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IT'S BEEN A DECADE SINCE THE BUFFS MATTERED ON COLLEGE football's national landscape, a fact that second-year coach Jon Embree has no problem citing, and a trend he is determined to put an end to. "That's our goal this season," Embree says. "Let's take another step in being relevant again."
An uphill climb, but by no means impossible. Colorado's first six opponents this fall all finished 2011 with losing records, a combined 27--48, which should help ease this young Buffaloes squad into its second year in the daunting Pac-12.
Scoring points, however, will be a struggle. Colorado has lost the players who generated 80% of its yards gained last season, including star wideout Paul Richardson, whose left ACL tear on April 9 has left the Buffs painfully thin at receiver. The quarterback duties could fall to Texas transfer Connor Wood over Nick Hirschman, a sophomore who made 35 passing attempts in five games last year and is now rebounding from a broken right foot sustained, according to a CU release, "while walking and apparently misstepping." The position could be in flux all season, and even freshman Shane Dillon (6' 6", 190 pounds) could see time under center before 2012 is over. Help will come from the O-line—David Bakhtiari, Ryan Dannewitz and center Gus Handler are returning and should certainly improve upon their 31 sacks (tied for 89th in the country) and 216 sack yards allowed (11th in the conference) last season.
If the Buffs are to have any chance of reaching their first bowl game since 2007, the defense will have to keep them in more games. Last year Colorado was outscored 311--97 in seven Pac-12 losses, surrendering 31 points or more each time. Middle linebacker Douglas Rippy is the 2012 unit's shining star, while CU's incoming recruiting class includes two top-rated corners, Yuri Wright (No. 7) and Kenneth Crawley (No. 22), who arrived in Boulder this summer to join sophomore Greg Henderson, who started 12 games last season. Embree knows his young Buffs will need time. "We're not going to have the best players this year," he says, "but we have to find a way to be the best team on that day." Success, if measured by wins, is more realistic for 2013.
COACH Jon Embree (2nd year) 3--10 (2--7 in Pac-12)
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR Eric Bieniemy
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR Greg Brown
2011 RECORD 3--10 (2--7, T-5 in Pac-12 South)