ENGLEWOOD -- Matt Russell's job description includes knowing everything about college football players from Alabama to Washington.

And even at smaller schools lost in the middle like Chadron State.

The director of player personnel for the Denver Broncos has been doing a lot of homework ahead of Thursday's NFL Draft. But there is only one program that Russell roots for on fall Saturdays -- the Colorado Buffaloes.

Before a recent interview with the Daily Camera, the former CU All-American was reeling over a devastating season-ending knee injury sustained by the Buffs' star receiver during spring drills.

"I still can't get over Paul Richardson," Russell said. "Man, that hurts."

Russell competed at CU with an impressive list of future NFL players, including Michael Westbrook, Rashaan Salaam, Christian Fauria, Ted Johnson, Kordell Stewart, Koy Detmer, Darius Holland, Chris Hudson, Matt Lepsis, Heath Irwin and Chris Naeole.

The 1996 Butkus Award winner believes it's only a matter of time until the Buffs are winning with elite talent again.

"I think one of the strong things about that coaching staff is their ability to recruit," Russell said. "I think they had a good recruiting class this past year. There was a time when we had top-five classes every year and we're going to have to start winning to get back to that. I have all the confidence in the world in (Jon Embree) and the staff that he has."

Embree has been a great recruiter since his days as an assistant. Eric Bieniemy (offensive coordinator), Greg Brown (defensive coordinator), Brian Cabral (linebackers) and other members of the staff also have strong reputations for evaluating and landing talent.

Despite a 3-10 record during the 2011 season, CU was able to attract a 2012 recruiting class ranked 36th by Rivals.com. The Buffs are going to rely heavily on the group -- which includes promising prospects from California, Texas, Washington D.C. and New Jersey -- this fall when the quest for the program's first bowl game in five years begins.

Russell, a dominant player during the inaugural Big 12 season, is excited about the possibilities for his alma mater going forward in the Pac-12.

"I think we fit better. Our culture on campus is more Pac-12," said Russell, who lives in Boulder. "It's tough to compete with the Oklahoma and Texas teams because they've got Dallas, they've got Houston, they've got those areas that they can pull from. It's harder for us to do that. Our student body is so heavily California that I think going to the Pac-12 makes more sense. It makes it more attractive for us to get into L.A. and the Bay Area and the West Coast and even Phoenix."

Despite CU's struggles in recent seasons, the program did produce two first-round draft picks a year ago in Nate Solder (17th overall to New England) and Jimmy Smith (27th overall to Baltimore).

"I was proud of both of those guys. I obviously follow that program day to day," Russell said. "So it was good to see Nate and Jimmy go like that and play well last year. All those guys coming out of Colorado, I pull for them."

CU doesn't have any draft-eligible players rated among the top 250 prospects on most boards this spring.

Offensive lineman Ryan Miller is projected as a sixth-- or seventh-round pick. Quarterback Tyler Hansen, wide receiver Toney Clemons and running back Rodney Stewart have the ability to make a roster as undrafted free agents.

At least one NFL executive knows everything about them.