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JON EMBREE WAS ANNOUNCED AS THE 24TH COACH OF THE BUFFALOES on a crisp autumn day last Dec. 6 in a press conference at Folsom Field, with the beautiful Flatirons formations in the background. But hours before the media circus and the handshakes with school officials in front of the cameras, Embree met privately with his new players.
"This is going to be very hard, what we're about to do, but it will be worth it," he told them. "When you accomplish something in your life—or any success you have—when you look back on it, it probably wasn't easy."
Resuscitating this once-proud Buffaloes program will not be easy. In the last five seasons with Dan Hawkins as coach, Colorado went 19--39. The Buffaloes were 5--25 away from Folsom Field. Interest in the program waned. Something had to change.
And something did. The embattled Hawkins is out, and Embree—a tight end for Colorado from 1983 through '86 who was plucked from the Redskins—is in to bring the Buffs back from the depths of irrelevance.
Winning may not happen right away, but with 12 starters returning, Colorado could surprise doubters. Despite losing cornerbacks Jalil Brown and Jimmy Smith to the NFL, the defense has enough talent to keep the Buffaloes in most games. Free safety Ray Polk will be one of the top athletes on the field at all times, and tough linebacker Jon Major will likely be among the best at his position in the conference.
On offense quarterback Tyler Hansen is finally the full-time starter (after three seasons going back and forth with Cody Hawkins) and will be throwing to wideouts Toney Clemons and Paul Richardson, who are dangerous against man coverage. The running game needs improvement, and that might be difficult with the offensive line losing two starters, including Outland Trophy finalist Nate Solder. New offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy—who came from the Vikings, for whom he was running backs coach—has his work cut out for him in his first season ever as an offensive coordinator.
With the arrival of the 45-year-old Embree, who was an assistant at Colorado and UCLA as well as with the Chiefs and the Redskins, there are high hopes in Boulder for the first time in a long while.
COACH Jon Embree (1st year)