out and perform at a high level and play consistent. Our No. 1 objective is making sure they truly have a complete understanding of what we’re doing. Are we there? No, not at all. But it always comes back to those little things and our kids are seeing it on tape and they’re learning from their mistakes.”
Sunday practice more about individual work
A day after the first scrimmage of the spring, the Buffs spent their Sunday. “It was more about learning, cleaning up some of the mistakes that we’ve been having, making sure guys understand their assignments a little bit better,” said head coach Jon Embree after Sunday’s practice.
Other Embree post-practice quotes:
On having David Bahktiari, the starter at left tackle last spring, taking some reps at left guard – “I don’t know how much it has been from a percentage standpoint (earlier this week, Bahktiari estimated he was still going about 80% at left tackle), but him and Alex (Lewis) are both doing well on that left side. They’re both doing good. We still have nine practices left … We’ll evaluate these first eight days after we get through this next scrimmage on Thursday, and we’ll figure out what we need to do for the second half of spring ball. We’ll get a feel for where we are at, whether it’s those two guys switching around, or whether it’s other people, to make sure that when we get to fall camp, we’re not bouncing guys around.” … Fair reading, if the first week of spring practice is any indication, look for sophomore Alex Lewis, who has three career starts, as the best bet to replace Ethan Adkins at left guard this fall.
On this spring being more of a “teaching spring” than last year – “Last year in spring, we practiced where we had ten minutes individual (work) after stretching, then we did some group work, which is keeping the offense and defense separate, then you go play-action pass movment period, a team run period, team pass, seven-on-seven, a blitz period, and then maybe a special period, usually something like seven team periods. Now, we’re only doing like three team periods, so those four (extra) slots, or periods of time, we’re doing more individual work, more detailed stuff.”
Nick Kasa on his switch to tight end
Nick Kasa is one of the few seniors on the Colorado roster this spring. At the same time, he is a senior who has yet to make a name for himself in a Buff uniform.
One of the most highly rated recruits of the Dan Hawkins’ era, Kasa famously de-committed from Florida in favor of his home state Buffs. A four-star defensive end, Kasa did not distinguish himself. In 2010, Kasa saw action in all 12 games, but was in on only 286 plays, and made only 18 tackles. Last season, was in on only 132 plays on defense (seven tackles) before making the switch to tight end late in the season. In the season finale against Utah, Kasa had his first catch as a Buff.
Despite having a former NFL tight end as a head coach, Colorado is woefully short of tight ends on the roster. Last spring, coach Jon Embree parted ways with two tight ends, Harold Mobley and Henley Griffon. That left little depth on the roster behind senior Ryan Deehan, who ate the majority of the playing time at the position in 2011.
CU coaches also moved several other former tight ends last season because they didn’t have all the capabilities for the position that coaches desire. DaVaughn Thornton was never able to put on enough weight to be a real factor in run blocking and he was moved to wide receiver. Alex Wood looked more like a fullback, which is where he is practicing this spring.
This only leaves Kasa, junior walk-on Scott Fernandez, and sophomore Kyle Slavin on the roster until freshmen Vincent Hobbs, Austin Ray, and Sean Irwin arrive this August.
Kasa told the Daily Camera that he spent time catching passes every day throughout the winter, often asking his dad or his roommate, Wood, to serve as quarterback when an actual CU quarterback wasn’t available.
“Yeah, of course,” Kasa said when asked if he feels pressure this spring. “I really do want to help out and I know they need me. I’m just doing everything I can every day to get there.”
CU tight ends coach J.D. Brookhart said he didn’t want to bog down Kasa with too much mentally during the winter. So he told him to focus on running routes and catching passes in December, January and February and promised that learning the nuances of playing tight end would come during practices this spring and summer.
Brookhart said Kasa has been an eager pupil. “He shows a lot of ‘want to’ and he’s making a commitment like he’s never done before. But to cram an old lineman into a skill guy, it’s going to be a lot of work,” Brookhart said.
“There are going to be some things that he does well, but it’s very foreign territory to him. Every day are big jumps. He’s got a long way to go, but he’s got the ability to be a good player. Now catching the ball is not something he’s done his whole life. He’s had his hand on the ground. That just doesn’t happen. The pass game, it’s a foreign language right now, but that being said, he’s showing exactly what it takes to get it. So he’s working at it.”
He missed several recent sessions with a concussion. He was able to participate in parts of Sunday’s practice and says he expects to be fully cleared this week. “I was (angry) when I got the concussion,” Kasa said. “I need every practice I can get so that I can make those mistakes and correct them. My coaches know I’m going to make them just because I’m not used to offense at all.”
First scrimmage pleases Embree
Stewart to Westbrook … Detmer to Carruth … Hawkins to McKnight …
Wood to Richardson?
Sophomore quarterback Connor Wood and junior wide receiver Paul Richardson “stole the show” in connecting on touchdown passes covering 70 and 35 yards, as Colorado conducted its first spring scrimmage Saturday.
Embree described the touchdown passes from Wood to Richardson as “freak plays” on Richardson’s part. The junior wide receiver has been at the top of Embree’s list of Buffs who are performing at a high level this spring.
Overall, Embree has been pleased that the first week of practice has been about football, instead of teaching players his system. He said the team is much better prepared this year than it was last year when CU coaches spent much of their first spring in charge of the program just trying to get players to practice at the right tempo with the proper enthusiasm and discipline.
“It’s unbelievable,” Embree said. “It’s like we get to coach football now. Last year we didn’t really get to coach a lot of football (in the spring). Whether it was coaching attitude, tempo, standard or effort. There were only three guys today who got in trouble for effort and one was a freshman. It’s been very refreshing to finally coach football.
“It’s been very good so far,” Embree said of the first week of practices. “We’re doing some things to help us with the deficiencies along the D-Line … “I’m pleased with where we are after the first five practices. But like I told the team after practice today, we have to keep getting better”.
A third of the way through the spring, how is the team doing? “I didn’t go into it with any preconceived notions of, ‘We have to be able to do this by this date’,” said Embree. “Because of our depth issues, this (spring) is about getting a core group of guys prepared. It’s about improving technique. It’s about improving the understanding of the offense and defense. It’s about improving daily. This is more of a teaching spring. It’s not as taxing as last spring was (physically), but we’ll be able to get that in the fall … It’s more about technique, and it’s starting to show, because the guys are playing faster.”
Quarterback race update
Embree said all three of his quarterbacks looked good with the snaps they were allotted. Wood is getting the majority of the work with the first team and Embree said he has “taken a step forward each day.” Redshirt freshman John Schrock is second in the pecking order and fellow redshirt freshman Stevie Joe Dorman is third. “With these guys its about the little things, whether it’s their footwork, whether it’s throwing the ball on time, or going through the right progression.
“It’s important that they continue to get better,” said Embree, ” because Nick gets the advantage of taking mental reps, of seeing and learning from their mistakes. (Hirschman) is doing a good job of being back there and paying attention and seeing things … (Wood and Schrock) have great command of the huddle, which sounds like a little thing, but when you’ve got a guy who can’t call the play, and can’t get the formation and that stuff right, it’s a nightmare.”
No stats, but …
With the press and public barred from CU practices this spring, there is little information about the scrimmage itself. In fact, other than the notation of the two touchdown passes from Wood to Richardson, no statistics were released.
Still, Embree did give an overall picture of how the team is progressing.
Embree said there were no turnovers in the scrimmage — good for the offense, bad for the defense — and no significant injuries were reported.
“The thing I’m happy with right now about this team is there is a sense of urgency and it’s not created by the coaches,” Embree said. “Players are creating this urgency. Leadership is creating this urgency. I’m pleased with that because they go out and practice like that. You can tell guys are in their playbooks at night and not just out on the town.
“There is a mindset, a certain attitude, that is in them now about wanting to be good, wanting to get better the next day. That makes it so much more fun as a coach.”
Defensive line adjustments
With a scarcity of defensive linemen this spring (only six healthy scholarship defensive tackles and ends), the CU coaching staff is making adjustments. “We’ve been putting the offense in different down and distances,” said Embree. “So that the other side has the advantage … Letting the defense be in certain fronts, and putting the offense in situations where you can only run or throw.”
Names of Note
Defensive back Parker Orms is the only player injured during the first week of practices (hamstring) who is not expected to practice the remainder of the spring. Tight end Nick Kasa did not participate in the first spring scrimmage, but is expected to return to practice next week. … Embree said defensive linemen Chidera Uzo-Diribe and Will Pericak played well Saturday. He also mentioned running back Tony Jones, linebacker Derrick Webb, cornerback Greg Henderson and safety Terrel Smith as players who had “very active” first scrimmages.
As for the race for the second starting wide receiver spot, red-shirt freshman Nelson Spruce has been given the most plaudits by Embree (“He continues to show flash”) during the first week of practices.
Colorado will practice again on Sunday, then take Monday off. After practicing on Tuesday and Thursday, the team will take off the following week (March 24th – April 1st) for spring break.
Stephane Nembot adjusting to new role
Red-shirt freshman offensive lineman Stephane Nembot gave an interview to Rivals after Thursday’s practice.
- Nembot has been limited during the first week of practices due to a knee injury. He does expect to be “full speed” after spring break (March 24-April 1st).
- When he first reported to Boulder last summer, Nembot weighed 280 pounds. He is now up to 302. Nembot had been up to 310 pounds, but said that, with all of the running the team had to do during “Coaches’ Week”, he lost weight.
- Nembot doesn’t regret red-shirting last fall, as he knows “way more about football” than he did coming out of high school (Nembot has only played three years of organized football since coming to the United States from Cameroon). He feels now he has a better chance of playing football “without thinking too much”.
- On switching from the defensive line to the offensive line, Nembot said that it was his idea to make the move. This spring, Nembot is working mainly on technique.
- Nembot has fared well in making his transition in the classroom, posting a 3.4 GPA last fall.
The loss of sophomore quarterback Nick Hirschman for all of spring practices has been the most significant injury of the spring, and that took place the week before the start of practices this week. Hirschman had surgery on his foot last week, and attended his first practice on Thursday.
The only other injuries which have been reported are to senior tight end Nick Kasa, sophomore defensive back Will Harlos, and junior defensive back Parker Orms.
Orms left Tuesday’s practice early with a hamstring injury. It is doubtful that he will practice again this spring. Harlos is dealing with hamstring tightness.
Nick Kasa was also a spectator due to a minor injury. Embree expects the converted defensive end to be back practicing next week, on either Tuesday or Thursday.
Colorado is well into its first week of spring practices, but, with no public access, information about how the team is doing has been limited.
Some questions, though, have been – at least partially – answered.
- Offensive lineman David Bakhtiari has been practicing at both left guard and left tackle this spring. The junior-to-be has already started 21 games in his career, and was a fixture at left tackle last season. It was assumed that Bakhtiari would be there this fall, protecting the back of the Buffs new quarterback. Then, the story came out that Bakhtiari would be playing left guard in 2012, moving over to replace the departed starter Ethan Adkins.
As it turns out, Bakhtiari isn’t really going anywhere. Bakhtiari estimates that he is playing about 80% of the time at left tackle, and about 20% of the time at left guard. CU offensive line coach is looking for interchangeable parts along the line, with ten players able to play at least two different positions. Tackles are practicing at guard, and some of the guards are taking reps at center. When Bakhtiari is playing left guard, red-shirt freshman Marc Mustoe and true (grayshirt) freshman Alex Kelley are getting playing time at left tackle.
- Junior Alex Wood, who was buried far down the depth chart at tight end last fall, is now atop the depth chart … at fullback. Former linebackers Evan Harrington and Tyler Ahles were inserted into the fullback position last season for a coaching staff which wanted a two-back system and had no fullbacks on the roster. Wood had scholarship offers from Mesa State and Western State, and walk-on opportunities at Kansas State and Colorado State, when he joined the Buffs’ program in 2009. He redshirted his first year and did not see any game action in 2010. The walk-on from Steamboat Springs, Colo., made the switch from tight end to fullback midway through his sophomore campaign last fall. Wood saw action in one game against Oregon and also began traveling to CU’s away games late in the season.
Now Wood is atop the fullback list, at least for now. True freshman Clay Norgard enrolled early so that he would have the opportunity to practice with the team this spring. This fall, Christian Powell will join the competition. While Wood, who has yet to be granted a scholarship, may fall behind the talented freshmen on the depth chart come September, he is providing the coaches – and his teammates – with an experienced hand this spring.
- The quarterback battle lost two participants this spring. Brent Burnette has left the team, while Nick Hirschman is out after suffering another foot injury. While waiting for Shane Dillon to arrive on campus, the competition was to be limited to Connor Wood, John Schrock, and Stevie Joe Dorman.
Enter a fourth candidate … Isaac Archuleta. Archuleta, a former standout at Mountain Vista High School in Highlands Ranch, joined the program as a walk-on last month by participating in open tryouts prior to coaches’ week. Archuleta originally signed with Nebraska-Kearney last year but decided a small school and small-town living didn’t appeal to him. He enrolled at CU last fall and occasionally attended CU practices looking toward this spring for an opportunity to walk-on.
“I was born and raised a Buff,” Archuleta said. “My dad has had season tickets since I’ve been 6 years old. So I’ve always been a Buff fan. That’s my motivation to walk-on.” Archuleta said he had jitters the first day, but he feels like he is slowly picking up the offense, which he said is similar to what he did in high school. He was a teammate of CU freshman fullback Clay Norgard. “I’m just going to do my best,” he said. “That’s all I can do.”
- To move up the depth chart, however, Archuleta will have to pass another walk-on, John Schrock, who has already impressed. Schrock says he always tries to prepare as if he might play and he is approaching his first spring in Boulder with the same mindset.
“I feel really prepared,” Schrock said. “I think that especially with this winter conditioning I’ve definitely got a lot bigger and stronger. The biggest thing has definitely been the mental side. We have quarterbacks meetings and kind of starting from the basics and going through it, I’ve learned a lot. It’s at a slower pace and stuff. In training camp I kind of got thrown into things and I felt like I was swimming and sinking a little bit. Being able to slow down, I feel much more comfortable in the offense. I understand the reads and progressions. I definitely feel like I’m right in there with them. I definitely feel confident in my abilities.
“I definitely have the chip on my shoulder,” Schrock told the Daily Camera. “I came in as a walk-on and wasn’t recruited really anywhere. Then I think that I helped kind of prove that I can play with these guys last year during fall camp. I always want to keep competing and showing myself.”
- Sophomore cornerback Jered Bell won’t participate in contact work with the Colorado football team this spring as he continues to recover from a torn knee ligament, but he looks well on his way to a strong recovery. Bell is able to run and cut and participate in individual drills seven months after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the third practice of August camp last year. “It feels good,” Bell said. “I was excited to come back out here again and have a helmet on and just be out here with my teammates. I’m just trying to have fun again.”
Paul Richardson a changed man
B.G. Brooks at cubuffs.com has posted a great article about sophomore wide receiver Paul Richardson.
“I’ve seen a lot of good receivers,” strength and conditioning coach Malcolm Blacken said in his office the other day. “And for where he is with his age, and in his life, he’s in a good spot. I expect huge things from him this fall. Anything short of that will be disappointing. He’s on the road going north with his blinders on; he ain’t looking to the side and he ain’t looking to the back. He’s only looking at what’s in front of him. I commend him for it.”
Richardson finished out the 2011 season with these numbers: 39 catches, 555 yards, five touchdowns. Remove the Cal game and these numbers remain: 28 catches, 271 yards, five TDs.
“Statistically it might have seemed like I disappeared or wasn’t contributing,” he said. “Our coaching staff knows what I was able to do and what I wasn’t able to do. They were trying to protect me . . . I understood. I didn’t want to make the (injury) situation worse than what it was.”
NEVERTHELESS, HE WENT INTO THE off-season dissatisfied and susceptible to transfer chatter that was stirring more outside the CU football environment than inside Richardson’s head. But he heard all the questions and tried to answer most of them, sometimes cavalierly.
“It was like after my freshman year,” he said. “You get a lot of negative attention and it makes you think about things. There were people asking you questions and already answering for you . . . then having you respond to the answer they gave you. It was overwhelming, very overwhelming. I wasn’t laughing it off like I did after my freshman year; getting those questions again, I wasn’t stable enough at the time to deal with it.”
Recurring questions peppered him about his future “from what was I going to do as far as my junior year (was concerned) and even about staying in college,” he said. “But I knew after I talked with coach (Jon) Embree a few times and after I had a deep conversation with coach (Eric) Bieniemy, my mind was made to stay here because this is where my heart is.
“The only attention I was getting was whether I was staying or leaving . . . not attention of your team is doing such and such, you’re doing such and such. It was like you’re doing nothing and your team isn’t being successful on the field – where does that leave you? I wasn’t ready or prepped for that.
“This is where I’ve been putting all my hard work in. Just because a program is struggling or if I’m struggling individually . . . I’m very sincere about this: I put this team before me. That has been my whole attitude since we got back from (semester) break. I had different things I needed to work out and I worked them out as a young man.”
Before Christmas break, Blacken, the director of CU’s speed, strength and conditioning program and an NFL veteran in that capacity, said he and Richardson “had a heart-to-heart,” with the upshot being that Richardson had the capability to lead players who “don’t want to be home for Christmas next year . . . if you went home and didn’t have a sour taste in your mouth, you don’t understand what we’re all about. I think he had that sour taste. I think he made a dedication to himself.”
Before spring drills began, his plan was to visit with every offensive coach and “find out what they want to see from me during the spring. It’s because I care that much. It’s been growth over the past few months that has gotten me to this point, to where I was able to go tell the coaches I’m all eyes and ears – and now I’m going to be all action. I’ve been that and more. I’m taking a lot of pride in doing the things that are expected of me and appreciating the things I do that aren’t expected.”
AFTER FEELING HE HAD UNDERPERFORMED last fall – for whatever reason – Richardson also wanted his teammates to see his transformation and believe in him.
“What are you left to do but make assumptions about another individual?” he said. “I didn’t want people to be feeling like I was selfish, I was a head case, I was not a humble person . . . I’m very humble, I’m very open to suggestions and trying to get better. Regardless of how anybody feels my attitude is, I’m always going to be the hardest worker – that’s just what I pride myself on. When I felt like people were losing a sense of that, that I wasn’t as hungry as I was before, it drove me to want to prove to them how much I’m into this.”
Richardson isn’t a physical monster; he stands 6-1 and weighs 177 pounds. Weight doesn’t go on easily, and he doesn’t want it to if it means losing a step. “Being 190 plus, being 200, and running a 4.6 is not going to cut the cake,” he said. “My coaches would rather me be at a weight I can control and be able to play at the speed I’m playing at.”
So how fast is he now?
“I’m way faster than last season . . . it’s almost scary how fast I am now,” he said.
So what was his top 40-yard dash time during winter work?
A wide grin, but no answer.
“I don’t want to say any times right now . . . I’d rather not,” he said. “But I’m confident. I’m definitely a lot faster than I was, and I’m hitting my top speed in fewer steps than I was. I’m really happy; I’ve been working hard.”
The Buffs embarked on their winter conditioning work with a new motto – “Do Work. All Day.” Embree, Kennedy, Blacken, et al, expect that slogan to run through spring drills, into August camp and throughout the 2012 season. Also, Richardson says he and his teammates are urged to work locally, think globally.
“Coaches have always made sure I understood there’s a world outside the state of Colorado and outside this football team,” he said. “They want to make sure I’m not just the best here, but I’m pushing to be the best nationally. I’ve taken a lot of pride in my workouts. My mindset is to be really, really, really strong when I’m working out. I compete with myself, try to outdo myself.”
Blacken doesn’t need to be convinced of that. Richardson has allowed the staff and his teammates a glimpse of a new maturity and a renewed conviction. Said Blacken: “I see what Jon sees . . . I think I’m seeing a young man grow up before my eyes. I think he understands what we want, what we expect of him and what it takes to get there. If you put those three things into play, the sky’s the limit for that kid.”
Football team inspired by the efforts of the basketball team
3/11 Post-Practice Quotes
Head coach Jon Embree:
On the efforts of the men’s basketball team – “I thought it was a great example of the heart of a buffalo. It was just all heart … I’m very happy for them, and am looking forward to watching them in the tournament.”
Can the win be cross-motivational for the football team? – “I think (CU athletic director) Mike (Bohn) does a good job of creating an environment where our athletes are with each other and around each other … I’m a big fan of our team being a big fan of other sports. They represent our University, as we do, and I want all of us to win.”
On the play of sophomore defensive back Greg Henderson – “He was okay as a freshman. He’s had two very good days so far. I think he has some confidence. He played well at the end of the year. I’m excited to see if he continues to make strides. If he continues to improve like he has these first two days, then we can start throwing superlatives around about him, but right now, he’s just a guy out there who has got to fight to keep his job.”
On Sherrard Harrington (who missed all of last season with a hip injury sustained last summer) – “Sherrard looks good. Fast, quick. Real good footwork. Doesn’t know which way he’s going all the time, but he looks good. Looking to see him out there running around for the first time is good. He gives us some good depth. He allows us to do some things with Parker (Orms), working him at free (safety). We’ll have to see what he can do when we put the pads on, but he’s shown some promise.”
March 11th – Congratulations to the CU men’s basketball team on winning the Pac-12 Conference tournament!!
First spring practice goes on with little fanfare
Who’da thunk it?
The University of Colorado, a football school, conducted its first spring practice of 2012 - and no one noticed.
Of course, part of the lack of news stems from the decision by head coach Jon Embree to close practices to the public, but still …
A tip of the CU at the Game hat to the University of Colorado men’s basketball team! First trip to the Big Dance since 2003. First conference title since 1969. First conference tournament championship – ever! (Conferences didn’t start playing conference tournaments until the 1980′s. The Buffs’ title in 1969 was a regular season championship. So, after going 0-fer the Big Eight and 0-fer the Big 12, the Buffs are 1-for-1 as a member of the Pac-12). Go Buffs!
Meanwhile, back on the practice fields …
Colorado conducted the first of 15 allotted practices on Saturday.
Saturday’s practice was one of three which will be conducted in shorts and helmets, with no tackling. Sunday’s practice will be similar.
Overall, teams are allowed to have four practices with pads and no tackling, four with pads and limited tackling (50% or less), and four practices with tackling throughout.
3/10 Post-Practice Quotes
Head coach Jon Embree:
On the first practice: “It went good. It helped having everyone know the system, the routine … Too many drops, mostly it was just nerves. They’re trying to impress and all that.”
On the emphases for spring: “Due to our numbers, it’s mostly about teaching … From a defensive standpoint, we’re going to work on pattern reading, do stuff with the zone reading and the option game. Up front, guys using proper technique with their hands, proper footwork … On the offensive side, getting better with our routes, helping the quarterbacks go through their progressions.
On quarterbacks: “The majority of the snaps went to Connor (Wood), and Schrock and Stevie Joe (Dorman) did a little bit.”
On finding a second wide receiver to compliment Paul Richardson: “(Nelson) Spruce. He had a good day today. 87 (Tyler MuCulloch) flashed a little bit. And then Keenan Canty. Those guys have to have a good spring … Dustin Ebner did some good stuff at the end of the year, we have a good idea of what he is capable of.”
Sophomore wide receiver Paul Richardson – “It feels really good. I’m happy to be back on grass. Finally getting to put some cleats back on and run around on the grass, it feels good … I’m working on my speed a lot, just trying to get my knee back healthy … The relationships we have built with the coaches is really good. We have really good chemistry now … Everthing was so rough last year (during the spring). We were trying to get used to it, even the coaches were trying to get used to it. Now it’s working fine … Connor Wood has stepped up a lot since he’s been here, since Day One. Working with the scout team, he made sure his voice was heard, and it’s carrying over through the winter conditioning until now … My number one focus? Helping my team win.” … Richardson also told the Daily Camera, “I did a lot of growing (this off-season). My maturity level has increased a great deal over the past few months. That was my attitude coming back from break. I told the coaches, coming back I’m all eyes and ears and action. That’s what I’ve been doing. Everything they’ve asked me to do, I’ve been taking care of it, being a good leader vocally as well as by example. I’m just striving to be the best I can in every category.”
Sophomore defensive back Jered Bell (limited this spring due to a knee injury) – “The first day was all right. It feels a lot different running on grass than it does running on turf (in the CU indoor practice facility). I’m just going to take it slow and easy until I get used to it. Over the winter I just worked on strengthening my knee, my quads, my hamstrings … It feels like we have a better bond than last year. You know what the coaches expect, what to do and how to do it, so things are going a lot smoother this time around.”
Spring Practice Priorities
In a Daily Camera article, five priorites for Colorado’s spring practices have been laid out.
Here is what is being said by Buff head coach Jon Embree … and what he really means.
1. Who will be the starting quarterback?
With Nick Hirschman out with another foot surgery, Texas transfer Connor Wood is the frontrunner as a third-year sophomore. Redshirt freshmen John Schrock and Stevie Joe Dorman will get a lot of valuable reps thanks to Hirschman’s injury this spring, with true freshman Shane Dillon joining the fray along with Hirschman come August.
What Jon Embree is saying: “I don’t have any preconceived notions at that position. I know none of the coaches do either, which is the beauty of it being in this situation. I’m excited to see them compete. Nick is very competitive and this is important to him; he’s been in the system for a while. They (Hirschman and Wood) are both pretty similar in where they’re starting from.”
What Jon Embree really means: “I hope that Connor Wood is so good that the players all come out of practice saying that Wood is their starting quarterback. We can’t afford to have this be a three or four man competition in August.”
2. Who are the best five offensive linemen?
While Colorado has three returning starters along the offensive line, there is very little which is certain as spring practice opens. The only sure thing seems to be junior David Bakhtiari, but whether he plays his left tackle spot or moves inside to guard remains to be seen. Sophomore Alex Lewis could be good enough to push Bakhtiari inside. Gus Handler had a firm grip on the starting center job in the second half of last season. He should keep it, but you never know. Jack Harris returns from injury at right tackle. Ryan Dannewitz could be limited by back problems.
What Jon Embree is saying: Coach Jon Embree said he wants to get the best five in the group on the field together.
What Jon Embree really means: I lost my starting quarterback, my starting running back, and all but one of my best wide receivers. The offensive line has to get its act together now, so we have a starting lineup in place for August. If we are still shuffling linemen around in fall camp, CU may have to hold opponents to single digits in order to win games this fall.
3. Who will be the No. 2 and No. 3 wide receivers?
These 15 spring practices are big for players such as Tyler McCulloch, Keenan Canty, both of whom played last year, and Nelson Spruce and Jarrod Darden. Three strong freshmen will join the program this summer and challenge for playing time right away. Also to consider, can DaVaughn Thornton thrive here after moving from tight end last fall?
What Jon Embree is saying: In a meeting a week ago with beat writers, Embree said he “has no idea” who will line up opposite junior Paul Richardson next fall.
What Jon Embree really means: Embree has no idea who will line up opposite junior Paul Richardson next fall. No coachspeak will change the dire situation the Buffs face. Connor Wood could be a great quarterback, but if he has no receivers to throw to …
4. Can Nick Kasa take control of the tight end position?
Kasa didn’t play much on the defensive line in the first three years of his career and he dealt with some injuries that hampered him as well. He decided last fall to make the switch to tight end where there is little depth returning this year. Kasa played against Utah and caught a pass. How good can he be having never played the position, and will he be able to hold off three freshmen in the fall?
What Jon Embree is saying: Coaches have liked what they have seen from Kasa in winter workouts.
What Jon Embree really means: Nick Kasa is one of the highest rated recruits for Colorado in years. Yet, in a defensive line so thin that the Buffs will not be able to conduct a Spring Game, Kasa was not able to have an impact. Here’s hoping that Kasa’s senior year will remind everyone how great an athlete he was considered to be three years ago.
5. What, if anything, will we know about the defensive line by mid-April?
This just in: There isn’t much depth on the defensive line. Nate Bonsu is out again with an injury and Cordary Allen has moved from tight end to defensive end. The remaining veterans won’t be exposed to too much contact work in order to minimize the chance of injury. If you’re a defensive lineman on the roster this spring and you haven’t played much in the past, it’s time to make your move before that big class of reinforcements arrives this summer.
What Jon Embree is saying: Embree said he would be paying close attention to the personal development of Will Pericak, Chidera Uzo-Diribe and Juda Parker this spring.
What Jon Embree really means: Colorado has zero chance at a winning record if true freshmen, arriving in August, are forced to start in early September. Embree won’t be watching Pericak, Uzo-Diribe, and Parker this spring … perhaps because he is afraid that if he watches them, they might get injured. There is no other unit as fragile as the Colorado defensive line.