The Colorado football team wrapped up spring practice Saturday with an abbreviated spring game that provided fans a chance to see just how badly depleted the roster is from injuries and the loss of 28 seniors from last season.
Coach Jon Embree was happy his team escaped without suffering any more significant injuries and said the past five weeks on the practice fields with his team has left him still believing a bowl game is achievable in 2012. But he qualified that statement as rain began to fall in Folsom Field during his post-game interview.
"I still think it's achievable, but how far we go towards that goal and how we accomplish it is going to be ... we're going to lean on some guys coming in," Embree said. "I told this to the seniors and the rest of the team. How quickly you're able to help them (freshmen) assimilate and help them know how to practice, know how to work will help us get to that goal.
"If you want to look at it as they're the bad guys cause they're coming here to compete for a job, then we'll all have the same fate. We'll all be home for Christmas."
Embree said back on signing day that he believed as much as 75 percent or 21 members of his freshman class could earn playing time next fall because the roster is thin at almost every position except offensive line, linebacker and the specialists. Nothing has changed his thinking this spring.
Fans often make the mistake of putting too much weight on what they see in the spring game in terms of which players have big days and how that might affect their position on the depth chart. Embree left little doubt that Saturday's game is given little weight in evaluating the Buffs going forward.
When asked about four of the five touchdowns in the game being scored by walk-ons or former walk-ons, Embree had this to say.
"I'm happy for them," Embree said. "For some of those kids it might be the only time they play on Folsom Field. They got to run out behind Ralphie, got to do that and hopefully mom and dad and grandma and some of them were here to see that. It's a nice reward for those guys for all the work that they've put in because a lot of time they toil in anonymity."
Fans got their first look at quarterback Connor Wood, who connected on two touchdown passes. One covered 13-yards to wide receiver Dustin Ebner and the other went to Jarrod Darden for 42 yards. Wood also showed he has a little speed and the ability to make plays with his feet when he needs to.
"I thought he did a good job with his decision making," Embree said of Wood. "That's always the No. 1 thing with the quarterback is his decision making, and I thought he was better with his accuracy on the shorter passes."
Wood completed seven of 10 passes for 137 yards and two scores.
While Embree liked what he saw from Wood on Saturday, he stopped short of saying Wood will enter fall camp atop the depth chart. Embree said he is expecting a "nice" competition between Wood and Nick Hirschman in fall camp.
There is also the possibility that former Kansas starting quarterback Jordan Webb will join the program this summer and join the fray.
Running back Josh Ford ran for 141 yards, eclipsing the 100-yard mark for the second consecutive year in the spring game. But Ford hasn't been able to earn much playing time during the season because he hasn't developed as quickly in the passing game. If he can improve there, fans could see him on the field in the fall, but Embree made it clear sophomore Tony Jones is his starter at tailback heading into fall camp, which will begin Aug. 7.
Quarterbacks John Schrock and Stevie Joe Dorman also led touchdown drives. Schrock completed three of eight passes for 26 yards and Dorman completed both of his passes for 34 yards.
The majority of starters on defense were either out with injuries or played sparingly, but Embree said sophomore linebacker Woodson Greer was a standout because he played physical football.
Walk-on defensive backs Brandon Brisco and Harrison Hunter and defensive lineman Juda Parker led the defense with four tackles each.