Colorado Opens Jon Embree Era With Afternoon Practice
“I am going to have to get some throat lozenges,” Jon Embree joked after his first practice as the 24th head coach in Colorado football history.
“I have to be me”, said Embree of his raising his voice on a number of occasions during the shorts-and-helmets opening practice. “I am very demanding. I am going to be on them. There is a standard, and either you do or you don’t. And we can’t bend or compromise it.”
Embree’s no-nonsense approach hasn’t been lost on the players, with one player describing it as “a lot more professional.”
It is the intent of the coaches to install the basics of a West Coast offense this spring, but not cloud the players’ minds with too much information. Rather, the coaches want to see which players have the physical skill to run the playbook and the heart to help bring back a winning tradition to the program. “It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be intense,” said senior quarterback Tyler Hansen. “It’s going to be hard work, a lot different than it was.”
Hansen, for one, likes the look of the new offense. “I like it a lot,” said Hansen. “I don’t have to run the ball as much, take as many hits and we’re getting the ball off on time. Stuff like that. It’s good stuff.”
On defense, many eyes will be trained upon the secondary, where the Buffs have lost two corner backs, Jimmy Smith and Jalil Brown, to the NFL. “The big issue is we’re going to have to replace two proven play makers in Jimmy Smith and Jalil Brown,” said defensive coordinator and secondary coach Greg Brown. “Behind that, there weren’t a lot of guys who stepped in at that corner spot for the last two or three years because of the play of those two guys. So corner is a large unknown right now, and it probably will still be an unknown going all the way into the fall.”
The defensive playbook will also be vanilla this spring as the coaches evaluate talent. “We’re evolving right now,” said Brown. “There is no way of knowing where the thing is going to end up. Our focus right now is on spring ball and just trying to line up and play it straight and see if we can win some one-on-one battles.”
There were four players who were already known to be “OUT” for spring practice due to off-season surgery—tight end Matt Bahr, offensive lineman Blake Behrens, center Mike Iltis and offensive lineman Max Tuioti-Mariner. Joining that list now are four players who were previously listed as “TBD”. Out for the spring are defensive back Anthony Perkins, defensive back Parker Orms, offensive lineman Shawn Daniels and defensive end Chidera Uzo-Diribe.
With center Mike Iltis out, three players will see time at that position this spring—sophomore Gus Handler, red-shirt freshman Daniel Munyer and red-shirt freshman Kaiwi Crabb.
Senior guard Ryan Miller, rumored to be moving to left tackle to replace the departed Nate Solder, isn’t going anywhere. Miller will remain at guard.
As it turns out, there will be more competition at quarterback. With a lack of depth in the secondary, it was thought that red-shirt freshman Josh Moten would be asked to concentrate on learning the defense. Moten will, however, be given a tryout at quarterback, as will red-shirt freshman tight end Harold Mobley. Both Moten and Mobley played quarterback in high school, and Moten believed that he was to be given a chance at quarterback by Dan Hawkins, but that did not work out.
Perhaps in return for Moten, the quarterbacks are sending Justin Gorman, a walk-on red-shirt freshman, over to the secondary (interestingly enough, in his post-practice comments, Jon Embree was surprised to learn that Gorman was listed as a quarterback on the depth chart. Embree had been under the impression that Gorman had always been a defensive back).
Junior Eric Richter, listed on the depth chart as an offensive lineman, will be moving to the defensive line.
Red-shirt freshman Deji Olatoye, who practiced at safety last fall, will be tried out as a cornerback this spring.
The Buffs have a new walk-on kicker. His name is Jacob Frost (no further information currently available).
Overall view of first practice: “I think the guys are starting to understand a little bit about what’s expected. They had a pretty good grasp of what we’re asking them to do. They know what to do. They weren’t great in the details.”
On coaching college players instead of NFL players, and not being too hard on the team—
“Skill has nothing to do with effort”.
On bringing a fullback into the offense. “The fullback is very important. We want to run the football. Having a fullback will allow you to mess with the defensive spacing.” (Embree also mentioned that Tyler Ahles and Evan Harrington, both former linebackers, volunteered to make the move to fullback).