CU Buffs’ MacIntyre ought to look at Fassel for coordinator job

On Sunday, the last day the Colorado Buffaloes were without a head football coach, I spoke with a man I thought might have interest in the job.

Jim Fassel, fresh off a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, had just finished watching his son, John, help the St. Louis Rams eek out a win against the Buffalo Bills. John is the Rams’ special teams coordinator.

“I don’t miss a Rams game if I can avoid it,” he said, shortly before jumping off the phone to answer a call from John. “We talk every week before the game and after the game.”

Jim, a former Denver Broncos offensive coordinator, is hoping it won’t be long before the two talk after his own games.

Late last week, shortly after Butch Jones rejected CU’s $13.5 million offer, Fassel’s name was one of many mentioned as a possibility for the Buffs’ head coaching position. His name actually came up when the committee met to talk about potential candidates, and someone close to the search put Fassel and CU athletic director Mike Bohn in touch. They spoke very briefly and informally about the job, according to a source close to the search, but the talks never went further.

As I spoke with Fassel, he declined to comment on the CU job, neither confirming nor denying his interest in leading the Buffs. Instead, we talked mostly about his background and the competitive fire that still burns within.

“I love coaching,” he said. “That’s been my whole life and I’ve always enjoyed it.”

The next morning, it was confirmed that Mike MacIntyre of San Jose State would become CU’s next head coach.

Fassel never got a shot at the job, although that’s not a surprise. He didn’t fit the criteria Bohn made public. Bohn said all along he wanted a current college head coach. Since 2006, Fassel’s only coaching experience has come with the Las Vegas Locomotives of the United Football League (he did win two UFL titles, however) and he hasn’t worked on a college sideline since 1989.

While Fassel won’t be CU’s head coach, could he possibly be a good fit as CU’s offensive coordinator?

He’s certainly qualified.

From 1997-2003, he went 58-53-1 as the head coach of the New York Giants, leading them to Super Bowl XXXV and into the playoffs three times.

In 1995, he was one of two finalists for the Broncos’ head coaching position, losing out to Mike Shanahan. Two years ago, Broncos president John Elway publicly stated Fassel was a possible candidate for the head coach vacancy before later hiring John Fox.

Aside from that:

  • Fassel has eight years of experience as an NFL offensive coordinator, including the 1993 and 1994 seasons in Denver. Elway threw for a career-high 4,030 yards and had his first 25-TD season in 1993.
  • He worked as an assistant at Stanford from 1979-83 and played a key role in recruiting Elway to the Cardinal.
  • In his only college head coaching job, he went 25-33 in five seasons at Utah, from 1985-89. His defense struggled, but his offense at Utah was routinely a high-scoring unit. The most prolific passer in Utah history, Scott Mitchell, played three seasons under Fassel.

In addition to having the credentials to lead the CU offense, Fassel has strong ties to the state and a desire to live here again. He has five children and four of them — with the exception of John — live in Denver.

“Where I live is a deciding factor in coaching for me,” said Fassel, who currently lives just outside of Las Vegas.

As MacIntyre builds his coaching staff at Colorado, he’s sure to bring several members of the San Jose State staff to Boulder. Current Spartans offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren could be one of them. If not, it wouldn’t hurt to look at Fassel, who might welcome the opportunity.

“I’m too young to retire,” the 63-year-old Fassel said. “I’ve done well financially in coaching; that doesn’t matter. It’s where you live and an opportunity to win.”

Could that next opportunity come in Boulder?

The Buffs and MacIntyre could do a lot worse.

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Embree deserved more time with the CU Buffs

As I sat in the Dal Ward Center on Monday and listened to athletic director Mike Bohn talk about the downward trajectory of the football program, I kept thinking the same thing over and over.

“What did he expect?”

I get that the results on the field were downright awful at times under Jon Embree. Losing 70-14, 69-14 and 48-0 (among other ugly losses) was embarrassing. I get that the results probably led to the CU brand taking a hit nationally.

But again, I listened to this and thought, “What did he expect?”

When Embree was hired on Dec. 6, 2010, he came with a lot of hope and promise of better days. In reality, Embree was set up to fail.

Embree took over a program in disarray. The Buffs had grown used to losing under the previous regime, and it was a fractured locker room by the time Dan Hawkins was fired.

To expect any coach, even the great Nick Saban, to turn this thing around in two years would have been unfair.

In 2011, Embree had 28 seniors. He also played a lot of true freshmen because of injuries. That season was going to be rough anyway, with a new coaching staff coming into a losing program. But, by the end of the year, the Buffs seemed to be getting the hang of Embree’s offensive and defensive systems as they won two of their last three games.

Then 28 players graduated and left the program.

All of a sudden, Embree and his staff were starting over again. And, they had major gaps to fill. When seniors left, the Buffs didn’t have a lot of juniors ready to fill in. They had to rely on freshmen.

This season, the Buffs had just 8 seniors on the roster. Of those, just five were regular contributors. More so than a year ago, true freshmen were thrown to the wolves and inexperience was widespread. Consider:

1. CU’s top two leaders in all-purpose yards were preparing for Upland (Calif.) High School’s Southern Section semifinal game just one year ago today.

2. Two of CU’s top three rushers were true freshmen; the other was a sophomore.

3. The leading passer was a junior, but he didn’t arrive on campus until July. All the other quarterbacks on the roster had combined for one college start before this season.

4. The top three wide receivers were a redshirt freshman, true sophomore and true freshman.

5. The No. 1 tight end was a senior in his first full season on offense and the No. 2 tight end was a true freshman.

6. Of the 5 offensive linemen who played the most snaps, four of them had fewer than four career starts coming into the year. That included freshman Stephane Nembot, who was a defensive lineman a year ago. The group had never started together, and because of injuries didn’t get much chance to start together this year either.

7. For the second year in a row, a true freshman led the defense in total snaps.

8. Of the 19 players to get at least 225 defensive snaps, six were true freshmen and four were sophomores.

Considering all of that, it’s really not much of a surprise that CU experienced that downward trajectory that Bohn talked about.

Did Bohn honestly think CU would lose a senior QB, senior RB, senior WR and senior guard — all four of which signed NFL contracts — and most of the linemen from the offense, replace them with newcomers and see improvement?

CU’s defense was dreadful, but three of the six returning starters missed significant time with injuries. True freshmen combined for 2,656 defensive snaps (an average of 3.22 true freshmen on the field for every defensive play). True freshmen defensive backs played 1,595 snaps — a tough assignment in the pass-happy Pac-12.

It’s understandable that Bohn would be disappointed in the team’s struggles, especially on defense, but this was one of the youngest teams in the country and it’s a team filled with great potential.

Tailbacks Donta Abron and Christian Powell, tight end Vincent Hobbs and receivers Jeffery Thomas (who is set to arrive in January) and Gerald Thomas are all freshmen who could be big play-makers in the coming years.

If freshman quarterback Shane Dillon is as good as advertised, this could be a fun offense to watch in 2014, if not 2013. (Plus, all those linemen are back and star receiver Paul Richardson will return from injury.)

Defensively, Kenneth Crawley, Jeffrey Hall, Tyler Henington, Samson Kafovalu, Marques Mosley, Justin Solis, Josh Tupou and Yuri Wright all played significant amounts as true freshman. All were highly regarded out of high school and figure to improve. The on-the-job training (or torture) these guys went through could pay major dividends in a year or two.

Next year’s senior class includes several key players — tackle David Bakhtiari, center Gus Handler, defensive lineman Chidera Uzo-Diribe and linebacker Derrick Webb — who emerged as leaders this season.

Credit Embree for repairing the locker room. His players love him and many of them have talked about how much better they have become as individuals under the direction of this staff. Many of them will also say that the attitude in the program is better than it was two years ago.

Also credit Embree for setting up the next coach with a better situation than he inherited. Bohn may not have seen it, but the Colorado football program has good things in the works.

Yeah, CU football painted an ugly picture this year, but the real travesty is that Embree won’t be around to see the fruits of his labor.

 

 

 

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San Diego State success key for CU Buffs women’s team

The only problem with Colorado’s big women’s basketball win over San Diego State on Saturday night is that, by beating the Aztecs, CU knocked them off the Top-25 radar.

It was a big win for the Buffs — probably the biggest non-conference win in Linda Lappe’s three seasons as head coach — but it only remains a big win if the Aztecs win a bunch of games.

San Diego State came into the year as a borderline Top-25 team, receiving 48 votes for the preseason poll (ranking SDSU 31st). The Aztecs have slowly lost momentum since then, losing the opener to UCLA and gaining just 13 votes in the second poll. Last week, they got just one vote.

After Saturday’s loss to CU, SDSU isn’t likely to keep that vote.

Now, CU needs to see a long win streak by the Aztecs — starting Friday against Southern Cal. A win at Washington on Dec. 5 would be huge, too.

And, a Mountain West Conference title would go a long way to making CU look better.

Of course, CU has to play well, too, but it doesn’t hurt to get a little help along the way.

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Nick Hirschman. Jordan Webb. Connor Wood.

So far, the Colorado Buffaloes have used all three at quarterback this season. Webb has started nine games, but will be benched this week. Hirschman and Wood will battle for the job.

Through it all, the Buffs have gone 1-8 and have the 122nd-ranked offense in the country. And, CU head coach Jon Embree and his staff have been targets of heavy criticism.

Embree and his staff deserve some criticism. After all, in their 23 months on the job, they have yet to bring in a quarterback that has proven capable of competing at this level.

The quarterbacks brought in by this staff:

  • Brent Burnette: A transfer from Western Arizona, he spent the 2011 season on the roster, never played and left the team in the spring.
  • Shane Dillon: A true freshman who is redshirting this year. It’s too early to judge him, but some believe he could actually be the long-term answer.
  • Stevie Joe Dorman: Just a redshirt freshman, he has never factored into the conversation for the starting job or for any of the main backup jobs.
  • John Schrock: A redshirt freshman, he has shown some promise on the scout team, but, like Dorman, has never been a factor for the top three spots this season.
  • Jordan Webb: A redshirt junior transfer from Kansas, he joined the team over the summer and very quickly in camp earned the starting job. After a tough career at Kansas, he has had a rough year so far for the Buffaloes.
  • Connor Wood: A transfer from Texas, he came in last fall with a lot of hype, but has yet to live up to it. With Hirschman injured during the spring, Wood had no competition for the starting job and yet still couldn’t win the confidence of the staff.

So far, the Embree era has failed to solve the quarterback problem, but it’s really not Embree that is the root of the problem. This issue goes back to Dan Hawkins and the 2008 season (and 2009, for that matter).

In 2008, the 3-3 Buffaloes hosted Kansas State and trailed 6-0 in the first half. Hawkins benched his son, Cody, and decided to burn the redshirt year of Tyler Hansen. Hansen played in five games, starting two and the Buffs wound up 5-7.

Then, in 2009, Hawkins again planned to redshirt Hansen. And, he again changed his mind, this time five games in. The Buffs finished 3-9.

Most likely, the Buffs would not have been any better or worse had they stuck with Cody Hawkins in 2008 — or 2009. Had Dan Hawkins given Hansen a redshirt year, Hansen would still be a Buff.

Under the direction of Embree, offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and quarterbacks coach Rip Scherer, Hansen made great strides as a quarterback in 2011. He was nowhere near NFL caliber when Embree was hired in December 2010, but this staff put Hansen in a position to land a training camp spot with the Cincinnati Bengals this fall.

An experienced, proven leader like Hansen could have made a world of difference for the Buffs this year, while allowing Hirschman, Wood and Dillon to properly develop as backups. (Webb likely would not be at CU if Hansen was here).

Sure, it’s a big what-if. But, it’s hard not to imagine how much better off the Buffs would be today had Hansen been allowed to redshirt in 2008. Don’t think Embree and his coaches haven’t thought about that one.

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Lowering the rims? Lappe’s not a fan

Connecticut women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma is well known as one of the premier basketball coaches in the world, and, especially with Pat Summit now retired, he’s arguably the best coach in NCAA women’s basketball.

So, when Auriemma talks, people listen. Earlier this week, the seven-time national champion suggested that lowering the rim for the women’s game would make it more appealing to fans and increase the offensive production.

Let’s say the average men’s player is 6-5 and the average woman is 5-11,” Auriemma said to the Hartford Courant. “Let’s lower the rim seven inches; let’s say 7.2 inches to honor Title IX (instituted in 1972). If you lower it, the average fan likely wouldn’t even notice it.

“Now there would be fewer missed layups because the players are actually at the rim (when they shoot). Shooting percentages go up. There would be more tip-ins.”

Auriemma may have a point. Shooting accuracy is dramatically better in the men’s game. According to NCAA.com, there were 105 Division I men’s teams that shot 45 percent or better last season, and three that topped 50 percent. Just 11 women’s teams shot at least 45 percent, and none reached 50 percent (Baylor led the way at 48.8 percent).

The Colorado women ranked 134th, at 39.6 percent — a figure that would have ranked 315th among men’s teams. The Colorado men (44.6 percent, 119th) would have ranked 13th among women’s teams.

(It should be noted, however, that the numbers are more even at the free throw line. In the women’s game, 27 teams shot 75 percent and 132 shot 70 percent; in men’s, 23 teams shot 75 percent and 139 shot 70 percent.)

Following Tuesday’s practice, I asked CU head coach Linda Lappe what she thought of Auriemma’s comments.

“I don’t know if Geno actually believes that. I think Geno wants there to be some talk about how to grow our game and I think Geno seems like he’s somebody that likes to get people talking about something,” she said.

It worked.

“Our staff was talking about it at the beginning of practice,” Lappe said.

For the record, Lappe wouldn’t be in favor of lowering the rim. Auriemma brought up the fact that the net is lower in women’s volleyball to allow the players to have the same success pounding the ball as the men do. But, Lappe said it wouldn’t be that simple in basketball because the rim isn’t as easy to raise and lower.

“I’m not a fan of that at all, but I’m not sure he’s a fan of that,” Lappe said. “I think the point is, how can we grow our game? That’s the underlying theme that he was trying to get across. As long as people are continuing to be creative in how we’re going to grow our game, I think that’s the whole point.”

Auriemma also said he would suggest the shot clock be reduced from 30 seconds to 24, and possibly adding an 8-second backcourt rule.

“Those are some of the things you look at,” Lappe said.

While Lappe may not like the lowering of the rim, she and Auriemma certainly agree on one thing: “Basketball needs to continue to grow in fan support and every which way,” Lappe said. “I think there’s a lot of things that can happen.”

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Pac-12 recruiting picked up in 2012

I didn’t realize this until Colorado coach Linda Lappe mentioned it during Pac-12 media day on Monday, but six Pac-12 women’s basketball teams had their recruiting classes for 2012 ranked among the top 30 in the country.

For a conference that got just 2 teams into the 64-team NCAA Tournament last year, that’s a huge boost.

A conference breakdown of the top-30 classes, according to ESPN:
SEC: 8 teams
ACC: 6 teams
Pac-12: 6 teams
Big East: 5 teams
Big 12: 4 teams
Big 10: 1 team

Those numbers are a bit misleading, since the Pac-12 doesn’t have any team ranked in the top 10 (UCLA, at No. 12, tops the conference), and three of the six are among the bottom four in the rankings.
Still, the Pac-12 did a nice job in this past recruiting cycle. That includes Colorado, which had the 27th-ranked recruiting class. (The Buffs were not among the top 60 in 2011).

Click here for the ESPN rankings.

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Future of CU women’s basketball looking good

So far, Linda Lappe has signed two players to the 2013 recruiting class. So far, I like what she’s done.

In Haley Smith and Briana Watts, Lappe has added two players with great potential who figure to make the Buffaloes a better team during the 2013-14 season.

Lappe isn’t done. She would like to sign as many as five players in this class. Whether she gets that many remains to be seen, but there are sure to be one or two more players on the way.

Still, let’s take a quick look at what the Buffs could look like a year from now:

GUARD

Lexy Kresl (Jr. in 2013-14)

Jasmine Sborov (Jr.)

Ky Weston (So.)

Ashley Wilson (Sr.)

Brittany Wilson (Sr.)

FORWARD

Jen Reese (Jr.)

Arielle Roberson (So.)

Jamee Swan (So.)

WING

Lauren Huggins (So.)

Brenna Malcolm-Peck (Sr.)

Haley Smith (Fr.)

CENTER

Rachel Hargis (Sr.)

Briana Watts (Fr.)

 

I have to give Lappe and her staff credit. They’ve really increased the athleticism on this team during their short time in Boulder. This is a roster full of great athletes. It’s also a roster full of players with long wing spans who, if they learn how to defend at the college level, will be tough to tangle with. Knowing Lappe, these girls will learn to defend.

Offensively, I think the 2013-14 team will have the ability to score in a lot of ways. Brittany Wilson continues to get better on offense. Kresl ought to be lethal from the outside by her junior year (she’ll be dangerous this year, too). Reese and Roberson have all the skills to score big points in the front court and Huggins could be as dynamic as anyone on the team. I’m told Smith has untapped potential as an offensive standout, as well, and Watts has the size to be a force in the paint.

At this point, I’d project the starting five to be:

PG – Weston

SG – B. Wilson

W – Huggins

F – Reese

F – Roberson

It wouldn’t surprise me, however, to see Hargis, Kresl or Sborov win starting roles.

This roster will get bigger by the time the 2013-14 season rolls around. Lappe needs to add another point guard (right now, Weston is the only point on the 2013-14 roster). Another front court player would be nice, too. As it stands right now, however, this is a good group of players and it’s going to be tough to distribute playing time to everyone who deserves it.

In addition to the athleticism and potential of the 2013-14 roster, I love the work Lappe and her staff has done in building roster balance. What is roster balance? Well, take a look at the CU football team. It lost 28 seniors from last year, and has just 8 seniors this year on a roster loaded with youth — that’s roster imbalance that coaches hope to avoid.

Lappe and her staff have done a great job in avoiding huge classes. Beginning with this past season (2011-12), here’s a breakdown of the senior class sizes:

2011-12: 1

2012-13: 2

2013-14: 4

2014-15: 3

2015-16: 4

That’s a great mix of classes that ought to help the Buffs develop each year without having to replace too many players from season to season.

Keep an eye on this program. It could be a lot of fun to watch this season and for years to come.

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CU football players ARE showing improvement

We keep hearing — from outsiders — that the Colorado football program isn’t getting any better.

No, there’s no defense for the 0-3 start. They should be 2-1 at this point. They should have put up a better fight (or any fight) at Fresno State.

Yet, I don’t get the accusations that CU’s young players aren’t progressing and being developed by the coaching staff.

Honestly, I think it’s the opposite.

First off, we must remember this about CU: Of the 104 players on the roster, 46 are either freshmen or redshirt freshmen. That’s 44 percent of the roster either redshirting or playing its first season of Division I college football. The dramatic difference between high school and Division I college football can’t be ignored.

Second, of the 58 non-freshmen, 29 of those are sophomores. Some of those are true sophomores.

Youth is not an excuse people want to hear, but it’s a REAL factor in CU’s struggles.

As for the claim that CU players are not being developed, I look at a handful of those true sophomores:

1. Linebacker Brady Daigh: The Mullen High School product looks like the real deal. He has yet to get much playing time because he’s got older players ahead of him, but I think he’s going to be a really good player on this defense in the future.

2. Cornerback Greg Henderson: He had a very nice true freshman year in 2011, starting every game and playing nearly every snap. An ankle injury has kept him out of two games, so it’s difficult to judge his 2012. But, he and coaches were thrilled with his growth during camp.

3. Wide receiver Tyler McCulloch: Last year, McCulloch did a nice job in a limited role. This year, it would have been a lot of fun to watch him progress as a complement to Paul Richardson. Unfortunately, with Richardson out, the Buffs are lacking speed at the position (not to mention experience at QB), putting pressure — and better cornerbacks — on McCulloch. Despite that, McCulloch is averaging 18.1 yards per catch (7 catches for 127 yards) and two TDs. He’s a better player now than last year.

4. Punter Darragh O’Neill: OK, so he’s a punter. Still, his numbers through three games (44.3 average, 40.3 net average) are better than his numbers in 2011 (42.6, 38.8) when he was a true freshman. He said he’s so much better this year it’s not even close.

5. Kicker Will Oliver: Yeah, OK, another kicker. And, I know he hasn’t had many opportunities this year (1-1 on FGS, 8-8 on PATs), but he has been perfect. It was evident even last year that Embree had upgraded the kicker position over what it was under the last coach.

 

Has everyone developed into better players under Embree’s watch? No. But, that’s the case for every coach. Even Urban Meyer and Nick Saban have players who don’t get better from year to year.

With Embree and his staff, I think it’s still way too early to judge them on this basis, yet I see players that have gotten better in the past year.

In addition to the 5 mentioned above, I think redshirt freshman Nelson Spruce is a better receiver than he was a year ago, I think the coaches have done a solid job of transitioning Stephane Nembot from defensive line to offensive line. Junior running back Josh Ford just might be ready for a breakout. Juniors Chidera Uzo-Diribe and Derrick Webb are probably two of the best players on defense. I also think senior defensive lineman Will Pericak is a much better player today than he was when Embree was hired.

I also see a lot of talent in the freshman class. Christian Powell, Marques Mosley, Kenneth Crawley and Yuri Wright are going to be legit Pac-12 players.

 

There’s no question CU has a long way to go, and there’s no question the Buffs have failed to meet even the low expectations many had for them this year.

I just don’t buy the argument that these players aren’t getting better. The progress may  not be as dramatic as people want it to be but it’s there. And, it’ll take time to develop that talent into a winning team. The question is whether the CU administration and boosters will give Embree that time.

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CU’s Embree needs time to turn Buffs around

Let’s stop all this “Fire Embree” nonsense.

Colorado head football coach Jon Embree isn’t going anywhere any time soon, nor should he.

Yes, I get that he’s 3-12 through 15 games. Yes, I know that’s the exact record Dan Hawkins had through 15 games.

Still, Embree and his coaching staff need a little slack.

Don’t forget, this is a program that, by most accounts, was left in absolute shambles by Hawkins. Yet, many of the fans who loathe Hawkins for what he did to their Buffs are now upset with Embree for not having this thing turned around already.

You can’t have it both ways.

Over the summer, I talked with former Buffs coach Gary Barnett. He made a great point that, unless a coach takes over a great situation, it’s going to take several years to build up a program. Embree certainly didn’t inherit a great situation.

Embree took over a team that didn’t know how to win. He took over a team with a shallow talent pool. He also took over a team heavily loaded with seniors. There are 28 experienced players from last year’s team that are no longer here. They’ve been replaced by 23 true freshmen, many of whom are being thrust into playing time already.

Against Sacramento State, the Buffs started three true freshmen in the secondary, another one at defensive tackle and another at tailback. Of the 22 starters against Colorado State on Sept. 1, seven were in the starting lineup for the first time. Of the 22 against Sacramento State, there were four first-time starters.

The lack of inexperience on the roster can’t be overlooked when evaluating this team. The Buffs will take their lumps, simply because of that inexperience. At the same time, the young players have shown great promise already. That’s an encouraging sign, not only for the future of the current roster, but for the ability of the CU coaching staff to recruit talent and add great depth in the future.

Lack of experience in the coaching staff can’t be overlooked either. Embree had never been a head coach before taking this job. Offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and defensive coordinator Greg Brown had never been coordinators before (Brown had been a co-defensive coordinator, but never had the job to himself).

As a group, CU’s coaches have shown some inexperience. They haven’t been perfect on game days, but they figure to get better with time.

Do the Buffs have the luxury of waiting for Embree, the assistant coaches and the players to grow up? Of course.

Colorado isn’t Alabama, where being in the hunt for a championship is expected every year.

Don’t kid yourself about this program. CU did win a national championship (a shared title in 1990), it did win a Heisman Trophy (Rashaan Salaam in 1994) and it has produced high quality college and NFL players. But, this program is not, nor has it ever been, on the level of Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas, Notre Dame, Southern Cal or — gasp! — Nebraska.

Winning 7-10 games a year and making annual trips to bowl games is the right target for CU.

Can Embree get the Buffs there? Who knows, but he deserves some time to prove whether he can or not, and 15 games is not nearly enough time.

If the Buffs are still struggling for wins through the 2013 season and into 2014, Embree ought to feel some heat on his seat. Until then, back off and let’s see what he can do.

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Christian Powell off to great start for CU Buffs

Christian Powell hasn’t been a Colorado Buffalo for long.

In the month or so that he’s been in Boulder, though, he’s already learned a valuable lesson: If you play for Eric Bieniemy, you better be on top of your game.

A freshman fullback from Upland, Calif., Powell spent preseason camp impressing Bieniemy and learning as much as he can from the Buffs’ offensive coordinator and running backs coach.

“Coach EB, he’s going to push you,” Powell said. “Sometimes you may not like it, but a couple days later you’ll think about it and you’re like, ‘Dang I’m glad he did that for me.’ That’s what it’s been like for me.”

Powell, who is 6-feet and 235 pounds, was an impressive player in high school. In helping Upland go 12-1 last year, he rushed for 400 yards and seven touchdowns on 40 carries (10.0 per carry), caught seven passes for 116 yards and registered 90 tackles and a team-best 15 sacks on defense.

So far, he’s adjusted well to college football, but it hasn’t been easy.

“You’re out here practicing all the time,” he said. “It’s something I’m not used to, but you get used to it. Then, with the season starting, it starts to be more fun. You’re out here trying to work and get better and be the best you can be.”

After just a few weeks of practice and one game, Powell said he’s already a better player.

“I definitely say I’m more in shape,” he said.

Powell also said he’s becoming a smarter player over time. “That’s something I’ve been working on since I’ve been here,” he said.

In addition to learning from Bieniemy, Powell has benefitted from having two of his high school teammates along for the ride. CU tailback Donta Abron and safety Marques Mosley were also stars at Upland and part of CU’s 2012 recruiting class.

Powell spent much of high school career blocking for Abron, who was Upland’s tailback. Abron rushed for 1,754 yards and 33 touchdowns last year.

“I’ve been playing with him for four years, so we kind of have a good chemistry in the backfield and I know him well,” Powell said.

Having two teammates in Boulder has been good for Powell, he said. If that’s not enough of a connection to home, Powell talks to his mother nearly every day.

Adjusting to life in Boulder and making an impression on the field, Powell and his mom are pleased with the decision he made on signing day.

“I know this is a good choice,” he said.

Against Colorado State last week, Powell gained 3 yards on his only carry and caught one pass for 5 yards.

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