Embree's humor, intensity on display

University of Colorado head football coach Jon Embree hosted his first fall media day on Saturday. The coach talked about expectations, rivalries, his quarterback and other topics.

BOULDER - One thing was quite clear from Saturday's media day at the University of Colorado: the mood is a little lighter this fall.

Throughout his 35-minute press conference at the Dal Ward Center, first-year head coach Jon Embree flashed his intensity, his focus, his determination to win and, quite frequently, his humor.

It was quite a change from 2010, when former head coach Dan Hawkins talked about the upcoming season. Of course, Hawkins had the positive energy going, but the gray cloud about his future and the on-going quarterback situation involving his son Cody kept a certain level of tension in the air.

On Saturday, Embree left no doubt that this is a new era in CU football. And, his humor stole the show.

He joked about former coach and mentor Bill McCartney. He joked about offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. The highlight of the press conference, however, may have been when he compared the seemingly forced rivalry between the Buffaloes and Utah - the two new members of the Pac-12 Conference this year - to an arranged marriage.

"We were at ESPN and they had me and (Utah coach) Kyle Whittingham together, like we were the new rivals," Embree said. "I said, this is not the old-world marriage where, 'Two goats and a cow and this is your wife and this is your husband.' We don't do that. I thought times had changed a little bit."

Once the laughter settled down, Embree's point was clear: CU doesn't have a Pac-12 rival just yet; time will determine that one.

Amid all the jokes, Embree addressed a variety of topics on CU's 2011 football season.

Some of the highlights from Embree's press conference:

When asked about the team staying in a hotel during camp, Embree painted a "Remember the Titans"-type picture: "We needed to be better as a team, as far as knowing each other. We have them rooming offense and defense and trying to split them up and make it as diverse as possible, trying to get guys that we know probably don't know each other to room with each other and kind of help force that situation. We're trying to get them to spend a lot of time with each other and start learning about their teammates. ... We are not going to have the best players; I'm OK with that. But we can be the better team. Part of that is trust and the only way you're going to trust somebody is if you know them."

Senior quarterback Tyler Hansen is the clear-cut starter this fall for the first time in his career: "I see from Tyler great leadership. He has a great command of the offense. I think the world of Tyler. I wish I had him longer. He's a special kid.

Former Buffs, including McCartney, will be embraced in Boulder: "I've had an open door policy. I want former players out there on the field. I don't mind if they interact with our players. I want them to. ... (McCartney) is a guy I told I want around all the time. 'You don't need to be invited; you don't need to ask. You sit in any meeting, any practice.'"

Don't expect any 10-win, or bowl game projections from Embree: "I don't have expectations as far as numbers. I have expectations that we're going to hit you in mouth. I have expectations that we're going to compete. I have expectations that the other team has to beat us; that we're not going to go out and lose."

Embree was very high on receiver Tyler McCulloch, a 6-foot-5 true freshman from New Mexico: "It's three straight days. Tyler McCulloch is doing a lot of good things. He makes mistakes at full speed when he does make a mistake and that's not a lot. And he's very aggressive catching the ball. He has a way of getting behind people. I gave him (number) 87 because he reminded me of an 87 I used to watch, a Bronco, Ed McCaffrey. I'm excited to see if he keeps progressing. He has jumped out right now." Embree also mentioned Keenan Canty, Kyle Cefalo, Logan Gray and Nelson Spruce as receivers who have stood out.

Hansen may be a key player for the offense, but CU will be determined to run the ball: "It's what we have to do. We have to run the ball for a couple of reasons. One, that needs to be our identity. If you're going to be a physical team, you need to run the ball and implement your will on the other team. The other thing about it is, it helps our defense. For us to be a successful team, a successful program, that's always going to have to be our staple. We have to be able to run the ball. We have to be able to control the clock. We have to be able to wear people down and then that helps our defense go out there and play fast and play with an attitude."

True freshman Will Oliver got a chance to kick field goals on Saturday: "He didn't know he was going to kick and he made all of them but one and I think that was about 53 yards. Three of them were game-winning situations."

College football has a new rule about blocking below the waist: "You're probably going to see a lot of penalties this year. We got a video from the Pac-12. One play they're saying it's an illegal block, the next time it's legal because the guy is 2 yards from the tackle. There's going to be a lot of gray area. We're just going to coach it up the best we can."

Other items of interest: Embree said the intensity level has risen each day at practice. ... The Buffs will wear full pads for the first time on Monday. ... Tony Jones, Malcolm Creer and Brian Lockridge are the likely candidates to spell starter Rodney Stewart at running back. Lockridge is coming off an ankle injury and Embree said, "You can tell he hasn't played in a while. He's got to get going and pick it up. He's got to get that ankle in better shape." ... Sophomore kicker Justin Castor missed practice to attend to a family matter. ... Regarding punting, Embree said he hasn't seen much yet, but added, "There's not consistency yet there. But, the ball is definitely going high and its spirals, so that's good news on that front, so we don't have to go for it on fourth down all the time." ... Bieniemy will be calling on plays on offense. Although Embree's sense of humor came out when he added: "I'm sure I'll suggest some plays. It'll probably be just touchdowns. He'll call all the rest of them."

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