Embree working on team's mindset

Colorado head coach Jon Embree is playing psychologist this week as Buffs prepare to face Washington State.

BOULDER -- Four games into his tenure as University of Colorado head football coach, Jon Embree certainly hasn't changed his goals.

How he goes about achieving them may be different, though.

Embree's Buffaloes are 1-3, but he hasn't lost his optimism.

"I expected to be sitting here 4-0," he said. "That's just me. I expect to win every game. That's just my mentality. I've been on a team that started 0-4 and we played Oklahoma for the Big 8 title. Things happen."

Up to this point, Embree's approach, at least publicly, has been a hard-nosed, step-up-and-get-the-job-done mentality.

That seems to be changing. More than before, it appears Embree is going at his team as a psychologist as much as he's going at them as a football coach.

"We had a team meeting and I had a discussion with them," he said. "They need to start seeing themselves for what they're capable of."

Embree admitted Tuesday that the Buffs aren't loaded with top-end talent, but he said, "We have some good players."

Problem is, those players don't seem to believe in themselves, Embree said.

"Those good players have to see themselves that way," he said. "When you don't have a bunch of good players, you can't have an off game. As a team, and this is just my opinion, I don't think they completely see themselves that way."

With Pac-12 play beginning on Saturday against Washington State, CU's season is far from over. Despite their start, the Buffs, in theory, could go on a run in conference play and still have a great season.

To do that, however, the Buffs need a mental boost. Embree gave them one after the 37-17 loss to Ohio State last Saturday. Embree said he spoke with Buckeyes coach Luke Fickell both Saturday after the game and again for about 30 minutes on Sunday.

It's not a common thing for the opposing coaches to talk like that after a game, Embree said, but those conversations may help Embree fix his team. Embree shared with the Buffs some of Fickell's comments.

"I think some of them were shocked at how highly he thought of our guys," Embree said.

Confidence, of course, is not CU's only issue.

The Buffs have not been able to run the ball the way they had hoped or wanted to. Embree declined to go into reasons for that, saying, "We're just not running it well. I'll leave it at that."

CU has also been hit with the injury bug at key positions (such as cornerback and offensive line) and that has exposed CU's lack of depth. That lack of depth has surprised Embree.

"I thought we would have a little more depth at certain positions," he said. "I thought there were some guys who are backups who would be better. There's some guys that seem to be content being No. 2. I've never understood that, but it is what it is."

Whether or not the Buffs can fix the run game this season remains to be seen. There's probably not much they can do to fix their depth this fall.

Embree, however, is committed to fixing the confidence level on his team, and he's determined to fix it for this year's team.

"I get frustrated with it because I don't want them to miss out on these opportunities," he said. "I want to win now.

"I'm not about forsaking this year for the future. Tyler Hansen deserves it now. Josh Hartigan deserves it now. There's a lot of guys here that deserve an opportunity to win now."