Jon Embree knows he's going to encounter players with "saucer eyes" on game days this fall. With such a young roster it's inevitable.
Embree surveys the field during Colorado practices and sees young players putting themselves in position to make significant contributions at almost every position. Some of them will be forced into action because there aren't many other options. Some are earning time despite the presence of veteran teammates.
For instance, the strength of the defense is the linebacker corps led by returning starters Jon Major, Douglas Rippy and Derrick Webb. Embree will obviously rely on that trio in his second season as head coach, but he said Sunday he also plans to get understudies such as Woodson Greer, Brady Daigh and Kyle Washington into games often to give the veterans needed rest and help them continue to develop.
"If we have six guys that can do some stuff, let's play them," he said. "Let's keep out guys fresh. It's a long year, as you guys saw last year. ...We've got to get them going and play them as much as we can so that they're comfortable if they're called on to be the guy."
Embree said he feels very good about the depth available to him at linebacker. He has praised Daigh, a sophomore, already several times in camp. He was asked about Greer following Sunday's morning practice. Embree said Greer had a rough day on the first day of two-a-days Saturday, but he rebounded well Sunday.
"I think Woodson has a chance to be a real good player for us," Embree said. "He is very physical. He's one of those guys, when he hits you, you go backwards. He can move the pile the other way. He just has to clean up some things, some technique stuff he does when he's in coverage, but he's starting to really understand concepts of what we're trying to do defensively and where he fits."
Line taking shape
Guards Daniel Munyer and Alexander Lewis are the least experienced members of the starting offensive line group, but Embree said both players have started camp well.
Munyer has practiced at both guard and center because starting center Gus Handler has missed time with a case of pink eye. Handler returned to practice Sunday allowing Munyer to spend more time at guard.
Embree said Handler missing time might be a blessing in disguise because it gave coaches an opportunity to give Munyer and Brad Cotner work at center with the first team offense. Embree said it's ideal to have three centers who are ready to play and he's beginning to feel like the Buffs are there.
"It's one of those things no one talks about until you're fumbling every snap," he said.
Embree said Lewis, who played tackle, guard and tight end as a true freshman last season, is developing good chemistry with left tackle David Bakhtiari.
"There seems to be a good comfort level with them," he said.
Senior Ryan Dannewitz missed all of spring and part of the first week dealing with chronic back pain. Dannewitz would likely be the first player called on to replace a starter at either guard position and right tackle if he can overcome the back problem.
Embree said he was pleased with his team's response Sunday to practicing early in the morning after its first two-a-day on Saturday that involved some situational scrimmage work. "They were pretty sharp," Embree said. "Not a lot of mistakes."