2011 Colorado Preview
Colorado QB Tyler Hansen
Colorado QB Tyler Hansen
Posted Jun 20, 2011

It's out of the Big 12 and on to the Pac-12 for Colorado, who's trying to get past the Dan Hawkins era to make a big splash in the new league. Are the players in place and is there enough talent to battle the conference's big boys? Can Tyler Hansen finally get the passing game moving? Check out the CFN 2011 Colorado Preview.

Colorado Buffaloes

Preview 2011

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By Richard Cirminiello  

Head coach: Jon Embree
First year: 0-0
Returning Lettermen
Off. 22, Def. 25, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 23
Ten Best Colorado Players
1. RB Rodney Stewart, Sr.
2. RG Ryan Miller, Sr.
3. WR Paul Richardson, Soph.
4. LB Jon Major, Jr.
5. DT Will Pericak, Jr.
6. DE Josh Hartigan, Sr.
7. SS Anthony Perkins, Sr.
8. WR Toney Clemons, Sr.
9. QB Tyler Hansen, Sr.
10. TE Ryan Deehan, Sr.
2011 Schedule

Sep. 3 at Hawaii
Sep. 10 California
Sep. 17 Colorado St (in Denver)
Sep. 24 at Ohio State
Oct. 1 Washington State
Oct. 8 at Stanford
Oct. 15 at Washington
Oct. 22 Oregon
Oct. 29 at Arizona State
Nov. 4 USC
Nov. 12 Arizona
Nov. 19 at UCLA
Nov. 26 at Utah

Sometimes, an internal problem requires the help of a family member.

Colorado is looking to one of its own in order to stem the cycle of losing, hiring former player Jon Embree to clean up the mess created by his predecessor, Dan Hawkins. Hawkins was a colossal failure in Boulder, unable to produce a winning season in five years. When he was fired last November, his record stood at a dismal 19-39, including 10-27 in the Big 12. Realizing that the situation wasn't improving, the administration finally pulled the trigger and canned the embattled coach.

Embree doesn't have any head coaching experience, yet Hawkins had plenty of it, and how'd that turn out? What Embree does bring is a much-needed fresh energy and a staff with strong ties to the region. He also has an idea of what it takes to turn things around at Colorado, having played for Bill McCartney a quarter-century ago. The new staff will have its own challenges, such as guiding the Buffaloes into their Pac-12 debut with a paucity of overall talent compared to the rest of the conference. However, the fans and the school are going to be patient, knowing that the new regime has an uphill climb in the early going.

The 2012 edition of the Buffaloes is going to lean on its skill position talent on offense and its front seven on defense. Colorado is home to one of the game's underrated backs, senior Rodney Stewart, and a terrific ensemble of starters in the receiving corps. If the program can finally develop a quarterback, elusive during the Hawkins years, scoring points won't be so much of a problem.

For the second time in five years, the Buffs are rebuilding from square one, with a new coaching staff calling the shot. This time around, the program eschewed the hot, nationally-coveted commodity, staying within the family instead. Embree knows Colorado inside and out. He gets his first chance to prove he knows how to guide it back to respectability.

What to look for offense: The emergence of WR Paul Richardson into a star. Richardson was outstanding a year ago, catching 34 balls for 514 yards and six touchdowns … in his first season on campus. He's going to get better in a hurry, especially with a little more support from the quarterbacks. Long and lean, he explodes off the snap and gets to second gear in an instant. He'll quickly become one of the exciting, young imports from the Big 12, challenging Pac-12 secondaries that have yet to study him on film.

What to look for on defense: The corner quandary. The biggest issue heading into 2011 will be finding replacements for Jimmy Smith and Jalil Brown, who were both drafted by the NFL in April. As if that won't be hard enough, the Buffs are trying to bounce back in the secondary after ranking 110th nationally in pass defense. Coming out of spring, the frontrunners to be in the lineup were Parker Orms, a sophomore who missed all but one game to an injury, and special teams ace Arthur Jaffee. Neither is in the same league as his predecessor, a harbinger of trouble for this year's secondary.

The team will be much better if ... the Buffs increase their takeaway total. Turnovers can be the great equalizer for teams that lack overall talent. Colorado had just 19 of them last fall, which isn't going to cut it as the program prepares to navigate a challenging schedule. While turnover margin wasn't so bad, a product of a low-risk offense, the defense didn't do nearly enough to change the momentum of games. The onus rests with that side of the ball to create a little more chaos than in 2010.

The Schedule: Because Colorado wasn't extending itself enough with a move to the Pac 12, it had to put together a bear of non-conference schedule. Going to Hawaii to start the season is no way to ease into the year, having to deal with the high-octane Warrior air show on its own turf, and the Colorado State rivalry game is almost always a war. Oh yeah, and then there's that little trip to Ohio State to deal with before diving into Pac 12 play. On the plus side, that's one of the games that Terrelle Pryor and four other Buckeyes will be suspended for, and it's an even bigger bonus that the first game in the school's Pac 12 history is at home against Washington State. That's about as important a must win as they come with, arguably, the nastiest five-game stretch that anyone in college football has to deal with starting out with road trips to Stanford and Washington, a home "oasis" against Oregon, a date at Arizona State, and a home game against USC. If that wasn't enough, the Buffs have to close out on the road at UCLA and Utah.

Best Offensive Player: Senior RB Rodney Stewart. Proof that size doesn't always matter, the 5-6, 175-pound Stewart was quietly one of the nation's more productive backs a year ago. He ran for 1,318 yards and 10 scores on 290 carries last fall, adding 29 catches for 290 yards. An improbable workhorse out of the backfield, he's been indefatigable for the Buffaloes, wearing down and frustrating defenses with his quick moves and sudden burst through the hole.

Best Defensive Player: Junior LB Jon Major. When Major suffered a season-ending knee injury last October, the Buffs lost one of their heart-and-soul defenders. Well, he's healthy again and set to take over as Colorado's most consistent and important players on defense. At the time of the injury, he was leading the team with 57 tackles, playing the run with his typical intensity and instinctive style. At 6-2 and 230 pounds, he has the size to handle roaming guards and is especially stout on third down and short yardage.

Key player to a successful season: Senior QB Tyler Hansen. It's been eight futile years since the Buffs have had any competency and consistency behind center. Hansen hopes to reverse the trend in his final season on campus. The last couple of years have been trying for him, battling Cody Hawkins for playing time and missing the second half of 2010 with a ruptured spleen. Now that he's healthy and the injury is a distant memory, all of the stars have aligned for him to deliver a solid finale at Colorado.

The season will be a success if ... the Buffaloes can somehow find six wins on the schedule. It won't be easy, especially with non-conference games versus Hawaii, Cal, and Ohio State. However, that's where the bar is currently set for a program that's gone bowling just once since 2005. If Embree can guide to the postseason—any postseason game—it'll put his blueprint for success into overdrive.

Key game: Nov. 4 vs. USC. In a Friday night game at Folsom Field, Colorado will get one of its best chances all year to show the country how far the program has developed under Embree's watch. In five tries, the Buffaloes have never beaten the Trojans. An upset here, however, could give the home team the boost it needs to finish strong and make a run at that coveted bowl eligibility.

2010 Fun Stats:
- Average gain on first down: Colorado 4.5 – Opponents 6.8
- Red zone trips: Colorado 4.8 – Opponents 3.4
- Sacks: Colorado 34 - Opponents 21

- 2011 Colorado Preview | 2011 Colorado Offense
- 2011 Colorado Defense | 2011 Colorado Depth Chart
- Colorado Previews  2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006