Jon Embree – Head Coach

Stuart WhitehairAnalyst IMarch 18, 2017

December 5th

“Rough Agreement in Place”

The news got out on Thursday that Jon Embree would be named the 24th head coach in Colorado football history. While no official announcement will be made until Monday, December 6th, there appears little to stand in the way of a formal introduction of the first black head coach in CU history. Athletic director Mike Bohn spent a good deal of time on Saturday meeting with Embree in New York City, where Embree’s Washington Redskins are preparing to meet the New York Giants on Sunday. Several issues remain to be determined, not the least of which is the naming of Embree’s coaching staff, but the consensus is that there is at least “a rough agreement” in place.

UPDATE: The Denver Post is reporting that Embree will receive a five-year contract, but will not receiving as much as Dan Hawkins was to receive (which was $2.8 million over the next two seasons). “He didn’t get as much base,” said agent Jack Mills, who is based in Boulder. “He wasn’t quite in that position. Maybe if he wins the Pac-12, he’ll get more money.”

At least one member of the coaching staff has been confirmed. Even before it is official that Embree will be head coach, it has been confirmed that fellow head coaching candidate Eric Bieniemy will join Embree’s staff as the offensive coordinator. There was speculation that Bieniemy would not want the job as coordinator, and would not come to Boulder unless he was to be named the head coach. That fear was allayed Saturday when Bieniemy texted, “Be there soon!”. “Soon”, however, will mean the end of the season for the Minnesota Vikings, where Bieniemy is the assistant head coach and running backs coach. “I will finish the job,” Bieniemy told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “I owe that to our team and the entire organization.” Minnesota, at 4-7 a year after playing in the NFC championship game, appears likely to finish out of the playoffs in 2010. This would mean that Bieniemy would remain with the Vikings until after their season finale, a January 2nd road game at Detroit.

As for the rest of the coaching staff …

Defensive Coordinator … The second most important hire for Jon Embree.

The speculation here is that Greg Brown, the longtime assistant coach at Colorado, and presently the defensive coordinator at Arizona, will return to Boulder. Brown, 53, is the son of radio personality (and former CU baseball coach) Irv Brown, and attended Arvada High in Denver. Brown played for UTEP, and took his first coaching job there in 1981. From 1983-86, Brown coached in the professional ranks, first for the Denver Gold of the USFL, then for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. From 1987-93, Brown returned to the collegiate ranks, with stops at Wyoming and Purdue before landing in Boulder for the first time in 1991. While the secondary coach for the Buffs, Brown coached Jim Thorpe Award winners Deon Figures (1992) and Chris Hudson (1994). Colorado led the nation in pass completion defense in 1992.

From 1994 to 2005, Brown was a coach in the NFL. Most often he was the secondary coach, with stops in Atlanta, San Diego, Tennessee, San Francisco, finally landing in New Orleans. In his final season with the Saints, in 2005, New Orleans ranked third in the NFL in pass defense. In 2006, Brown re-joined the Colorado coaching staff as the defensive backs coordinator under Dan Hawkins.

In January, 2010, Brown left the Buffs to become the co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach for Arizona. This past season, the Wildcats were ranked 44th in the nation in pass defense, 37th in total defense, and 33rd in scoring defense. (Colorado’s numbers in those categories in 2010 were, respectively, 110th; 82nd; and 90th).

Linebackers coach

The reason that this staff position is so prominent  as the job currently belongs to Brian Cabral. The 22-year position coach was the interim head coach for the Buffs after Dan Hawkins was fired, leading Colorado to a 2-1 record. Cabral was a candidate for the head coaching vacancy, and was interviewed by the search committee last week.

Cabral, according to the Denver Post, has committed to returning to Colorado as the linebackers coach unless he is offered a head coaching position elsewhere. It has been widely reported that Cabral has had discussions with Northern Colorado of the Big Sky conference, though the talks have been reported as being anywhere from “preliminary discussions” to an interview for the job.

No one would blame Cabral if he took the chance to become a head coach, but his presence along the Colorado sidelines would be sorely missed.

Quarterbacks coach

This will be an important call for the Buffs’ new head coach. Record-setter Cody Hawkins is graduating, leaving only Tyler Hansen – who will be a senior in 2011 – and red-shirt freshman to be Nick Hirschman on the roster. The new coach will have to be not only a good coach, but a great recruiter as well. Currently, Colorado has two quarterbacks committed as part of the 2011 class, Brock Berglund of Valor Christian (who led his team to the state 4-A title this past weekend), and Nick Sherry, of Petaluma, California. Whether these commits will stay with the Buffs (Both indicated that Dan Hawkins was fired that they still intended to come to Boulder), and whether these players will fit into the new Buffs’ (presumably west coast) offense.

One candidate whose name appears most often for the position of quarterbacks coach is that of Bobby Kennedy, currently the wide receivers coach and assistant recruiting coordinator for the Texas Longhorns. A Boulder native, Kennedy attended Northern Colorado, graduating in 1989. After serving as a graduate assistant at Penn State and Illinois, Kennedy worked as the wide receivers coach at Wyoming (1993-94) and Wake Forest (1995-98). For three seasons, Kennedy coached running backs (first at Wake Forest, then at Arizona), before returning to coach wide receivers at Washington (2002-03).

Since 2004, Kennedy has served as the wide receivers coach at Texas, and has also taken on the role of assistant recruiting coordinator. While there is nothing on the Kennedy resume about coaching quarterbacks, he could also be considered for coaching wide receivers or running backs. His recruiting background is also intriguing. Texas, of course, annually hauls in one of the nation’s top recruiting classes. But the Longhorns also have the philosophy of getting verbal commitments from much of its class early on (Texas had most of its class of 2011 commit last February, the week after the Class of 2010 formally signed to play for the Longhorns. Compared to Dan Hawkins’ “let the kid play out the season, then talk to him in December” philosophy, Kennedy’s experience in recruiting at the highest level would be a welcome change of pace.

Present coaches being considered …

Which amongst those presently on the staff at Colorado will be retained? Let’s look at the roster:

Eric Kiesau – Offensive Coordinator – The only assistant coach with a guaranteed contract, Kiesau would have to be paid $220,000.00 to leave. However, Kiesau’s contract does not guarantee that he will remain as the offensive coordinator. He could be retained as the wide receivers coach … or given a check to leave.

Ashley Ambrose – Secondary coach – While not a former Buff, Ambrose does have the respect of his players, and has an NFL background which recruits will admire. One recruit, Michigan transfer Vladimir Emilien, a top 15 safety prospect from the Class of 2009, said he would transfer as long as Ambrose remained on the staff.

Darian Hagan – Running backs coach – One of the more intriguing coaching question marks. Hagan certainly “bleeds Black and Gold”, has a good recruiting history, and would seemingly be a good fit. However, there has been no indication to date that he has been asked to stay on with the new coaching staff.

Two other coaches, Robert Prince (wide receivers) and Romeo Bandison (defensive line) may also be retained in some capacity.

Present coaches not likely to be asked to stay on …

Most likely to be looking for a new position next week are Ron Collins (Defensive Coordinator), Denver Johnson (Offensive Line), and Kent Riddle (Special Teams / Tight Ends). There has been little speculation about any of these three coaches being asked to stay on as coaches under Jon Embree.

Former Buffs who may be in line for coaching positions …

With the “Former Buff” Renaissance in full swing, it is not surprising that there are a number of former Buffs who may be joining the coaching staff at Colorado …

Kanavis McGhee – Currently the linebackers coach at Gannon University in Pennsylvania, McGhee coached defensive line for the Amsterdam Admirals in NFL Europe.

Greg Biekert – Currently an assistant defensive coach for the Oakland Raiders of the NFL.

Other names being mentioned …

Steve Marshall – Currently the offensive line coach at Cal, Marshall was the offensive line coach for Colorado in 2000 and 2001, which, of course, included the 2001 Big 12 championship team and the six-touchdown effort by Chris Brown in the 62-36 victory over Nebraska.

Walt Harris – Currently the offensive coordinator at California University in Pennsylvania, Harris was formerly the head coach at Pittsburgh (1997-2004) and Stanford (2005-06).

Mike Tuiasosopo – Currently the defensive line coach at Arizona. Tuiasosopo has been a defensive line coach for the past 15 years, with stops at Utah State (1996-99), Nevada (2000-02), Utah (2003) and Arizona (2004- present). Tuiasosopo may be a good candidate for defensive line coach if Greg Brown comes back from Arizona to become the Colorado defensive coordinator.

More on assistant coaches as their names and positions become known. It is anticipated that Jon Embree will be able to name most of his staff when he is introduced as the new head coach on Monday …