The Colorado football team hasn't started the first practice of fall camp and coach Jon Embree is already looking ahead to how he might handle practices in September, October and November.

Embree faces a dilemma of sorts.

He wants to build the program into one known for smash-mouth football, as it was in the past. He plans to develop a physical team opponents won't look forward to seeing on Saturdays. Embree's dream team will punch its opponents in the mouth from the first play to the last play of every game.

Embree said the best way -- make that the only way -- to produce those results is to have physical practices.

"You have to make them hit," Embree said when asked how he makes players tougher. "It's how you train. It's a mindset. It's how you see yourself.

Colorado head coach, Jon Embree, gets after the Buffalo defense after the offense scores  during the Colorado Buffaloes’ spring game on April 9, 2011
Colorado head coach, Jon Embree, gets after the Buffalo defense after the offense scores during the Colorado Buffaloes' spring game on April 9, 2011 at Folsom Field in Boulder. Cliff Grassmick/ April 9, 2011 ( CLIFF GRASSMICK )

"... You have to practice in such a manner that you can't hide. You got to expose guys. You've got to let their teammates see if they're doing what they're supposed to do so that they can't hide. You do those things and that will either make you tough or get you out of there."

But as he looked ahead to his first season leading his alma mater on the gridiron, it became obvious that he and his assistant coaches might have to dial down practices a notch or two to give players a break and provide them the best hope of surviving the season.

The Buffs play 13 consecutive weeks without a bye, with 11 of those games against teams from Bowl Championships Series conferences. Some have dubbed it the nation's toughest schedule at the outset of the season.


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And while the Buffs have 27 seniors and some talented backups, they certainly aren't the deepest team in the nation. Avoiding injuries will be a big factor in Colorado's success, especially injuries that occur Monday through Friday.

To avoid as much of that as possible, Embree said he will consider practicing less often in full pads. He said he might have players remove pads after a certain amount of time on days when they are scheduled to be in full pads. He said it's a fine line he will walk this year.

"What this will do is give us an opportunity to learn how to practice some other ways because we can't do like we would do in a normal season if you had a bye, say, in October, you know to recover," Embree said.

The process of building a physical team started from scratch in the spring.

Embree inherited a program that rarely did 9-on-7 inside run drills under former coach Dan Hawkins.

Embree actually cautioned his assistant coaches before spring ball began not to overreact if the first few 15-minute editions of the drill were weak.

He said that's exactly what he saw on those first few days on the field, but by the final four or five practices of spring, "It felt like football."

Embree said he challenges players in practice often to play more physical football. He said if he sees the offense run over the defense on a certain play, he will stop practice and tell the defense the exact same play is coming on the next snap.

"If you what's coming and you know what's about to happen and you know someone is about to hit you in the mouth, and you keep doing this (leaning back in his chair), that's how you expose them," he said.

Embree said he is anxious for the first practice of fall camp next Thursday so he can see if his players pick up where they left off or if they need more lessons in toughness.