Colorado and Washington will not be primary rivals on the football field.

"Our rival has to be in the South Division because we've got to play every year," Jon Embree said during his Tuesday press conference.

That said, the Buffs and Huskies coaching staffs have already developed a pretty good rivalry on the recruiting trail.

In February, Embree was able to "flip" some prospects who were considering Washington into becoming a part of the 2011 CU class.


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The first-year head coach said the two programs are likely to "bang heads" for some of the same players in 2012 and in the years to come.

That could be a good sign for Buffs fans considering the rebuilding job Steve Sarkisian has done in Seattle in just two and a half years.

"Obviously, we're on the right kids," Embree said. "It's kind of funwhen you go in a house and the other coach is leaving. The parents and the family are freaking out because they think its' going to be a fight in the living room or something like that. ... Invariably, depending on the relationship you have with the coach, you and that coach are going to have dinner after you get done with the home visit."

CU and Washington meet for the first time as Pac-12 foes on Saturday at Husky Stadium (1:30 p.m., Root Sports).

True freshman Paulay Asiata, who saw his first action on the offensive line during the fourth quarter last Saturday at Stanford, was one of the players the CU staff out-maneuvered Washington for late in the recruiting cycle.

Embree, a former UCLA assistant, said he has a good relationship with Sarkisian, a former USC assistant. Both men understand the importance of recruiting in California.

"When you have a healthy respect for a coach and a program, it ends up being OK," Embree said. "The issue is when you don't have a healthy respect for that coach or program. ... I like what Sark is doing up there and how he's doing it. I don't have a problem with him."

The Buffs, despite a 1-5 record, already have 14 verbal commitments for the 2012 class. Washington has 18.

"We've been very well received. A lot of them see opportunity," Embree said. "A lot of them kind of understand what's going on in the inside, they've been here on trips already and have seen it from the inside out. (The losing) hasn't been an issue.

Jon Embree
Jon Embree (Paul Aiken)
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Is Canty too fast?

The injury to star wide receiver Paul Richardson, who will not play against Washington due to a sprained knee, has provided an opportunity for redshirt freshman Keenan Canty to crack the starting lineup for the Buffs.

On the first play of his first career start, Canty made his first career reception. He finished with three catches for 23 yards against Stanford.

"He can fly and he runs good routes. Sometimes he's too fast and he's coming out of breaks before I'm ready," quarterback Tyler Hansen said of his new target. "He's going to be a good player down the road."

Wide receiver coach Bobby Kennedy loves the way Canty bursts off off the line of scrimmage and stretches the field. There are times, however, when the speedy 5-9, 155-pound receiver needs to hit the brakes.

"It's kind of tough because I kind of run straight through my routes," Canty said. "I just have to work on slowing down on my breaks."

Smith gets Lucky

Brian Lockridge (running back) and Jason Espinoza (wide receiver) have impressed their coaches and teammates with the way they've played as emergency fill-ins at cornerback.

Not surprisingly, Terrel Smith seemed to have a smoother transition starting at cornerback last Saturday. The junior had four solo tackles and intercepted Heisman Trophy candidate Andrew Luck.

In 2010, Smith averaged a team-high 10 tackles per game filling in for the injured Anthony Perkins at safety.

"That just speaks to the kind of players they are, the kind of athletes they are, the kind of people they are," Perkins said of the efforts of Lockridge, Espinoza and Smith at cornerback.

The 5-foot-8 Smith, who former CU head coach Dan Hawkins once compared to standout NFL safety Bob Sanders, had 17 tackles last season against Nebraska.

Still not special

Embree said CU's kickoff and kickoff return units were improved against the Cardinal. But the block of a Will Oliver field goal attempt for a Stanford touchdown was the special teams play from that game featured on "SportsCenter."

The Buffs have to get better in the kicking and coverage areas if they hope to win a Pac-12 game anytime soon.

Washington ranks first in the conference in kickoff returns (26.8 yards per attempt) and ninth in kickoff coverage (42.1 net average), while CU is last in kickoff returns (17.3) and 11th in kickoff coverage (41.0).

Four still suspended

Josh Moten returned from suspension on Monday and appears to be a player Embree has high hopes for going forward.

"Josh had some business to take care of that I wanted him to handle. So he has that done," Embree said of the cornerback. "Josh is the student-athlete of the month. He has done a lot of good things since we've been here."

Defensive backs Ayodeji Olatoye, Parker Orms and Paul Vigo, and linebacker Liloa Nobriga remain suspended indefinitely.

"They were all suspended for different things," Embree said. "The other guys still have some work to do on stuff, so we'll see."

Notable

Even after a bye week, Washington quarterback Keith Price ranks second nationally with 17 touchdowns behind Baylor's Robert Griffin (19). ... Rodney Stewart, who posted 203 all-purpose yards against Stanford, is just 123 yards behind Eric Bieniemy's career record at CU for all-purpose yards (4,351). ... Washington has won eight of its last nine games dating back to last season.