When Jon Embree began assembling the 2012 recruiting class nearly a year ago, he decided his program needed more than a big influx of talent, speed and athleticism.
Embree went looking for players with those traits but also for hungry young men who weren't "all about the recruiting process" and haven't been coddled by parents, high school coaches or the circumstances in which they grew up.
Early in his tenure as coach of the Buffs, Embree said he recognized that to build the kind of program he envisions, he needed players who won't tuck tail when things turn tough.
"I think that mindset is something we need in this program," Embree said during an interview in the most recent recruiting dead period. "We need guys who understand this is their opportunity. This is their chance to improve their lives in a lot of different ways. When you have that kind of hunger that kind of motivation, it can be contagious."
Embree and his staff are in the final stages of assembling the largest recruiting class at CU since the program signed 28 players in 2002. CU is expected to sign 27 or 28 on national signing day (Feb. 1) in less than two weeks. It will be only the second time since 1978 CU has signed more than 25 players in one class.
The program currently holds verbal commitments from 22 players, including fullback Clay Norgard from Mountain Vista High School in Highlands Ranch. He enrolled in spring semester classes after graduating high school last month and will participate in spring football practices.
Knowing the 2012 class will serve as a big part of the foundation of his program for the next four or five years, Embree said he found players who live and die with football. He also found a few who were raised in homes with modest means. He said he has noticed over the years that players with those characteristics usually rise above whatever gets in their way.
He plans to show them the way.
"We have a few recruits that have come from some difficult situations," Embree said. "They've persevered and overcome a lot of obstacles to get to where they are.
"I'm looking forward to kind of taking on that mentoring role, father role, big brother role with some of these kids coming in."
Embree said he feels good that regardless of how the final two weeks go, he and his assistants have done well in terms of recruiting a group of players who can serve as a strong foundation. Aside from Elite 11 quarterback Shane Dillon, the class lacks highly touted prospects, at least as rated by the recruiting services.
The fact that the program might not land any four- or five-star recruits as well as allowing a large group of instate players to leave the state for other programs are sure to be the biggest criticisms of the class on signing day.
But Embree said he and his staff achieved another one of their top priorities in this cycle by reestablishing the Colorado name with some of the top talent-producing high school programs in both Texas and California.
CU has nine commitments from California players and six from Texas.
"We wanted to get re-established in both of those areas and I think as you look at our class, we've done well in both of those states," he said.
Former CU wide receiver Jeremy Bloom will serve as the featured speaker Feb. 2 at the annual football recruiting luncheon at the Sheraton Denver Downtown.
The luncheon will also include Embree providing his thoughts on each member of the 2012 class and his program in general as the Buffs prepare for spring football and their second year in the Pac-12 Conference.
The luncheon begins at 11:30 a.m., and costs $50 per person for season ticket holders or Buff Club members, $75 per person for the general public, or $500 for a reserved table of 10. Anyone who donates $5,000 or more at the luncheon will receive a black CU football helmet.