Colorado opens preseason camp Monday, officially beginning its second year in the Pac-12 and second season under coach Jon Embree. It's obviously hoping for better results after going 3-10 overall and 2-7 in conference play in 2011.
Yet the Buffaloes have plenty of holes to fill, particularly on offense. The Buffs ranked last in the conference in scoring in 2011 -- 19.8 points per game -- and they need to replace their quarterback and leading rusher, as well as injured receiver Paul Richardson.
With so many questions, it seemed like a good time to check in with offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy.
Let's talk quarterbacks first. Without anyone else around to compete with, tell me what you saw with Connor Wood during spring practices.
Eric Bieniemy: The thing I saw with Connor was, early on, he would make mistakes and that would really faze him. But he did a great job of correcting his mistakes. That's something you always want to see -- can a player, regardless of position, be coachable and clean up their deal. I thought that was a very good positive.
What do you know at this point about Kansas transfer Jordan Webb?
Bieniemy: The only thing I really know is he started 19 games. So he has some playing experience and ability and that he has shown improvement on a big stage. One thing we do know: He can throw it around the park and he is very athletic. Now, obviously, we want to see what he can do in training camp. Now he's going to compete against Connor, he's going to compete against Nick [Hirschman]. The beauty and excitement I always look forward to is competition breeds success. I'm looking for one of those three guys to step up and assert himself.
Seems like it's completely wide open at quarterback. How long do you want to wait before you make a decision?
Bieniemy: There really is no timetable. Obviously, everybody would like us to say, 'Such-and-such is our starting quarterback' today. But that's just not the case. We want to make sure we give Nick Hirschman a fair opportunity to show what he can do. Before he got injured last year, he was coming on pretty strong. He could be the future of this university here. We want to make sure we are providing all of our guys an ample opportunity to compete and show what they can do. When the time is right, we'll make that decision.
The biggest drag of spring practices was WR Paul Richardson's knee injury. There have been whispers of a rapid recovery. How is he doing and who steps in for him?
Bieniemy: First of all, yes, it was a tremendous disappointment. But if you saw him and spoke to him, he has the greatest attitude. He's doing everything and anything to make sure he can make it back this season. He's making tremendous strides and growth in his rehab process. As far as a player stepping up, there are some huge shoes to fill. We've got some kids coming back. Nelson Spruce did a hell of a job this spring for us. Tyler McCulloch came on late in the spring. He played a lot of games for us last year. Keenan Canty has stepped up big time. We've also got two young kids coming in, Jeffrey and Gerald Thomas, who we're counting on seeing big things from them. So there are a number of guys that we are counting on. But we want to see the developmental process early in this camp, to see who we can count on.
Heard some nice things about Tony Jones. How do things stack up at RB with the departure of Rodney Stewart?
Bieniemy: You don't ever replace a Rodney. He was a tremendous football player. He did so many things well for us. The thing Tony has done is he has learned a lot playing behind Rodney. The thing I'm excited about is Tony has put on 12 pounds of muscle from last season and he has not lost a step on anything. I'm excited about the mental and physical growth he's made. Behind him, we've got a number of backs. We've got Malcolm Creer, who's coming off a torn ACL. He's done an outstanding job this offseason and he's cleared and good to go. We have D.D. Goodson, he's a kid who moved back to running back after playing a little bit of defensive back for us. And we've got a number of freshmen that we are counting on, Donta Abron, Davien Payne and Terrence Crowder. I don't know who is going to be the guy behind Tony, but I'm excited about the competition that is about to start.
Seems like you guys might be sneaky solid on the offensive line: What's your take there?
Bieniemy: The beauty of our offensive line is every guy in that room has played. That's the good thing. The other good thing is they are the heart and soul of our unit. Those guys work their tails off. They are very smart. They have a high football IQ. I'm looking forward to watching them take their game to another level. We've got some athletic linemen who can do a lot of great things for us. I'm excited to watch these guys play.
What is your biggest concern heading into for fall camp? What tops your to-do list?
Bieniemy: We've got to find a quarterback, that's the No. 1 deal. On top of that, we've got to develop some depth at some key position -- we've got to develop depth at the wide receiver position, we've got to develop depth in the tight end position, we've got to develop depth at the running back position. Those are the things that are at issue. Now, do we feel we have to talent? Yes. We as a coaching staff have to do a great job of teaching and coach these guys and get them ready for day one.
Are we going to see any obvious tweaks to the offense this season, something you can describe in general terms that won't give away team secrets?
Bieniemy: You'll see a number of changes. Obviously, everything starts with the run. We've got to be able to run the ball. I won't go into the plans, but I think everybody will be excited about what we're doing. Our kids have done a great job of buying in.