NCF Nation: Ethan Adkins

David BakhitiariJamie Sabau/Getty ImagesOffensive tackle David Bakhtiari has high expectations for the Buffaloes this season.
Receiver Paul Richardson is Colorado's best player. He's got Pac-12 speed, which the Buffaloes were sorely lacking in 2011. Coach Jon Embree's chief task in recruiting is to get more Paul Richardsons -- speedy guys for both sides of the ball.

But the rebuilding project in Boulder is going to require just as much David Bakhtiari as Paul Richardson. Bakhtiari, the Buffs' left offensive tackle, earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors in 2011 as a sophomore, the only Colorado player to get an All-Conference nod.

He's a want-to guy. A guy who talks about chemistry and a sense of urgency. A guy willing to lead. A guy who seems slightly bothered -- politely so, of course -- when a reporter notes the Buffs' significant holes heading into 2012.

Why should folks believe Colorado can improve on a 3-10 finish despite losing its top passer, top rusher and top-two receivers (Richardson missed four games due to injury)?

"There is definitely a sense of urgency that I can see from last year's team to this year's team," Bakhtiari said. "People are moving around with a purpose. They are buying into our common goal, which is a bowl game. We've decided we are tired of going home in December and watching all these games."

Bakhtiari has been impressed with QB Connor Wood, the Texas transfer who has the inside track to replace Tyler Hansen. He raves about RB Tony Jones, who will step in for Rodney Stewart. Stewart only led the Buffs in rushing four consecutive years and now ranks second on the school's all-time rushing list. And a healthy Richardson is the obvious choice to replace the receptions that departed with Stewart (45) and Toney Clemons (43).

But if the Buffs are going to improve, they are going to need to score more than 19.8 points per game, a total that ranked last in the Pac-12 in 2011. That starts with Bakhtiari and the O-line, which is replacing guards Ethan Adkins and Ryan Miller.

Offensive line coach Steve Marshall, speaking to B.G. Brooks, called Bakhtiari "probably was our most productive player (in 2011) game in and game out." He'll be protecting Wood's blindside as well as leading the charge for a rushing offense that needs to do better than 3.5 yards per carry and 109 yards per game.

Like most Colorado players, Bakhtiari was recruited by Dan Hawkins, a far softer touch than the demanding, straight-talking Embree. (Said Bakhtiari, "Embree is a little more, 'I want production and I'm going to get it.'"). Unquestionably, there was an adjustment to the change in styles in 2011. There was a lot less nurturing and a lot more barking at practices. And Embree isn't afraid to publicly question his players commitment to winning.

But there were hints of accord late last season between coaching staff and locker room. After a 1-9 start, the Buffs won two of their final three games, including a shocking and impressive 17-14 win at Utah, which knocked the Utes out of the Pac-12 title game.

"Guys are now understanding what these coaches want and how they want it to be," Bakhtiari said. "Last year, we were kind of chickens with our heads cut off."

That's a start. It's probably going to take a few more Richardsons and Bakhtiaris to get the Buffs into Pac-12 South Division contention. But that's a start.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Teams and coaches were back at work Monday for perhaps the least-inspiring schedule of games in Big 12 history. Conference teams will play only one opponent from a BCS-affiliated conference when Oklahoma meets Cincinnati. Other than that, it's time for a visit to the pastry wagon for most schools.

As such, dive in and enjoy these tasty morning links.

  • Want the best indication of how the attitude has changed around the Missouri program? The Topeka Capital-Journal's Kevin Haskin details how the Tigers won by 10 points against Illinois and still were disappointed.
  • Wichita Eagle columnist Bob Lutz is alarmed by Kansas' running-game struggles and how many passes QB Todd Reesing had to throw to beat Florida International.
  • The cancellation of New Mexico State's game against Nicholls State this week means that the Aggies will open the season Sept. 13 at Nebraska.
  • The Omaha World Herald's Lee Barfknecht bemoans a weak slate of Big 12 games this week where four Big 12 teams will play Football Championship Subdivision teams.
  • Tom Shatel of the Omaha World-Herald writes the biggest difference he could detect in Nebraska's defense was that they were playing harder and faster. But LB Cody Glenn, who led the team with 12 tackles and broke up three passes, lamented too many mistakes.
  • Backup Oklahoma G Frank Alexander and basketball player Ray Willis were stabbed in an off-campus incident on Sunday morning. Also, coach Bob Stoops said senior DE John Williams has left the team and freshman OL Alex Williams has gone back home to New Orleans to help his family evacuate from Hurricane Gustav.
  • Texas Tech QB Graham Harrell passed for 536 yards against Eastern Washington, but still was flummoxed by the Eagles' tricky defense.
  • Mike Sherman accepted the blame from Texas A&M's disappointing season-opening loss to Arkansas State.
  • Converted DE Aaron Lewis will face the challenge of filling in for suspended Texas DT Lamarr Houston -- at least for the Longhorns' game with UTEP on Saturday. 
  • Dez Bryant could be poised to become Oklahoma State's next standout at wide receiver.
  • The Kansas City Star's Blair Kerkhoff says that lack of game preparation is the biggest culprit why mistakes were so prevalent during the first week of the season.
  • Despite an impressive 45-6 rout over North Texas last week, Kansas State coach Ron Prince saw a lot of negatives.
  • With injuries to Jeremy Maclin and Danario Alexander, Tommy Saunders has emerged as Missouri's most productive receiver.
  • The Des Moines Register's Andrew Logue lists five items that Iowa State must do differently this season to beat Kent State. The Cyclones dropped a 23-14 decision to the Golden Flashes last season in Gene Chizik's first game.
  • Colorado coach Dan Hawkins indefinitely suspended reserve OL Ethan Adkins after he was arrested for driving under the influence and suspended G Devin Head for one game for an undisclosed violation of team rules.
  • Oklahoma State was among Berry Tramel's 10 biggest winners of the opening weekend of the season.
  • The Waco Tribune-Herald's John Werner compares and contrasts the Big 12 coaching debuts of Art Briles, Mike Sherman and Bo Pelini.

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