Big 12: Jon Embree

STILLWATER, Okla. -- We've only scratched the surface of my notebook after my visit to Stillwater on Wednesday. Lots, lots, lots more to come. Here's a few spare thoughts, notes and quotes from my day with the reigning Big 12 champs.
  • You've heard enough about Oklahoma State's QBs for today (Part 1, Part 2), with more to come on that trio, but whoever wins the job won't be short for targets. Receiver Josh Stewart's made the biggest improvement this offseason, but Tracy Moore has come on strong on the outside, too. Inside, you really do have to watch out for Blake Jackson. I regret not putting him on my "Top Newcomers in the Big 12" list from earlier this week. He's playing inside, but he's basically a tight end, and was the best of the junior college ranks last year. He's also a man. He's a huge target with great, great hands. Look for him to get some run on the goal line, but in this offense, he may actually be my frontrunner for Big 12 Newcomer of the Year. I'd almost guarantee him getting a high volume of touches, and he's going to be tough to bring down at 6-foot-3, 238 pounds. He's every bit of that, too. "He's a big body guy and has really good hands. If it's in the general area of him, he's going to catch it," quarterback J.W. Walsh said. "He's got really good leaping ability and great ball skills."
  • Speaking of newcomers, you don't hear as much hype around him, but defensive coordinator Bill Young is hopeful that Calvin Barnett can have a big impact on the defensive line. Plenty of folks were after the one-time OSU commit, turned Arkansas signee, turned juco All-American, turned Cowboy signee. The 6-foot-2, 300-pounder has big-time potential, but he has to pick up the speed of the game and focus on technique. OSU's defense may ultimately depend on strength at the defensive tackle spot. "He's a very talented guy, he's really strong and powerful. Weight coaches have raved about what he's done in the weight room," said Young. "He's a big guy who can run and change direction. We're fortunate to have him." Big impact? "We're hoping he can," Young said.
  • Fired Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt, an Oklahoma State alum, was back on OSU's campus on Wednesday visiting with the coaching staff. Colorado coach Jon Embree also showed up unannounced earlier this spring to meet with Gundy, who granted the request.
  • Oklahoma State's corners and running backs are both having great springs, as expected. Those two spots might be the biggest strength on the team. OSU has a great case as the Big 12's best set of running backs, and is second to only Texas at cornerback.
  • Defensively, Mike Gundy feels like this year's team is the most talented and deepest of any team he's had dating all the way back to even when Gundy was an assistant under Les Miles.
  • Oklahoma State may be hurt the most of anyone with the new rule changes in special teams. Kickoffs have been moved up to the 35-yard line and touchbacks are now brought out to the 25-yard line. That negates two huge advantages OSU has had the past two season. Quinn Sharp boomed 61 touchbacks last season. No other kicker had more than 40. Meanwhile, Justin Gilbert is one of the most dynamic return men in the league, but he'll have fewer opportunities. He says he'll still plan on taking it out when he gets a chance, but he'll have to dial it back some and take the unselfish route a whole lot more. Sad to see that. He's electrifying.
  • Oklahoma State moved safety Daytawion Lowe to nickel back and Lavocheya Cooper is holding down the free safety spot. The void at strong safety will be filled by committee, Young said. Zack Craig will be part of it, as and Shamiel Gary and Deion Imade will get a shot, too. "The good thing about is we have all the backups back," Young said.
  • OSU is missing center Evan Epstein this week. He's out with pneumonia.
  • Former OSU lineman Levy Adcock showed up briefly to Oklahoma State' facilities on Wednesday. I can confirm he's shaved his mullet, just like he said he would.

Lunch links: Buffs coach takes a Big 12 jab

June, 30, 2011
I planked my bed so hard for like eight hours last night.

Getting to know Colorado

February, 11, 2011
Colorado is new to the Pac-12 but old to the Big 12, so it makes sense to check in with Big 12 blogger David Ubben to get his take on the state of the Buffaloes as they welcome new coach Jon Embree.

Just who are these Buffaloes? What are their strengths and weaknesses and how will they fit into the Pac-12, specifically the Pac-12 South?

We went looking for insights and Ubben obliged.

Ted Miller: Well, David you -- and the Big 12 -- have to say goodbye to Colorado, with the Buffaloes looking to their future out West in the Pac-12. First of all, give Pac-12 fans a CliffsNotes description of the state of the program. Things haven’t gone so well in Boulder lately. Why?

David Ubben: Colorado is certainly in rebuilding mode as they kick off a new start under coach Jon Embree after firing Dan Hawkins in the middle of the 2010 season. They bring back two stars in quarterback Tyler Hansen and running back Rodney Stewart. But fitting those guys into Embree's new system and greatly improving from their 5-7 record seems like asking a lot.

Hawkins came to Boulder promising big things but never delivered. As for why it didn't go well? Any number of reasons. One that angered fans is Hawkins' tendency to play less talented players who knew the system well over more talented players that maybe didn't have as solid of a grasp of what they wanted to do on the field. Embree has said he'll do essentially the opposite, so I guess that's a start in the eyes of fans.

TM: OK, let’s look forward then. Tell Pac-12 folks about Embree, his new staff and the talent the Buffaloes have returning. What are strengths and what are question marks heading into the 2011 season?

DU: He's stocked his coaching staff with quite a few Buffaloes, but most of the names would be more recognizable as players. The biggest name is his offensive coordinator, former Buffs great Eric Bieniemy, who spent the past few years coaching Adrian Peterson as the running backs coach at the Minnesota Vikings. They also swiped Bobby Kennedy, a Boulder native, from Texas to coach receivers.

Last year, they ran the ball pretty well, and Stewart is back. He's a small, shifty back that seems way, way underrated. He rushed for more than 1,300 yards last year, and the only Big 12 backs who had more were Daniel Thomas and Kendall Hunter, who should be drafted this year. They lose tackle Nate Solder, another first-round pick, but Ryan Miller is back, and he's an all-conference level guard.

The big question for them next season will be if their defense can stop the pass -- which my sources tell me, is pretty important in the Pac-12. Maybe not as important as in the Big 12, but still necessary for big success. Both corners from last year, Jalil Brown and Jimmy Smith, should be drafted. They weren't great at stopping the pass last year (9th in the Big 12) so it's hard to see them being better at it next year.

TM: OK. Good stuff. Let’s wind it up. How would you have projected them in the Big 12 next fall? And do you have any feeling for how they might do in the new Pac-12 South?

DU: They definitely looked like a team in the bottom third of the Big 12 next year, and it seems like it'll be tough for them to finish in the top half of the Pac-12 South in 2011.

Right now, it's just about being competitive and maybe stealing a game or two that people didn't think they'd win. If that happens enough, a bowl game isn't out of the question. We don't have any idea what to expect out of an Embree-coached team, and that could be a good or a bad thing. We won't know for sure until next year, but if Embree can bottle up whatever Colorado had inside of them the way they played down the stretch last season after Hawkins was fired, it could be a real surprise 2011 for the Buffs.
Today, in memoriam, I made sure to struggle extra hard on my shirt's top button. The White Stripes, you will be missed.

Lunch links: Huskers fans can rest easy

January, 12, 2011

Lunch links: Gabbert talks NFL decision

January, 6, 2011
Or you could just be nice and pay it forward. They don't make movies out of bad ideas.

Lunch links: TCU to the Big 12?

January, 5, 2011
Andy, look, all I know is that if I was a girl, and I had to choose between the tall dude who loved Asia, and the you looking dude who loves sweaters and wearing sweaters ... I'd choose you.

Lunch links: Going back in time

December, 27, 2010
Do you have one really funky sequined space suit, Bowie? Or do you have several ch-ch-changes?

Embree talks Big 12, recruiting, home life

December, 22, 2010
Jon Embree played his college football at Colorado, and was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in 1987. Now, 23 years later, he left his post as the tight ends coach for the Washington Redskins to become the head coach at his alma mater.

Embree took some time out for earlier this week to talk about changes in style and recruiting heading into next year, as well as what he'll miss about the conference the program is leaving.

In part one earlier Wednesday, he discussed his first weeks on the job and the program's transition to the Pac-12, as well as his own transition to a head coaching role.

David Ubben: Outside of maybe finding it easier to recruit California -- at least in theory -- what are some aspects of this job that are getting ready to change? The program is changing, but what's the biggest couple things that will change for you with the move to the Pac-12?

JE: Well, really all the changes will come off the field. It's still football. I think people will be surprised around here that the conference we're going to is a great conference; there's a lot of diversity in offense and a lot of good skill players. It's going to be an exciting time for our athletic department and fans, but nothing will change as far as what you see on the field.

So you don't anticipate making any on-field changes or recruiting changes away from what Colorado has done in the past 15 years in the Big 12 because of the move?

JE: No. We're still going to recruit California, we've got to recruit Texas and we've got to recruit our own state and maybe go and dabble in Arizona and Louisiana like we have since 1983, I guess.

Obviously, barring a job change, you won't get a chance to coach in the Big 12. You played in the Big Eight, but what are you going to miss about the Big 12?

JE: I'll miss trips to Austin; I thought those were always fun trips. I'm going to miss going to Lincoln. That was always a great atmosphere. There's a lot of different things. I have a lot of memories in the conference because when I played in the Big Eight, and you go and you remember certain games and go to these stadiums and remember great moments in the history of the program, now we're obviously not going to those places. Certain memories and other things won't be coming back to you as readily as when we were in the conference.

Lastly, before you got this job, not many people outside of Colorado knew a whole lot about you. What are a few things people need to know about Jon Embree away from the field?

JE: Well, I enjoy my family. I love doing stuff with my kids as much as I can. Of course, they're older now, so they're going to try and beat me up in basketball now and stuff like that, but I like to golf. I really like to relax and hang out with my friends. I really do, and I'm kind of a homebody. I just like to chill, because when I'm doing my job, I'm into my job. I'm in it 100 percent. You've got to have a certain tunnel vision and a certain mindset to have success, and that's something I believe in. So when I'm out of it, I like to get away and relax and golf a little bit. I keep thinking maybe I can get Tiger Woods on the senior tour, but I don't know if that's going to happen.

Lunch links: Stoops' future at OU

December, 22, 2010
Man, did this dude just did this?

Embree talks new staff, transition, mentors

December, 22, 2010
Jon Embree played his college football at Colorado, and was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in 1987. Now, 23 years later, he left his post as the tight ends coach for the Washington Redskins to become the head coach at his alma mater.

Embree took some time out for earlier this week to talk about his first weeks on the job and the program's transition to the Pac-12, as well as his own transition to a head coaching role.

In part two later Wednesday, he'll discuss changes in style and recruiting heading into next year, as well as what he'll miss about the conference the program is leaving.

David Ubben: What have these first few weeks on the job been like?

Jon Embree: It's been very busy, because you know, you're trying to put together your staff, you're trying to figure out who does what and some of the things around here and get things situated with kids and academics and getting ready to get everything going for recruiting, so it's mostly just real busy.

As a former position coach in the NFL, how do the time requirements compare between that and being a college head coach so far?

JE: Ha, it's a little bit longer in Boulder than it was in Washington. There's a lot of things you want to do early -- coming in early and staying there late -- and part of the reason you do that is because there's nobody in there who can come in and ask for a five-minute meeting when you're there early or late, so it's longer hours but it's definitely a lot of fun.

What's been the most difficult part of the transition?

JE: Probably letting kids know that they can't be part of the program anymore. That's hard when you have to do that. That, or letting kids that were committed to the previous staff know that they don't fit into what you're going to do from an offensive or defensive standpoint.

It seems like so far, the signature of your staff has been getting a ton of guys connected to Colorado, the state and the program. Why was it so important to get guys with ties to Colorado, or "Buffs?"

JE: Well, we only have four Buffs on the staff, but really, Colorado is a unique place. We don't have [multi-year] contracts, so you have to get people that a) want to be in Boulder and b) understand the uniqueness of the program and of the university that can go out and recruit and sell the strong points and answer questions about perceived negatives about the program. I think that's why you see some guys who have been at Colorado or played at Colorado that are here coaching for us.

What are some of those perceived negatives you guys are fighting when you're out talking to recruits or new assistants?

JE: People talk about the uniqueness of Boulder and the diversity, really our diversity is no different than any other campus, but there's a perception out there that there's a diversity issue that doesn't really exist. And we have the ability to let kids know that Denver is 20 minutes away and anything they could ever want to do, whether it's a Nuggets game, a Rockies game or a Broncos game, whatever it is they want to do is 20 minutes away from them. Just little things like that.

With those guys who are on your staff from Colorado, was getting that many something you emphasized when you interviewed, or was it something that the administration really wanted to see in the new staff?

JE: Nah, first and foremost, I just wanted to get the best coaches I could get. There's a lot of guys -- I could have filled the whole staff with Colorado people if I wanted. But I'm trying to get the best coaches I can get, so nothing was stressed by them or me. It's just how it worked out. [Offensive coordinator] Eric Bieniemy and I were basically guys that knew we were going to work with each other, [defensive coordinator] Greg Brown, a guy who has been here for a couple different stints, but has NFL experience. I think his résumé speaks for itself. [Linebackers coach and former interim coach] Brian Cabral, who has been here for 27 years and his experience. Like I said, it just kind of worked out like that.

As a first-time head coach, who are some of the guys you rely on professionally? Guys you call up for advice on handling this job and requirements that come with it?

JE: I'll lean on guys I've worked with during my career, like a Mike Shanahan. We've talked a couple times since I've been hired. I'll talk with Chan Gailey. Herm Edwards has already reached out to me. Bill McCartney. I'll reach out to various people, and it doesn't necessarily have to be just former head coaches. You have to broaden your scope as far as people you talk to about various things and get a different perspective.

Lunch links: YouTube star is born

December, 21, 2010
Milk and lutefisk? Santa doesn't get cookies in Minnesota?

Yeah, that's just what Santa needs at 3 a.m. when he's battling a snowstorm over the Rockies: a sugar crash. No, Santa needs protein.

Big 12 weekend roundup

December, 20, 2010
A few thoughts on the weekend's happenings:

Roy Finch has arguably been Oklahoma's most electrifying ballcarrier this season, but they'll be without him in the Fiesta Bowl after the freshman running back suffered a stress fracture in a non-contact drill during practice last week. Finch will be missed most in Oklahoma's "diamond" formation that featured three running backs surrounding quarterback Landry Jones, and he'll finish the year with 398 yards and a pair of touchdowns, just missing my Big 12 All-Freshman team.

Senior Mossis Madu will fill Finch's void, so it's not a pressing concern for the Fiesta Bowl's heavy favorites.You'll remember, he missed the first five games of the season after fracturing his left ankle on the same foot that suffered this most recent injury. The Sooners can take some comfort in the injury taking place in the same foot, and Finch will take 6-7 weeks to heal before returning for spring practice.

But moving forward, one more injury, especially one that's unrelated to the 5-foot-8, 180-pound speedster's left foot, is going to cause some legitimate concerns about Finch's durability. He's unquestionably emerged in 2010 as the future of Oklahoma's running game, beating out guys like Jermie Calhoun, Brennan Clay and Jonathan Miller, but he can't do any good on the sidelines. Moving through spring and fall camps, Oklahoma fans and coaches will be able to sleep a lot better if he can stay healthy through next August.

And consider also: For all the flack that DeMarco Murray gets for being "injury-prone," he got a high volume of carries in all four seasons as a Sooner.

Through just one season, Finch has already missed the same number of games (6) as Murray did throughout his entire career.

New Colorado coach Jon Embree officially finalized his staff, and it's clear what his priorities were. Outside of defensive line coach Mike Tuiasosopo, every hire had ties to Colorado, either the state or program. You definitely foster a very specific attitude in doing so, but we'll see if that results in wins after a move to the Pac-12 next year. He sacrificed experience for ties to the program in a couple of these hires, but no one will care if the wins come with them. If they don't, however, that fact will definitely be brought up as a criticism very quickly.

Here's Embree's latest staff hires, with more on the entire staff here:

Greg Brown - defensive coordinator/defensive backs

J.D. Brookhart - special teams coordinator/offensive passing game coordinator/tight ends

Kanavis McGhee/Mike Tuiasosopo - defensive line

Steve Marshall - offensive line

Former Colorado running back Eric Bieniemy, who also interviewed for the head coaching job and was hired at the same time as Embree, will serve as Embree's offensive coordinator.

The Buffs also retained former interim coach Brian Cabral, who will go back to coaching linebackers.

Nebraska linebackers coach Mike Ekeler is headed to Indiana to take over as the Hoosiers defensive coordinator under new coach Kevin Wilson. Most notably, he'll be the first assistant under Bo Pelini to leave for a different job during Pelini's three seasons in Lincoln.

Wilson worked with Ekeler at Oklahoma when Ekeler was a graduate assistant in 2003-04 and Wilson coached the offensive line. Ekeler must have made an impression on Wilson during those years and again in the Big 12 Championship game. First-year linebacker Lavonte David also leads the Big 12 in tackles, including 17 in the Big 12 title game.

Indiana and Nebraska aren't scheduled to meet in Big Ten play until the 2013 season.

I DVR'd the Texas Class 5A Division II state championship and got my first good, long look at a couple possible future Big 12 stars headed to the conference in 2011.

Texas commit Malcolm Brown, the nation's top running back recruit, and Oklahoma State quarterback and cornerback commits J.W. Walsh and Josh Stewart faced off in Cowboys Stadium. Brown's Cibolo (Steele) team took down Walsh and Stewart's Denton (Guyer) squad, 24-21.

Here's more on the game from the crew at

It's tough to tell a lot definitively in one look at a pressure-filled game, but all three had their moments. Brown doesn't have a ton of straight-line speed, but he's a smart, powerful runner with a good sense of holes and looked pretty skilled at reading his blocks. The physical talent is obvious, but if he carries that to Austin next fall, my guess is it's something that sets him apart from his competition. He's not one to shy away from contact, and he showed up every time Steele needed a big run. He finished with 107 yards on 28 carries and the game-winning touchdown.

Though Walsh's release is quick and his accuracy is good, he's still got plenty of room for improvement as a decision-maker. That said, he's a dangerous dual-threat guy that, if he ends up becoming the heir apparent to Brandon Weeden, would be pretty fun to watch in Oklahoma State's spread system, a la Zac Robinson.

He finished with 123 yards rushing and 9-of-17 passing for 91 yards with a pair of picks -- including one with the game up for grabs that sealed the game for Steele. He had just four interceptions in Guyer's first 15 games, and averaged more than 200 yards passing.

His one touchdown pass was a 43-yard strike to Stewart, who also plays receiver.

Lunch links: Holgorsen Watch 2010

December, 14, 2010
Robin, aside from that coin, this is the other thing that's flipping right now. What lid...for you?

Lunch links: Familiar voice won't be heard

December, 10, 2010
In the end, the greatest snowball isn't a snowball at all. It's fear.