Anyone who has spent a significant amount of time at Colorado football practices this spring and summer might be surprised to know offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy does have an inner conversation going on about what to say and what to hold back when his players make mistakes.
While it seems like his dam has a few leaks, he insists his words are more carefully considered than it sometimes might sound.
"Oh yeah, obviously there are certain situations that come up," Bieniemy said. "You just try and monitor certain guys. I mean, certain kids that you know you have a great relationship with, you can grind them a little bit. Certain kids might not have the same personality so you've got to make sure, 'Hey you know what? If I talk to Kid A, I just need to make sure Kid A is on the same page. Kid B, if you come at him a certain way, he may go in the tank. So you may have to give him a little bit more positive reinforcement just to make sure he is staying on the same page.'
"But, yes, I do watch myself at times."
As a player at CU 20 years ago, Bieniemy was known for his furious explosions during games and practices fueled by a passion to compete and win matched by few others in the history of the program. During a game against Texas in the 1990 national championship season, it was Bieniemy and not coaches, who called the offense and defense together between the third and fourth quarters and challenged them to take over the game. The Buffs scored 14 fourth-quarter points and won.
"That was probably a defining moment in our program," said Darian Hagan, the quarterback of that team and the current director of player personnel.
Fans were thrilled to hear he was returning to the school in December when athletic director Mike Bohn landed Jon Embree and Bieniemy in what amounted to a package deal.
Bieniemy is a little older and wiser now than in his two previous stints on the Boulder campus -- he previously served as an assistant here under Gary Barnett -- and as a rookie coordinator he is ready to devote all his passion and intensity to turning around what has been one of the worst offenses in the nation in recent years.
"He expects perfection," starting quarterback Tyler Hansen said. "He will meet with you for two hours straight and he expects you to know it after that meeting. You've got to really pay attention to him and attention to details is really key to working with him."
Bieniemy is the school's all-time leading rusher and a man who loves physical football. The natural inclination is to assume the Buffs will run the ball 50 times a game this fall with him calling the plays. Bieniemy promises the Buffs will run often enough, but he might surprise some with how often he chooses to pass.
Stopping the Buffs is going to require more than stuffing the first five yards from the line of scrimmage with eight or nine defenders. Bieniemy hopes to outsmart his opponents through the hundreds of hours of preparation he has put in throughout the offseason.
Some of his biggest influences in coaching are Brad Childress, George Stewart, Darrell Bevell, Kevin Rogers, Leslie Frazier, Mike Tomlin, Gary Barnett and Bill McCartney. He has spent time picking the brains of each of them in the offseason along with many others he doesn't want to identify because he doesn't want to give opponents any early hints at what he might be preparing for them.
"The great thing about Eric is what you see is what you get," Embree said. "He's relentless in everything he does. He is all in, all the time."
Embree was asked during his media day press conference Saturday how many times Bieniemy beat him to the office during the offseason.
"Eric Bieniemy has never beaten me at anything," Embree said with a smile.
"That's cold-blooded," Bieniemy said later.
The truth is Bieniemy has been consumed with the challenge he faces of outscoring some high-powered offenses he will see on game day this fall. CU isn't going to beat Ohio State, USC or Oregon with a predictable approach and lack of imagination. Bieniemy said the Buffs have made significant progress in learning and executing his system from the first days of spring to now, but they still have a long way to go.
Bieniemy and Embree only gave players about 30 percent of the offense to learn in the spring, but they are feeding them bigger bites now with the season looming.
Bieniemy says he feels confident about his ability to walk into the coaches box for the season opener in Hawaii and call a great game, putting his players in positions to make plays and win. He is also savvy enough to understand he's going to wish he had made different calls and decisions from time to time.
Three other members of the Colorado staff -- Rip Scherer, Steve Marshall and J.D. Brookhart -- have previously served as offensive coordinators and Bieniemy welcomes suggestions from each of them.
"He's a mad scientist," Hagan said. "He doesn't lock himself up in a room like some guys, but he will go in there and grind it out. He knows what he wants. He knows what it takes for these guys to succeed. He has a plan every day.
"He's a guy who doesn't have to have his hands in everything and pretend he knows it all. He's not too proud to ask questions and take input. That's one thing that you rarely ever get from offensive coordinators."
Embree jokingly wonders how long it will take Bieniemy to get himself kicked out of the coaches' box and return to the field on game days. His intensity has a way of overtaking a room. It has been there inside him since he was a young boy.
"I've always just been a guy who has been very, very competitive," Bieniemy said. "The bottom line, I guess my problem is I've always wanted to be a perfectionist. I learned at an early age, in order to achieve excellence, you've got to strive for perfection."