Picture a drill sergeant yelling at a recruit nose-to-nose, barking instructions and demanding more effort. Just about every coach on the new Colorado staff filled the role at one point or another Friday as the Buffs tried to overcome the nerves and uncertainty of new schemes, terminology, drills, voices and expectations.
Embree snapped his visor off his head a handful of times while yelling in frustration as players repeated mistakes or failed to hustle on and off the field.
When he huddled with reporters afterward, Embree joked that he was going to need some throat lozenges. He said he plans to be a hands-on coach and it showed in his first session leading the program.
"That's the only way I know," Embree said. "I got to be me. I was like that as a position coach. I'm very demanding. I'm going to be on them.
"There was times today where they wanted to hit a little lull and rest. That's where, as coaches, we have to keep the pressure onthem to keep going."
No one was immune. When starting tailback Rodney Stewart fumbled an exchange with the quarterback, Embree yelled that he would throw the ball every down if Stewart couldn`t take care of the ball. When another offensive player made several mistakes over a series of plays, Embree told him to stay on the defensive side of the ball because he didn`t know what he was doing.
"For the record, it`s intense," senior wide receiver Toney Clemons said. "But it`s what we need. It feels good to have everything crisp, everything real militant and everything real professional. They`re teaching us how to become young men and young football players and we`re getting a feel for what the game is like on the next level. That`s what you want. You want that high level coaching and we`ve got it here."
The yelling and screaming wasn`t all negative. In fact, a lot of it was positive. When a player made the right decision, the right read or a nice catch, often one, two or even three coaches were there to congratulate them.
The response from several players in interviews afterward was the same. They didn`t mind having a coach in their face, in part, because they know Embree and most of his assistants have coached in the NFL. It gives them the credibility to yell all they want.
"I thought the level of intensity was so much higher," redshirt freshman quarterback Nick Hirschman said. "It was a lot more enthusiastic and that makes it a lot more fun for the players and the coaches."
Whether the same decibel level and animation from these coaches continues remains to be seen. Perhaps they were simply trying to make sure they had players` attention. Maybe this will be the norm.
Linebacker Jon Major said the new CU staff is the most intense group of coaches he has ever been around. Major said the intensity of the first day of practice was nothing new from what players have experienced over the past few months in offseason conditioning and meetings.
"It`s really attention to details, maximum effort and if you don`t do it right, then you`re going to do it again or you`re going to get punished," he said. "That`s definitely going to carry over I think in the fall."
Junior Eric Richter has moved from offensive line to defensive line. Embree said Richter will provide a big body in the middle of the defense at times and he probably would have struggled to do some of what the offensive linemen will be asked to do because he lacks the athleticism. ... Redshirt freshman Justin Gorman is listed as a quarterback on the spring roster and depth chart, but he is practicing as a defensive back. ... Kyle Cefalo served as holder on field goal attempts by Justin Castor. The Buffs will be trying to identify their holder in spring ball and fall camp. ... Two new names are listed on the roster handed out at practices. They are linebacker Alec Parker and defensive end Andre Nichols. ... Former coach Dan Hawkins used to gripe about the lack of lighting on the CU practice fields. CU had portable lights powered by generators in place Friday, but they weren`t tall enough to be very effective when the sun went down. With the clocks moving forward by an hour this weekend, the need for lights should be curtailed the rest of spring.