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CU defensive back John Walker, left, is looking to help the secondary this season.

Help is on the way.

That was Colorado head coach Jon Embree's promise to his defensive coordinator and secondary coach, Greg Brown, who didn't have enough talent or bodies to work with to make it a fair fight against Pac-12 offenses last season.

During the 2011 campaign, CU yielded an average of 237.6 passing yards per game and 21 touchdowns through the air. The defense made only seven interceptions in 13 games.

The Buffs also allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 65.5 percent of their passes.

Some of the low-lights for the Buffs included Matt Barkley setting a USC record with six touchdown passes on national television, and allowing Washington State's Marquess Wilson to take advantage of a broken coverage to steal a win at Folsom Field on a 63-yard touchdown with 70 seconds remaining.

Speed, size and strength are no longer glaring weaknesses in the CU secondary. That's obvious just by watching some of the first-year players walk off the practice fields.

Embree and his staff believe they've plugged some massive holes in the defensive backfield by adding a Fast Five -- Kenneth Crawley, Jeffrey Hall, Marques Mosley, John Walker and Yuri Wright -- to the program as part of the 2012 recruiting class.

Before training camp began, Embree's favorite line was: "We've upgraded our team speed and it's just whether it goes in the right direction."

The freshman cornerbacks are not allowed to speak to the media, but senior free safety Ray Polk says the group already has a pretty good sense of direction.


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"It's coming along actually really well. The young guys are picking it up fast and it's exciting to see," Polk said. "In a short period of time there is just so much to grasp. It's really exciting to see these guys progress, and they're going to be great football players by the end of their time here."

Walker's time will have to wait. The true freshman from Washington D.C. will redshirt this year after suffering torn ligaments in a finger last week.

Embree said the good news is the other four new faces "get it." What does that mean?

"From the jump, it all makes sense to them," Embree said. "It's all natural for them."

In addition to Polk, CU returns starting left cornerback Greg Henderson, who played well as a true freshman last season, starting in 12 of 13 games. Parker Orms, a junior, appears to be on the fast track to start at strong safety; staying healthy and out of the dog house have been the only issues that have slowed the former Wheat Ridge High School star down at this level.

Sophomores Josh Moten and Jered Bell will have to really produce during the remainder of training camp to hold off freshmen for the starting spot opposite Henderson and/or in the nickel (five defensive backs) package.

Bell was on the verge of being named a starter last year before suffering a serious knee injury.

"I don't think he is where he was before that injury, at that same level," Embree said.

Mosley is dealing with a nagging hamstring injury sustained during a recent practice.

Crawley and Wright appear to be the leading candidates to break into the starting lineup.

"I think there's a chance that I could be playing really early," Wright said on CU's athletic department web site. "My mindset was to come in here and take a starting job ... it takes some time to learn the defense, but some of the stuff I already knew from studying during the summer and from 7-ons. They definitely helped; I got to see and actually be active on the field while learning things."

According to Embree, both Crawley and Wright have been consistently making plays in practice.

"It's funny, we go out there now and we're getting two or three interceptions a day," Embree said. "Last year, that would be a month. (Brown's) got those guys playing."

Two-week notice

The Buffs will scrimmage for the first time on Saturday. Embree wants to see how the freshman standouts who have been turning heads in practice perform on a slightly bigger stage.

"A lot of them have done well in the situational stuff, but I want to see when everybody is off the field when we scrimmage this weekend how we do," Embree said. "Because there are some guys that have consistently shown up, but I want to see them in a scrimmage before we keep moving forward with them."

CU will also have a "mock game" on Aug. 25 before opening up the 2012 season on Sept. 1 against Colorado State at Sports Authority Field in Denver.

Notable

The Buffs worked on 2-minute drill and third-and-long situations during Monday's afternoon practice. ... Embree said Brady Daigh (concussion) and Gerald Thomas (groin) have sustained injuries that are not believed to be serious. ... The second-year head coach has been pleased with the defense through 10 practices, but cautioned "I wish we were tackling better."

Quotable

"I hope so. I'm ready to sleep," Embree said when asked if the quarterback competition could sort itself out during Saturday's scrimmage. "What is today Monday? By Saturday I would hope things would start clearing up. We'll see."

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