BOULDER, Colo. — It's not like Jon Embree doesn't have enough to catch up on. The University of Colorado's first-year football coach spent the spring studying his new players, establishing recruiting contacts and re-acquainting himself with college football after years working in the NFL.
At least his alma mater's campus layout hadn't changed much.
In addition to his other tasks, Embree has also had to bone up on a Pac-12 Conference where Colorado is a virtual stranger. There's little information on hand about upcoming Pac-12 opponents. In the last six years, Colorado has played just two Pac-12 teams.
Embree hopes the Buffaloes' 52-7 pratfall last September at Cal isn't an omen for what's ahead in Colorado's maiden Pac-12 season. While Utah is sticking to its routine of waiting until game week to study its next opponent, Embree has made scouting the Pac-12 a priority this offseason.
Thanks to modern technology, he can scout as much as he wants, wherever he wants. Gone are the days when schools sent their latest game film overnight to their next opponent. Since 2005, Colorado has uploaded all their game films onto a website that any conference school can access. Rivals go to the Colorado folder and pull up its games, just as Colorado did in the Big 12, and will do now starting with the Pac-12.
The videos are organized to the point where Embree can see an opponent's "nickel" defense for an entire season. The players can too.
"It's unbelievable to have the ability to watch all the film, online, anywhere," Colorado video director Jamie Guy said. "When players used to have to study film, they'd have to come into the building and watch it in either their position meeting room, or on their own in the meeting room when no one's around.
"Now they can practice, eat dinner, study and go home and watch the film. They're further ahead of the game."
The Colorado staff won't need subtitles to understand what they're watching. Embree is one of seven coaches on the Buffs' staff who've coached in the Pac-10, which becomes the Pac-12 this fall when Colorado and Utah officially join.
Embree may have coached in the NFL the last five years, but he and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy coached at UCLA from 2003-05. And Embree's son, Taylor, is a senior receiver for UCLA, so he's watched the Bruins closely the past three years.
Embree's ingrained enough in the Pac-12 to call Washington by its local handle, U-Dub.
"You're going to get a league that's very diverse on both sides of the football," he said. "You might see the same scheme twice during the year."
Embree is either taking notes or watching teams on video four or five times a week. He has assigned each assistant two teams to scout as if they're playing them this Saturday. He watched Stanford's spring game on TV.
The league may be as deep this year as any BCS conference. Washington State, the traditional bottomfeeder, has nine starters back from a vastly improved offense, and Arizona State could be a national sleeper with 19 starters back. Oregon returns nearly all its skill-position players from the team that played for the national championship. Then there's Stanford where its quarterback, Andrew Luck, is the undisputed No. 1 NFL draft prospect — and would've been last week too.
"Those two teams?" Embree said. "Gotta pack a lunch."
When the preseason magazines come out this summer, look for Colorado to get a lot of last-place votes for the South Division. The Buffs return 17 starters but the five starters gone include two cornerbacks drafted by NFL teams last week, a left tackle taken in the first round, and their best linebacker.
Said Embree: "We're the biggest question mark coming in."
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