Posted by Bryan Fischer
College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice. So we here at the Eye on College Football will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers. Today, we look at Colorado, who opens spring camp today.
Spring practice question: How will the Buffs look under new coach Jon Embree?
The short answer is they won't look anything like the team that went 19-39 under Dan Hawkins. The long answer depends on how quickly the team can adapt to a new head coach and a new conference, neither of which should be an easy transition.
Embree, a former Colorado player and assistant, has already started to leave his mark on the program. One of the first things he did after wrapping up his first recruiting class was announce that several traditions would be returning to a school with a rich history full of them.
"There's been a lot of great traditions around here that have been swept under the rug and they're coming back," he said in a rousing speech at Colorado's recruiting luncheon after signing day. "And it starts with Hawaii."
While the first game is a few months away, the goal is clear for a program that was known mostly for failing to live up to the high expectations of Hawkins. There's several on-field adjustments Embree has already started to implement, starting with installing a west coast offense. Offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy will have a few tools to work with, including returning starter Tyler Hansen and transfer Brent Burnett at quarterback. Also returning is senior tailback Rodney Stewart, who is coming off his best season in three years as a starter, and several promising young backups.
The offensive line will also look different this spring but not too much. Stud left tackle Nate Solder departs to the NFL (though maybe not to the Denver Broncos based on this video). Center Mike Iltis will also miss the spring while he recovers from a torn ACL but there will be three other returning starters to help show the new guys how things are done.
Defensively is where Embree faces the most challenges. The Buffs gave up 30 points per game and were 110th in the nation in pass defense despite having possible first round draft pick Jimmy Smith starting at corner. Also gone is senior corner Jalil Brown and two players in the mix to start in the secondary are out for spring ball with injuries with the rest of the players in contention having little or no playing experience. Defensive tackles Curtis Cunningham and Will Pericak will return once again but the trick will be figuring who plays linebacker behind them with the departure of leading tackler Mike Sipili. Luckily the team won't have to learn too much scheme-wise this spring with the return of former secondary coach Greg Brown as defensive coordinator.
"We`re evolving right now," Brown told the Boulder Daily Camera. "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 let alone trying to out-scheme somebody."
Either way you slice though, change is in the thin atmosphere of Boulder. A new conference, a new staff and several new players are going to get their first glimpse of Colorado this spring.
Most hope the new look is a lot better on the field than before. If anything, it sure is different.