Colorado coach Jon Embree wore a big smile after Wednesday's practice for a guy who said he still hadn't settled on just who would replace injured middle linebacker and leading tackler Douglas Rippy and exactly how to defend No. 9 Oregon.

Maybe he's just keeping his plans under wraps.

"I know we're looking at a few guys, a couple different scenarios," Embree said. "I think part of it will depend on their personnel package, what we end up doing."

Embree knows this much about what he has to work with heading into a contest against the third highest scoring team in the nation.

True freshman linebackers Brady Daigh and Woodson Greer will see increased playing time in Rippy's absence.

Ray Polk hopes to play Sunday against Oregon.Cliff Grassmick / October 1, 2011
Ray Polk hopes to play Sunday against Oregon. Cliff Grassmick / October 1, 2011 ( Cliff Grassmick )

Cornerback Jason Espinoza might not play because of a concussion.

And most people in free safety Ray Polk's condition would be checking themselves into the hospital, but Polk wants to be in the lineup Saturday despite a wrist in need of surgery, a fractured sternum and a concussion.

"Yep, but he has a lot of heart," Embree said. "That over-rides it all. You have one of those, it doesn't matter right?"

But there is a little good news in the equation.

Senior cornerback Travis Sandersfeld practiced Wednesday and could be back this week. If he doesn't play against the Ducks, he almost certainly will return for next week's trip to Arizona State.


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"He looked good out there," Embree said. "We'll see what the soreness factor is and those kinds of things and then make a judgment on what's best for him."

Embree said the scout team offense has done a solid job this week giving the starting defense a decent idea of what it will face against the up-tempo Ducks, who often require only 10-15 seconds to snap the ball after the previous play.

Like most teams preparing for Oregon, the Buffs have used two complete units on the scout team to get off plays in quick succession in practices.

Defensive back Justin Gorman has played the role of option quarterback on the scout team. Gorman was a high school quarterback in Pennsylvania before coming to CU.

Junior linebacker Jon Major said it has been a taxing week of preparation so far both physically and mentally. He said the Buffs are hoping the altitude will help slow the Ducks down enough to give him and his teammates enough time to recognize what they're facing and go through their reads.

"It's definitely mental," Major said. "They need one missed gap and they're hitting their head on the goalpost."

Major said this week the defense has to be disciplined to give itself a chance. He said facing Oregon means preparing for option football, with a lot of wrinkles added in.

"It's all about discipline," Major said. "It's kind of like playing Air Force or Navy, just with more spread out, maybe a little more speed. It's all about discipline, pursuit and all those little details that go with that."

The Buffs admit to being impressed with what they see on film from the Ducks, but they aren't overwhelmed by it. Many of these CU players have competed against the same speed and talent Oregon brings to the table. It's really the scheme that is the difference this week.

"I played versus Oklahoma last year and that's a football team," senior defensive end Josh Hartigan said. "They may not spread you out as much, but they have the guys that are fast. They have the screens. They have all of the same things that Oregon is trying to do. It was just a different type of football."

Selling point

Embree said the program will host a handful of recruits on official visits this weekend. Embree isn't concerned the prospects could see a lopsided loss that would lead them to shy away from Boulder.

He said recruits will see the opportunity for early playing time when they watch the Buffs play the Ducks.

"They will get a chance to see what opportunity awaits them if they choose to be a Buffalo," Embree said.