Buffs confident with move to Pac-12
BOULDER, Colo. — The University of Colorado Buffaloes have switched leagues, own one of the toughest schedules in the country and have a slew of new schools and stadiums to learn.
New coach Jon Embree, who returned to his alma mater to replace Dan Hawkins, figures the Buffs might just be the ones with the upper hand as they join the Pac-12 and leave the Big 12 behind.
He's eager for schools such as USC and Arizona to visit Folsum Field in November and see what it's like to play in the Rocky Mountains.
And he said that while his coaching staff needs to learn a lot of new programs, Colorado's opponents will be facing a bigger mystery in a Buffaloes program that sports new coaches and concepts.
"Well, let me ask you this question, don't they have to watch us?" Embree said. "They don't know anything about us. If anything, we probably have an advantage because they don't know what we're doing.
"We can watch tape on Stanford and know what they're doing. David Shaw's still there. We can watch tape on Washington and know what they're doing. So, I think it's an advantage for us. We're the unknown in a good way. Because we know what they're going to do."
Still, while each of those teams has to prepare for one new opponent, the Buffs will be doing so every week.
"Yes and no. It's still football, right?" Embree said. "A 4-3 is still a 4-3. A 3-4 is a 3-4 defense. If they're a pro-style offense, our defense goes against it all camp, all spring. The thing that you get in this league is a lot of diversity, so week in and week out, you're going to see some different things on both sides of the ball. But at the same time, a cover-2 is going to be cover-2.
"So, I'm not worried about going into this new league from a scheme standpoint. It would be different if everyone in the league ran the wishbone."
Embree has been busy re-establishing relationships, reconnecting with former Buffs and restoring traditions at his alma mater since being hired last December. Relations had been strained during the final years of Hawkins' regime.
Embree has an open invitation for former players to attend practice and talk to players.
Another change he thought was important was putting his players in a hotel during fall camp for some bonding. He mixed and matched them, putting young men who didn't know each other in the same room to build chemistry "because the only way we're going to win is if we're the better team on that day."
The Buffs have some question marks on defense, with a secondary just taking shape — sophomore DB Jered Bell is out for the season after injuring his knee Saturday — and a linebacking corps that's been juggled to fill holes at fullback.
"I laugh sometimes when people throw out these defensive statistics. Well, if you're on the field all the time, you're not going to be a good defense," Embree said. "... We have to be able to run the ball. We have to be able to control the clock. We've got to be able to wear people down."