Pac-12: Dan Hawkins

There's a lady I know. If I didn't know her, she'd be the lady I didn't know.
And my lady, she went downtown. She bought some ber-ra-ccoli. She brought it home;
She's chop'in broccoli.

Mike Bohn out as Colorado's AD

May, 28, 2013
Mike Bohn's sudden resignation as Colorado's athletic director Tuesday is a bit of a surprise. Apparently it was even to Bohn himself, who texted Denver sportscaster Vic Lombardio that he was "floored."

Mark Johnson of 850 KOA first reported Bohn's departure.

So resignation or firing -- semantics! -- the end-result is Colorado is looking for a new athletic director after: 1. Colorado gave Bohn a five-year contract extension in 2011 that ran through 2017; 2. Bohn fired coach Jon Embree after just two seasons and hired Mike MacIntyre away from San Jose State to replace him; 3. The school announced a $50 million facilities fundraising campaign for a $170 million multiyear upgrade of the school's -- read: football's -- athletics facilities.

So a lot is going on at Colorado as it concludes its second year in the Pac-12.

“Mike Bohn led CU-Boulder athletics in a time of great transition and change,” Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano said in a statement released by the school. “We are grateful to him for his vision, passion and commitment, and for his key role in revitalizing men’s and women’s basketball, helping us to join the Pac-12 Conference, and in taking important steps to upgrade athletic facilities at CU-Boulder. We wish him well.”

Bohn's resignation is effective June 3. DiStefano said he will in the coming days appoint a search committee to conduct a national search for Bohn’s successor.

What will Colorado be looking for? Here's a guess, inferring a subtext within the school's official release, is there's a major sense of urgency about fundraising.

From the release:
DiStefano said the university will be seeking “a dynamic leader” as athletic director -- someone who, he said, “can focus on our key goals of fundraising, building a dynamic organization, and creating long-term sustainability in the athletics mission.”

A couple of take-aways here.

First, football rules. While Bohn made a seemingly savvy hire of Tad Boyle to resurrect a poor-to-middling men's basketball program, his two football choices before MacIntyre -- Embree and Dan Hawkins -- produced a 23-60 record.

Second, now MacIntyre will be working for an athletic director who didn't hire him. Most coaches find that worrisome, though that connection failed to help Embree. And winning solves everything.

The timing here, of course, feels strange. Perhaps there's more to the story that will come out in the next few days.

Pac-12 links: Tedford talks about plans

February, 15, 2013
Happy Friday.
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.

Would post-Kelly be Petersen at Oregon?

March, 27, 2012
If you were to make a list of the top 10 coaches -- perhaps even top five -- in college football, just about everyone would include Oregon's Chip Kelly and Boise State's Chris Petersen.

And, in late January, when Kelly had a prolonged and invested flirtation with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, many in Eugene -- after wiping away tears over Kelly leaving -- sought consolation by eyeballing Petersen.

So, even though Kelly stayed and Petersen provided his annual round of "thanks, but no thanks" to various suitors, Ken Goe of The Oregonian took a jaunt up to Boise to visit with the man who could go just about anywhere but hasn't. Yet.

With his 73-6 record in seven seasons in charge at Boise State, Petersen is college football's most coveted commodity. When the annual firing-hiring season begins in December, Petersen's name seemingly appears on the short list of every coach-hunting athletic director in the land.

Petersen hasn't budged, hasn't been interested, apparently never has officially interviewed. And, yet there are many who believe it would be different if Chip Kelly leaves Oregon -- as he almost did over the winter -- and the Ducks turn in Petersen's direction.

First of all, there was credible evidence that if Kelly bolted the Ducks might turn to offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich. Some Ducks fans might not have been warm to that, but think of it this way: It's like hiring Petersen before he becomes Petersen. Helfrich has impressed more than a few folks who have some power in Eugene, some of the same folks who saw Kelly's potential.

[+] EnlargeBoise State's Chris Petersen
Kyle Terada/US PRESSWIREWill Chris Petersen and future Big East member Boise State be hurt by having a committee deciding if they're worthy of playing for a national title?
But if Kelly one day leaves -- and some (though not necessarily me) believe it's a question of when, not if -- luring Petersen away from Boise State would be a PR home run, one that would resonate nationally.

Petersen knows Oregon. He was the Ducks' receivers coach for six years under Mike Bellotti before Dan Hawkins brought him to Boise State as offensive coordinator. So what does Petersen tell Goe about the Ducks?

Well, Petersen has been playing this game with the media for a while, and he knew why Goe stopped by for a chat.

Petersen sees the Oregon question coming. He braces for it, response prepared.

"I live this job year-to-year, because that is just how hard this job is," he says. "We really like it here. Until that changes, we don't really see anything else changing. I always tell our recruits this: There is not another job out there in the country that I go, 'Oh if that thing opens, that's the job I want.' I don't think like that. I don't have that place."

My impression is Kelly really likes coaching at Oregon. He's also smart enough to be familiar with the whole "grass is always greener" thing that so many coaches learned the hard way. And if he sticks around for another decade, they'd name the football building after him. But he's also ultra-competitive. If, say, the Pac-12 blog told him he probably wouldn't enjoy coaching in the NFL, he'd tell the Pac-12 blog to go stick it.

Same with Petersen. He clearly loves Boise State. And he's seen what happened to Dirk Koetter and Hawkins, previous Broncos coaching savants whose jumps to AQ programs didn't go so well.

But let's be clear: You can't coach at a high level without being competitive. At some point, Petersen might feel an itch that he needs to scratch, and there are plenty of folks who believe Oregon holds some allure for him.

As Goe concludes:

Petersen won't completely close the door.

"I'm at the place I want to be," he says. "But that being said, you always hear these coaches say, 'I'm staying here forever.' And the next year they're out. I think they really believe it at the time.

"But things change."

You've got to break some eggs to make an omelet. And sometimes a coach gives players the boot to establish the culture he wants.

It appears that Colorado coach Jon Embree is willing to sacrifice his team's present for its future, as he has indefinitely suspended five players from a defense that is already thin, particularly in the secondary, where four of the five play.

And that secondary faces Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck on Saturday. Luck is generally considered a capable passer.

The five suspended players, according to the Boulder Daily Camera: CB Parker Orms, CB Ayodeji Olatoye, CB Paul Vigo, CB Josh Moten and LB Liloa Nobriga. None of the players were listed as starters on this week's depth chart.

According to the Daily Camera, all five were notified of the decision Wednesday and the entire team was told during a post-practice team meeting. Further:
None of the problems that led to the suspensions involved the police, but the rules violations were serious enough that CU is expected to announce today that none of the five will play again this season.

Whether the players remain with the program beyond this season remains to be seen.

It will be interesting to see how the Buffaloes react at Stanford. While these suspensions aren't devastating in terms of starting personnel, you'd guess each of these guys have relationships in the locker room with the guys left behind. That means there will be plenty of chatter, either for or against Embree's "my way or the end of my boot" methods.

The Daily Camera article is worth a read because it does a nice job of recalling Embree's prescient prediction of significant attrition last spring. I particularly like this quote:
"It's going to be hard because you have to go to class every day," [Embree] said in that spring interview. "It's going to be hard because you have to sit in the first three rows. I don't want your iPod on or your iPad or your laptop. I want you there, I want you prepared. I want you to have a pen, paper, book. I want you prepared and I want you to engage.

"It's going to be hard because of what you're going to do in the weight room and what's going to be demanded of you as a football player, how we expect you to study and prepare for the game. That's going to be hard for the guys because that requires consistency and discipline and they don't have that."

While it's purely speculative to try to figure out what these five may have done to fall out of favor, if the police or NCAA isn't involved, then it's likely that they fell afoul of Embree's specific demands that perhaps didn't exist during the Dan Hawkins era. And Embree wants his players to know he takes those demands seriously.

Sometimes a new coach arrives with new energy and new ideas and a smooth transition immediately leads to success.

But not often.

Particularly when a program has been downtrodden for an extended stretch, as Colorado has been. The Buffaloes haven't had a winning record since 2005, and the early returns on new coach Jon Embree's first year are that streak will extend another season. Colorado is 1-4 through the seemingly easier part of its schedule.

[+] EnlargeJon Embree
Ron Chenoy/US PresswireJon Embree's Colorado Buffaloes have had a disappointing start to the season and will soon face a slate of tough games.
Up next is a visit to No. 7 Stanford on Saturday. Then there's a trip to 4-1 Washington. Then No. 9 Oregon comes to Boulder. Then a trip to the desert to take on No. 22 Arizona State. And USC comes to town on Nov. 4.

That's three road trips -- the Buffs have lost 20 consecutive games away from their home state -- three ranked teams and five foes with a combined record of 19-4. Fair to say this is the most rugged stretch of a 13-game, no-off-week schedule that is among the most difficult in the country.

It's obvious that Embree didn't expect to be here, even while he recognized the Buffaloes' talent deficiencies. This is a veteran team -- 18 starters back from a 5-7 crew -- that showed competitive sparks late in the 2010 season after Dan Hawkins was fired.

But presently, Embree's team is finding ways to lose instead of ways to win. It had chances to win in the fourth quarter of three of the four losses, and blew leads in the final frame against California and Washington State.

After Embree watched the Buffs surrender a 10-point lead in the final five minutes against Washington State, he could barely contain his frustration.

""When is enough, enough?" Embree seethed to reporters after the game.

A couple of days later, after watching film, Embree's emotions were in check, but the verdict remained darn near the same: This team hasn't figured out how to win.

"We've got to start finishing these games," he said. "There are two games, Washington State and California, that we had opportunities to win and really had the game and we found a way not to do it. At some point, I told them, 'When is enough, enough? When is it that you are so tired of losing games in this manner that we finally figure out a way to win it?'"

A coach, particularly a new one, often finds motivational tactics a spider's web of competing interests and personalities and locker room undercurrents. Veteran players can be hungry to go out with a taste of success. Or they can throw up their hands, having accepted losing. Young players can be uncertain, take hard coaching badly, and fall into the old, negative culture of losing.

When does a coach kick them in the pants? And when does he slap them on the back?

After calling a team meeting and talking to his leadership counsel, Embree said that he still senses a locker room buy-in.

"They are all on board," he said. "We'll be encouraging of them but still at the same time when you mess up we're not going to act like nothing happened."

It won't be easy to regain confidence at Stanford, a program that can beat you up with physical play on both sides of the ball, while showcasing the best player in college football in quarterback Andrew Luck. The Buffs have injury woes in the secondary, which has forced them to use inexperienced players: see the broken coverage that turned into a 63-yard game-winning touchdown for Washington State with one minute left.

What's Embree think of Luck? "I see a guy I wished left, I know that," he quipped about Luck's decision to return to the Farm and not become the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft.

Embree is selling competing against Luck as an opportunity.

"I told our team that, for those who will not get an opportunity to play professional football, you're going to get an opportunity to see what it's like to go against Peyton Manning," he said. "He's everything you look for in a quarterback."

Whining about the schedule won't help. The only thing the Buffs can do is keep working and hope things click into place. Those pining for a magical season have been slapped by reality. There will be no magic. Instead, the Buffs solution is mostly what every other rebuilding program must endure.

Said Embree, "We've got to improve every week and eventually the wins will come."
Colorado flew 4,100 miles to Hawaii to fall to 0-1. It's flying 1,300 miles to play Ohio State on Saturday, where pundits believe the Buffaloes will fall to 1-3.

The Buffs will play 13 games in 2011. They will not have a week off. They will play a nine-game Pac-12 schedule after already having played a bonus matchup with California -- a heartbreaking 36-33 overtime loss -- that won't count in the conference standings.

Welcome back to college football, new coach Jon Embree, who inherited a roster with more than a few holes from fired former coach Dan Hawkins and a brutal schedule from his administration.

"It gets harder and harder each week," Embree said. "But that's OK. It is what it is. We can't change it."

But coaches know they often have to remake a poke in eye into a wonderful teachable moment. Here's how Embree spins what's probably the nation's toughest schedule.

"In a way as a coach, it kind of makes it a little bit easier," he said. "Because of the nature of our schedule, there's always something to be excited about from a players standpoint."

It's hard to know what to expect from Ohio State, which dropped out of the national polls this week for the first time since 2004. Ohio State is still Ohio State -- loaded with talent -- but it's looked bad in its last two games: a close win over Toledo and a 24-6 loss at Miami. It should be mad and motivated in front of a typically raucous crowd in the Horseshoe, but you never know. There's a lot of distractions in Columbus, and the Buckeyes might be buckling.

This could be a big opportunity for the Buffs to kick a Buckeye when it's down.

Further, Colorado seemed to find itself over the last six quarters. It came back from a 23-13 third-quarter deficit against California to force overtime and asserted itself on both sides of the ball against Colorado State. The Buffs ultimately dispatched the Rams with a hard-nosed, 16-play, 85-yard touchdown drive that ate up more than 10 minutes of the fourth quarter after the Rams had pulled within 21-14 on a trick play.

"That's three weeks now that we've improved," Embree said. "I'm very encouraged."

Embree expects both teams to try to run the football, even though the Buffs have struggled to do so. They rank 103rd in the nation with just 90 yards rushing per game, though Rodney Stewart did break through against the Rams with 98 yards rushing as well as 93 yards receiving.

Stewart likely wants as many touches as he can get. He's an Ohio native who wasn't recruited by the Buckeyes.

"It will probably be a fast game with both teams trying to run the football," Embree said.

Embree has seen a lot of improvement from his team since a disastrous first half at Hawaii. But the Buckeyes -- and the Horseshoe -- are an entirely different animal.

It's the next game on the schedule, yes, but it's also an elite program playing inside one of the sport's great venues.

"It will tell us where we are as a program and how far we need to go to reach the levels we want to reach around here," Embree said. "That's the No. 1 thing at playing at a school like Ohio State. It's a great measuring stick."

And then in two weeks there's Stanford. And a few weeks later Oregon. Etc, etc.

What we learned in the Pac-12: Week 3

September, 18, 2011
What did we learn from Week 3 of Pac-12 action?

1. The Pac-12 won't be getting much national respect: After a weekend of going 3-4 versus FBS foes, the conference is 12-9 versus FBS nonconference foes and 4-6 against other AQ conferences, with a single win over a ranked foe. That's not terribly distinguished. That will be how many so-called pundits will measure the conference. And it will hurt teams such as Stanford and Oregon that are trying to push back into the national title mix.

[+] EnlargeRick Neuheisel
AP Photo/Bret HartmanRick Neuheisel's seat got a little warmer after UCLA was routed by Texas on Saturday.
2. Stanford is good, but has questions: With 567 yards of balanced offense and a mostly dominant defense, Stanford answered questions with a 37-10 win at Arizona, and it now leads the nation with an 11-game winning streak. Still, it took two-and-a-half quarters to established dominance, struggled in the red zone and, most importantly, appears to have lost LB Shayne Skov to a knee injury. He's a first-team All-Pac-12 talent and the leader of the Cardinal defense. Still, Stanford might not be truly tested until it visits USC on Oct. 29, and perhaps not until its red-letter date with Oregon on Nov. 12.

3. Arizona State takes a step back: A nonconference road loss at Illinois won't necessarily ruin Arizona State's season, particularly if it bounces back and beats USC on Saturday. But the Sun Devils probably should have won -- they outgained Illinois 362 yards to 240 -- and they are now 3-11 in games decided by a touchdown or fewer over the past three seasons. Further, ASU lost DE Junior Onyeali to a knee injury of uncertain severity early in the game. He could become its seventh starter to miss extended action due to injury, a list that doesn't include RB Deantre Lewis.

4. Neuheisel is in deep trouble, and Wulff might be, too: No coach from the conference was fired last year (Colorado's Dan Hawkins was fired as a Big 12 coach). The Pac-12 probably won't be so lucky in 2011. The hottest seat belongs to UCLA's Rick Neuheisel. The Bruins are now 1-2 and haven't looked good getting there. It's hard to imagine the Bruins winning five of their final nine games and earning bowl eligibility, a general baseline for what most think Neuheisel needs to remain at alma mater. Over at Washington State, coach Paul Wulff's task got harder when his team fell apart in the second half at San Diego State. The Cougars are 2-1 and will need to win four conference games to earn bowl eligibility -- double its conference wins in Wulff's first three seasons. And five of the final nine are on the road. The Cougs are much improved, but it's possible that backup QB Marshall Lobbestael's honeymoon is over. Things only will get tougher.

5. Utah could be factor in South Division: What we know about the South Division: USC isn't eligible and UCLA and Arizona look flawed to varying degrees. Arizona State showed it's not ready for prime time by losing at Illinois. What about Utah? All we know about the Utes in Pac-12 play is they were a blocked field goal away at USC from forcing overtime. Oh, and they were good enough to stomp their archrival BYU 54-10 on the road. The Utes do just enough on offense and play tough defense. In fact, the Utes probably should be included when we debate the conference's best defense. The home game with Arizona State on Oct. 8 looms large.

Best case-worst case: Colorado

August, 17, 2011
Second in a series looking at potential dream and nightmare scenarios for all Pac-12 teams.

Understand: These are not predictions. They are extreme scenarios and pieces of fiction. You can read last year's versions here.

We're going in reverse order of my post-spring power rankings (which might not be identical to my preseason power rankings).

Up next: Colorado

Best case

Hawaii quarterback Bryant Moniz shook his head.

"If Colorado is the worst team in the Pac-12 South, I'd hate to play in the Pac-12 South," said the touted Warriors QB after the Buffaloes sacked him five times and intercepted him twice in a 42-20 victory that ended a 17-game road losing streak.

Says new Buffs coach Jon Embree, "We don't have too much time to feel good about this. We have to go back home and watch film of last year's game with California. That should make us sick."

That 52-7 defeat to the Bears is a major reason many old school Pac-10 fans don't think too much of the Buffs. But after Colorado prevails 24-21 in a highly physical contest, it becomes clear the Buffs have been underestimated.

"Colorado has been underestimated," the Pac-12 Blog insightfully observes.

After whipping Colorado State, the 3-0 Buffs head to Ohio State brimming with confidence, though pundits believe the Buckeyes -- even down a few players -- have too much talent to lose, particularly inside the Horseshoe.

Down 21-17, with two minutes left, QB Tyler Hansen drives the Buffs to the Buckeyes 17-yard line. On third-and-10, he connects in the corner of the endzone with Paul Richardson.

But the officials rule Richardson didn't have possession when his landed. The play is reviewed but not overturned. Ohio State survives.

"What did I think of that call?" Embree asks. The term "pregnant pause" is used in 17 of 23 game stories the following day.

After whipping Washington State to improve to 4-1, the schedule gets tougher. Andrew Luck picks apart the Buffs secondary in a 41-20 loss at Stanford. An overtime win at Washington is followed by consecutive defeats to Oregon and Arizona State.

The Buffs could use a bye, but the schedule says 13 consecutive weeks, none off. Most of the whining, nonetheless, comes from the beat writers, who start to wish hotel room keys still had numbers on them.

The Buffs bounce back and upset USC, which guarantees them bowl eligibility, but lose to Arizona when QB Nick Foles lines up with five receivers and throws for 425 yards and four TDs against a game but overmatched secondary.

Colorado outlasts UCLA in the Rose Bowl when linebacker Jon Major blows up Bruins receiver Taylor Embree, who for a moment appeared to catch a game-winning TD pass.

"He's my son and I love him and I wish that it wasn't him on that play," Embree says, "But I really wanted to win this football game."

The 7-5 Buffaloes head to Utah, which is 7-4, with the apparent stakes being a berth in the Sun Bowl. The game is billed as a rivalry game between the Pac-12's two new members.

"Do you guys see this!" an enraged Embree says to his team during a meeting Monday before the game. He holds a bike above his head that it appears someone has vandalized with cheap, red spray paint.

"This is my 15-year-old daughter's bike. Look what they did to it! It used to be black and gold, our beloved colors. And now it is Utah red! Those, those, Utes... they made her cry!"

The meeting room erupts. "They made coach's daughter cry!" rages 6-foot-8 guard Ryan Miller. "We must crush them, see them driven before us, and hear the lamentation of their women!"

It will become known as the "Red Bike Incident." Utes fans will alternately revel in it or deny involvement. Years hence, college football historians will lean back and sagely say, "Yep, that was when those Buffs and Utes really started to hate each other. Might be the most vicious rivalry in all of college football."

Colorado prevails 28-27 in a game that features 195 yards in penalties. The Buffs then stomp Clemson in the Sun Bowl and finish 9-5.

Embree's recruiting class ranks 15th in the nation. The Big 12 falls apart. Nebraska finishes last in the Legends Division of the Big Ten.

The snow comes early and often and is most righteous.

Worst case

A team that can't win on the road and has a highly dubious secondary is not a good thing when you're facing a QB like Hawaii's prolific Bryant Moniz, who throws for four TDs against the Buffaloes.

And so Jon Embree's debut as Colorado's coach becomes an 18th consecutive road defeat, 44-35. Embree isn't happy.

"I'm not happy," Embree says.

The Buffaloes try to rally around the embarrassment of their 52-7 defeat at California last year, but they don't have anyone in the secondary who can cover receiver Keenan Allen, who catches three TD passes in a 38-20 Bears victory.

The Buffs beat state rival Colorado State, but the schedule becomes unforgiving thereafter. It doesn't help that injuries start to pile up.

They get rolled at Ohio State, picked apart by Washington State QB Jeff Tuel and blistered by Stanford QB Andrew Luck. An upset win at Washington ends the road losing streak -- the Huskies are struggling to throw the ball with new QB Keith Price -- and briefly stops the bleeding. At least until Oregon hangs 55 on the Buffs in a game that foregrounds Colorado's lack of team speed.

That becomes the first of four consecutive defeats. Though they win a sloppy game at UCLA, they go down hard at Utah, which captures the South Division crown.

A 3-10 finish is blamed on former coach Dan Hawkins, as are poor early snow accumulation and flu symptoms lots of fans seem to be having. Further, fans no longer burst into song each time Jon Embree's name is mentioned.

"I'm not happy," Embree says. "We need to get faster. We need to get tougher."

Nebraska loses the national championship game to Oklahoma, one of two BCS bowl teams from the nation's best football conference, the Big 12.

"Well, at least we signed the top five prospects from the state of Colorado," Cornhuskers coach Bo Pelini says after the game.

New Pac-12 coaches

August, 11, 2011
A quick look at the two new coaches in the Pac-12: Colorado's Jon Embree and Stanford's David Shaw.

Embree and Shaw share some similarities. Both are first-time head coaches. Both played for the program they now coach. Both coached in the NFL. Both say they want to retire in their present job instead of climbing the coaching ladder. And, yes, both are black, the fourth and fifth black head football coaches in conference -- Pac-8 to Pac-10 to Pac-12 -- history.

Here's a quick look at the new guys.

Jon Embree, Colorado

Replaces? Dan Hawkins, who never posted a winning season in five years in Boulder.

Where was Embree last year? He was the tight ends coach for the Washington Redskins.

What's he bring to the table that's different? Embree is a hardnosed old school coach -- Hawkins was decidedly new school -- who is from the area and played for Colorado under the revered Bill McCartney. He's spent 10 of his 18 seasons in coaching at Colorado, working from 1993-2002 as a Buffs assistant under three different head coaches: Bill McCartney (1993-94), Rick Neuheisel (1995-98) and Gary Barnett (1999-2002). He has repeatedly said that Colorado is his dream job, not a stepping stone. His singular focus is restoring a program that was once a national power.

What else? Embree, 45, is the first black head football coach at Colorado and the fourth black head coach in Pac-12 history (Stanford's Dennis Green (1989-91), Stanford's Tyrone Willingham (1995-2001), UCLA's Karl Dorrell (2003-07) and Willingham at Washington (2004-08). Shaw became the fifth in January)... Embree earned a communications degree from Colorado in 1988... He was a member of McCartney's first recruiting class... In 1984, he earned first-team All-Big 8 honors and set school single-season records for receptions (51) and receiving yards (680)... He was a sixth-round selection by the Los Angeles Rams in 1987. He played two seasons with the Rams before suffering a career-ending elbow injury in 1989 while a member of the Seattle Seahawks... His original plan after the NFL was to get into TV news, but he took a job as a volunteer assistant with McCartney and was immediately bitten by the coaching bug... He is married to the former Natalyn Grubb and they have three children, a daughter and two sons. Eldest son Taylor, is a receiver at UCLA, while Connor is a receiver at UNLV.

David Shaw, Stanford

Replaces: Jim Harbaugh, who rebuilt the program into a national power before being hired away by the San Francisco 49ers.

Where was Shaw last year: He was Stanford's offensive coordinator.

What's he bring to the table that's different: Where Harbaugh was boisterous, often eccentric and sometimes prickly, Shaw is mellow, polished and accommodating. That said, he's repeatedly insisted that doesn't mean the competitive fire doesn't burn just as hot. He certainly knows Stanford. His father coached there and he's a 1984 graduate. He returned to Stanford in 2007 when Harbaugh arrived -- they were together at San Diego -- so he's seen the Cardinal renaissance firsthand. And, just like Embree, he says that Stanford is his destination job and that he's not looking to move on or up in the coaching profession.

What else? Shaw is the fifth Stanford alum to become head football coach, joining Charles Fickert (1901), Carl Clemans (1902), Chuck Taylor (1951-57) and Paul Wiggin (1980-83)... He was a member of Stanford's 1991 Aloha Bowl team coached by Dennis Green that finished 8-4. He was also on the Cardinal's 1992 Blockbuster Bowl-winning squad coached by Bill Walsh that went 10-3. He finished his Stanford career with 57 receptions for 664 yards and five touchdowns... He started his coaching career in 1995 at Western Washington. He's also coached for the Philadelphia Eagles, Oakland Raiders and Baltimore Ravens... He's coached quarterbacks, receivers and running backs in his career... Shaw's offense ranked ninth in the nation in scoring last fall (40.3 ppg) and it amassed a school-record 6,142 yards, averaging a notably balanced 213.8 on the ground and 258.7 yards through the air... His father, Willie, had two separate coaching stints at Stanford (1974-76; 1989-91) during his 33-year coaching career, which was mostly spent in the NFL... His bachelor's degree from Stanford is in sociology... He was born in San Diego. He and his wife Kori have three children, Keegan, Carter and Gavin.

Issues facing the veteran QBs

August, 9, 2011
It's great having a veteran quarterback, particularly a veteran quarterback who is proven.

But a veteran quarterback can have his own concerns. Here's what the returning starters at the position in the Pac-12 will be fretting about -- though they'd never own up to fretting -- during preseason camp.

Nick Foles, Arizona: Foles has a talented and deep crew of receivers but he also has five new starting offensive linemen in front of him, which not only will be an issue in pass protection but also for creating a running game that will slow down a pass rush.

Tyler Hansen, Colorado: The good news for Hansen is the job is his and he no longer has to worry about the coach's son, as he did under Dan Hawkins with Cody Hawkins. The bad news also is it's all on him, though Hansen seems like the sort who would see that as good news. A more tangible worry for Hansen is a lack of depth at receiver. Paul Richardson can ball and Toney Clemons is solid. After that, things are thin.

Darron Thomas, Oregon: Talk about a debut. Most folks thought Nate Costa was going to win the starting job over Thomas last preseason, but Thomas not only prevailed, he thrived, earning second-team All-Pac-10 honors and, oh by the way, playing in the national championship game. But now Thomas is playing behind a less-experienced offensive line and without his top-two receivers from 2010, Jeff Maehl and D.J. Davis. Further, he's the man now, the first guy his teammates will look at in the huddle, though running back LaMichael James also figures to play a significant leadership role. Thomas seems up to increasing his responsibilities, but he can't do it alone. He will need some young receivers to step up, just as he did last year.

Ryan Katz, Oregon State: Katz might have the biggest arm in the conference and he certainly had some impressive moments, most notably a tour-de-force performance at Arizona. But he sure could use the return of a healthy James Rodgers, who was a big help against the Wildcats before he suffered a terrible knee injury. But receivers are not among Katz's chief worries. His offensive line welcomes back four starters, but it underperformed in 2010, both as run- and pass-blockers. And Katz no longer has certainty at tailback, with Jacquizz Rodgers off to the NFL.

Andrew Luck, Stanford: Luck is the best quarterback in the country, but that means many will expect him to be perfect, which he can't be. For one, his dominant 2010 offensive line is replacing three starters. We don't know if the Cardinal running game will match what it did the previous two seasons. That line also protected Luck as well as any line protected its quarterback in the nation. But more pressing for Luck is a questionable crew of receivers. If speedy Chris Owusu is healthy all season, things should work out. But without him, Luck doesn't have any options who can scare a defense. No one stepped up during the spring, which makes receiver perhaps the Cardinal's most worrisome position.

Matt Barkley, USC: Barkley looks poised for a breakthrough in his third year as a starter. While Luck is super special, watching Barkley throw the ball at practice is pretty darn special, too. He's certainly an NFL talent, and he's got plenty of young talent around him at the skill positions to help him put up big numbers this season. But his offensive line was awful during spring practices. Injuries were the chief explanation, but he needs his starting five to stay healthy because there is a decided lack of depth. Offensive line is probably, in fact, USC's biggest question mark.

Jordan Wynn, Utah: First, Wynn needs to worry about himself. He's coming back from shoulder surgery, so he needs to pace himself this preseason, both in terms of not overthrowing and in terms of not seeking out any unnecessary contact. After taking care of himself, Wynn will need to develop chemistry with a receiving corps that is replacing two of its three top guys. Beyond that, Wynn will be paying attention to running back, where the Utes' top two rushers from last season need to be replaced. Utah wants to be a downhill running team, and a hard-nosed running game certainly makes things easier for a quarterback when he steps back into the pocket.

Jeff Tuel, Washington State: Tuel and his receivers are going to be fine -- more than fine if they get some help from an offensive line that struggled horribly in 2010, failing to protect Tuel or to create running lanes for an anemic running game. Tuel did an admirable job handling 51 sacks last fall. But if he gets sacked that many times again in 2011, it's hard to imagine him starting all 12 games.
The first official football gathering of the new Pac-12 -- media day -- will be held on July 26 in Los Angeles. It will feature all 12 coaches, and each team brings along a star player.

Hmm. I wonder what reporters will ask Oregon coach Chip Kelly about?

I don't wonder what his answers will be: Some form of "no comment," though the exact phrasing might include some chippy Chipperism that we've all grown to love.

But even with those no comments, there will be plenty to talk about -- with Kelly and all the other coaches.

Do you have questions you want asked? Feel free to send them along. Or comment below.

Here a list of who will be there and what we're interested in asking.

Quarterback Nick Foles and coach Mike Stoops

Top questions: While the rebuilding of both lines is a prime issue, Wildcats fans will want an update on receiver Juron Criner's health from Mike Stoops. And they will want to know about 2010's late-season slide.

Arizona State
Quarterback Brock Osweiler and coach Dennis Erickson

Top questions: Are the Sun Devils ready to play as the favorites in the Pac-12 South? And is there any chance cornerback Omar Bolden plays this fall?

Receiver Marvin Jones and coach Jeff Tedford

Top questions: Is Zach Maynard the man to restore Tedford's reputation as a developer of QBs? How does Tedford feel about growing fan discontent?

Quarterback Tyler Hansen and coach Jon Embree

Top questions: Does it feel different heading into the season as a member of the Pac-12 instead of the Big 12? What went wrong under Dan Hawkins that's going to go right under Embree?

Tight end David Paulson and coach Chip Kelly

Top questions: Er, any comment on Willie Lyles? What about those rebuilt offensive and defensive lines? What's up with suspended cornerback Cliff Harris and linebacker Kiko Alonso?

Oregon State
Safety Lance Mitchell and coach Mike Riley

Top questions: What went wrong last year? How's James Rodgers knee doing? And about those lines...

Quarterback Andrew Luck and coach David Shaw

Top questions: Does it feel different to be a frontrunner rather than a darkhorse? What's going to be different under Shaw compared to Jim Harbaugh? What about holes at receiver and on both lines?

Running back Johnathan Franklin and coach Rick Neuheisel

Top questions: Is this a win or else season for Neuheisel? What's going to happen at quarterback? What's the status of O-lineman Jeff Baca (broken ankle)?

Quarterback Matt Barkley and coach Lane Kiffin

Top questions: What's the approach with no postseason as a motivation? Injury update, please! What about the depth on the O-line and LB? And is Armond Armstead going to play in 2011?

Offensive tackle Tony Bergstrom and coach Kyle Whittingham

Top questions: Do the Utes think they will become an immediate contender in the Pac-12 South race? Is quarterback Jordan Wynn 100 percent and back to his old self after shoulder surgery?

Running back Chris Polk and coach Steve Sarkisian

Top questions: What's the offense going to look like post-Jake Locker? What's the pecking order at linebacker? What does the bowl victory mean about the state of the program?

Washington State
Receiver Jared Karstetter and coach Paul Wulff

Top questions: Is this a win or else season for Wulff? Will the defense improve enough to support what should be a good offense? How good can quarterback Jeff Tuel be?

Pac-12 lunch links: Should Kelly talk to reporters?

July, 11, 2011
Bats, they are sick. I cannot hit curveball. Straightball I hit it very much. Curveball, bats are afraid. I ask Jobu to come, take fear from bats. I offer him cigar, rum. He will come.

Poll: Which Pac-12 team bounces back in 2011?

June, 3, 2011
Every season, teams disappoint. And, every season, teams bounce back from disappointing seasons.

It's fair to say that California, Colorado, Oregon State, UCLA and Washington State walked away from the 2010 season feeling sour.

California suffered its first losing campaign in nine seasons with coach Jeff Tedford. Colorado suffered through a dead-man-walking trudge that ended the horribly disappointing run of coach Dan Hawkins.

Oregon State experienced its first losing season since 2005 after winning 36 games over the previous four seasons. UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel is on the hot seat after what was supposed to be a reclamation project instead yielded a second 4-8 record in three years.

In three seasons under coach Paul Wulff, Washington State has won only two Pac-10 games. And five games total. The Cougars, who finished ranked in the top 10 three consecutive years from 2001-2003, have become completely irrelevant.

Five teams that were sitting at home, miserable, last bowl season.

Ah, but you can bet at least one of these teams will be smiling more than frowning at season's end. A couple of their coaches need that if they are going to be around in 2012.

But who is the most likely to bounce back, post a winning season and play in a bowl game?