This is Jon Embree's happy face. You should see him when he's mad. Or when he's in the same room as Dan Hawkins. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Today begins a culling of the Gekko File in preparation for the Pac 12 season before us. There is a lot of offseason left to endure, so these will come out at my leisure. Fear not, as they will contain all the lack of wit and originality that you've come to expect from the Gekko File.
We start with the Pac 12 South and coverage of our predicted cellar dwellar: The Colorado Buffaloes. The sophomore Pac 12 season of the Buffaloes comes at a point of evolution for this once proud program. The Buffaloes are in year #2 of a significant rebuilding process under the tutelage of first time head-coach Jon Embree. Sound familiar?
The Gekko File on projected #6 finisher in the Pac 12 South, the Colorado Buffaloes, after the jump.
Ah, what a premier the Buffs had in the Pac 12. No? Under first year head coach, Jon Embree, few people expected the Buffs to be competitive despite the presence of an experienced and reliable QB, a dynamite spark plug of a RB, a play-maker at WR and a pretty decent offensive line highlighted by the LT and C. Those few people were certainly not disappointed. Colorado finished the season with a paltry 3-10 record and recorded some particularly memorable losses. For example, they got whipped by Hawaii in game #1. They played the role of the Crimson and Coug'd it in their loss to WSU. They managed to put up two points in their loss to Oregon (which, I believe, is statistically more difficult to do than to get shut out). They also managed to provide Rick Neuheisel his last victory as a college football coach which, as you know, is the living definition of "irony". Their offense, burdened by a severely under-performing o-line, was the worst in the Pac 12. Statistically, not figuratively. Although, I guess, figuratively fits. Not unlike any female who has ever dated Mike Tyson, or Chris Brown, QB Tyler Hansen was walking punching bag who put up pretty respectable numbers all things considered. The Buff D was not much of a counterbalance finishing tenth in the conference in total Defense (just ahead of a certain Nick Holt led unit).
It wasn't all gloom for the Buffs in 2011. First and foremost, Jon Embree and his staff did have the desired effect - they brought passion, energy and commitment back to the culture of a team that was simply drifting. They also managed to put up a couple of important wins: they beat their rival (Colorado St), they whipped Arizona, and they went out on a high note by upsetting their "rival" Utah in the last game of the season. Rodney Stewart was absolutely their best overall player with over 1600 yards from scrimmage and becoming only one of four players in the nation to rush and catch for over 500 yards in each category. Finally, you can't help but to look at the recruiting class that Jon Embree put together and not see what the hope of Buff fans is for the future. There are at least eight defensive lineman coming out of that class alone as the Buffs begin the process of developing their reputation around size and toughness.
2011 Rewind: Colorado @ UW
UW racked up over 560 yards of Total Offense and convered 80% of their third downs en route to their biggest victory of the 2011 season in defeating the Buffs 52-24. Keith Price threw four TD passes in the first half alone as the Huskies went into cruise control in the second half in registering the easiest win that they've had since the Slick Rick era. This game featured several UW highlights worth remembering including the first ever rushing TDs for Kevin Smith, Jessie Callier and Bishop Sankey. This game also held some brutal lowlights for the Buffs including injuries to key players like Rodney Stewart and Doug Rippy. On the plus side, returning RB Tony Jones had one of his best games of the year rushing for 49 yards and scoring both Buff TDs.
Aristotle once wrote: "Youth is easily deceived because it is quick to hope". Hello Colorado Buffaloes. Despite a lot of positive vibes coming out of their Spring camp, the Buffs don't have the odds in their favor going into 2012. The Buffs return just 10 starters (only four on offense) and go into the season prepared to put somewhere between 18 and 20 true freshmen into playing roles, including in key positions in the offensive backfield and the defensive line. They are busy breaking in a new QB which features a competition between one-time Texas blue-chip Connor Wood, currently injured Nick Hirschman and incoming true frosh Shane Dillon. Apparently, Jon Embree is so unimpressed with his options for 2012, he's gone out and added Kansas graduate Jordan Webb to enhance the competition. Whomever emerges will have the luxury of playing with an unproven tailback, presumably returnee Tony Jones, and with a receiving crew that is missing all their key playmakers from last season which included two people lost to graduation (Logan Gray, Toney Clemons) and one lost to a season-ending injury in the spring (play-maker Paul Richardson).
Colorado does boast some reasons for optimism. The beleaguered O-Line from last season returns some experience including their Jr C Gus Handler (perfect name for a center). They also have a pretty decent linebacking corps if Doug Rippy comes back from the brutal injury that he suffered against the Huskies last season. There is also some reason for hope on the D-Line as breakout DE candidate Chidera Uso-Diribe (6-3, 255) returns to wreak havoc in the Buffs hybrid defensive scheme. One other player that I'd keep my eye on is Jr S Ray Polk. He's a big man who likes to lay lumber in the defensive backfield. He is coming back from a significant wrist injury. If he recovers well, he could be a factor in turning the tide of a game or two this season.
The Buffs and Huskies share one notable commonality in our collective history: Newly hired Pac 12 Network personality Rick Neuheisel. That's the easy one. What you may not realize is that Jon Embree has been scoring some pretty decent recruiting victories on the Huskies over the last two seasons. Of particular note is OL Stephan Nembot and, recently, the verbal commitment of Washington state QB prospect Sefo Liufau (Bellarmine Prep).
- The Buffs only had two players drafted in the in NFL draft: WR Toney Clemons (7th Rd, Pittsburgh) and OL Ryan Miller (5th Rd, Cleveland). QB Tyler Hansen and RB Rodney Stewart both went undrafted but were signed as UDFAs by Cincinnati.
- Projected starting tailback, Tony Jones, is another mighty-mite: he is generously listed at 5-7, 180 lbs.
- S Ray Polk is a watchlist member for the 2012 Ronnie Lott Impact Trophy
- The Buffs signed a class of 28 recruits in February - the most that they've signed since 1978.
- Colorado took a chance on a very talented recruit, DB Yuri Wright, in this last recruiting class. Wright was being recruited by some big time programs, including Michigan, before this series of sexually explicit and hateful tweets emerged. This young man has lots of talent and a guy like Jon Embree may be exactly what he needs to help him in the maturation process. As a father of daughters, though, I'd want absolutely nothing to do with him.
- AD Mike Bohn has announced that Colorado will leverage all their new found Pac 12 wealth and begin planning for a significant refurbishment of Folsom Field. The arms war in the Pac 12 continues
I'm going to go with the preponderance of opinion among the journalists covering CFB and predict a four win season for the Buffs. Their first three games (vs Col St, vs Sac St, @ Fresno St) look pretty winnable, even for a young team (although, don't sleep on Sac St ... right, Oregon State?) Their first test is their Pac 12 opener @ WSU - a game that should be interesting on a lot of levels. I expect that the Buffs will lose that game but find the first, and only, Pac 12 win of the season the next week at home against UCLA. As far as scheduling misses go, Oregon State and Cal are not on the docket for CU this season.
The Huskies and Buffs meet at Colorado towards the end of the season on Nov 17. Although this is a road game for the Dawgs, they figure to get a pretty beat up football team who will be at a point of the season where they figure to be relying heavily on true freshman. The Huskies will no doubt be close to locking up bowl eligibility at this point and I'm betting that they will come out sharp as they try to either sustain or establish some momentum. Look for the Huskies to win big.