QA: Buffs at Pac-12 Media Day

Colorado head coach Jon Embree, junior offensive tackle David Bakhtiari and senior safety Ray Polk fielded questions at the Pac-12 Media Day event in Los Angeles on Tuesday morning.
Opening statement...
Colorado head coach Jon Embree: "Obviously we're
excited to start our second year in the Conference.
We finished with good momentum last year. Our
goal this year is to find a way to get to a bowl
game. We had a losing streak last year that was, I
think, stretched four years and our goal was to end
that, and we were able to do that.
We're looking forward to starting our second year
in this league."
Coach, Paul Richardson has been
optimistic recently saying that he thinks his
knee is recovering well, he thinks he might be
able to play. Are you anymore optimistic about
having him than you were at the end of spring?
Coach Embree: "Yeah, I am. I'm a lot
more optimistic about it. I saw Paul about two
days after his is surgery and I thought he hadn't
had the surgery yet, he was moving around that
He's been progressing rapidly, and I think
as he continues to work, as he starts doing more
football movements, we will have a better feel for if
and when he will be available for this year. But I
don't think it's something that's out of the question."
What ended up being the biggest
hurdle for you as a first-time head coach?
Coach Embree: "Well, when you go
somewhere and you're trying to create a certain
environment and culture that takes time. We went
through a lot of different things and we're asking
them to do different things that maybe they weren't
asked to do from practice, accountability, being on
time, so it was a lot different than maybe when
they were used to.
We went through five suspensions before
we played Stanford, Oregon, all those -- the better
quarterbacks in the league at the time, USC, and
that. That put us behind the eight ball.
When you're trying to create a new
environment, a new culture, you've got to look at it
from a long term [position] and stick to your vision.
That was difficult and I didn't get to do as much
football as I thought I would have been able to.
Having said that, this year we have been able to
do more football from a coaching standpoint and
it's been good."
Coach, your quarterback situation,
can you touch on that? And David, the
importance of running the football without Paul
Richardson and the extra effort that the
offensive line will have to have.
Offensive tackle David Bakhtiari: "Running the football
is an important part of the game, all offensive
linemen like when we get a run play. We're
excited, we have a good group of offensive
linemen coming in, we had to fill spots with Ryan
and Ethan leaving but we're all really close and it's
going to be interesting for this year, so I'm excited."
Coach Embree: "Quarterback situation,
we have right now three kids for sure that we know
will be involved in the competition. Connor Wood
and Nick Hirschman were supposed to start the
battle in the spring and Nick broke his foot so he
wasn't able to be part of the competition.
And actually it worked out good for him,
because Nick knew the offense and had been
around it and Nick needed to do improve in the
mental aspect of the game so with him not being
able to participate, it forced him to take on that role
and see things from a different perspective.
And then Connor Wood was a kid who
transferred in from Texas and he got all the reps in
the spring. I thought he had a good spring and we
have a kid named Jordan Webb who transferred in
from Kansas. Those guys will be going at it, we
will see where Shane Dillon is from a health standpoint,
he had shoulder surgery so if he's not ready to go
we will pick our quarterback from those three."
Ray, after beating Utah and
knocking them out of the Pac-12 Championship
last year, does it feel like you are building a
Safety Ray Polk: "As far as rivalry goes, they're
a great team and will always be a great opponent.
We're still young in this Conference and we're
trying to figure out where we want to fit in. So it's
going to be exciting. We've got some more games
this year and then I think we will find somebody
who we want to be our rival.
For me looking at it, you look to the best
team and you want to play that team, you want to
make that team your rival. You look to the best
and you expect the best out of your players."
Jon, you have to replace a
quarterback, tailback, tight end, receiver
maybe, linemen, are you confident that you can
somehow manufacture enough offense to keep
up with what appears to be a pretty
high-powered conference?
Coach Embree: "Sounds like that's a
question for the offensive coordinator. Yeah, we
do. We lose 28 players total in that senior class,
so a number of them were major contributors for
our program. As you mentioned, we will have a
new tailback, Tony Jones played a lot for us,
though, and obviously with Paul Richardson being
out and losing Toney Clemens, I feel good about
what we have come incoming and it will help with
us condition to move forward.
Like I said, the quarterback situation, we
don't know what it is, and we have a good idea of
who are going to be those players. We have some
young tight ends that are in that have done well in
summer workouts that we're excited about. Same
at receiver and tailback to add depth behind Tony.
So I feel good about the direction we're headed.
It's going to be young talent. You have probably
heard me say this before, we've upgraded our
team speed and it's just whether it goes in the right
I like what the kids have bought into and
with the kids coming back, the direction that this
program is heading."
David, it seems to be that the rivalry
between Utah [and Colorado] is a little forced
on you. I'm wondering if there is a specific
team that maybe you haven't talked about that
you could see having a great rivalry with in the
David Bakhtiari: "Like Ray said, we're
shooting for the top. Everyone wants to aim for the
top dog and that's who we want to pinpoint as
being our rival. Utah, it is a media-forced thing, but
it's not 100 percent. They're a great team. We love
playing them, but at the end of the day, I see every
team as a rival and we want to be the best. You've
got to beat the best if you want to be the best.
We're going to try to beat all of them."
Question for both David and Ray,
after one year in the Conference, what have
you learned about the level of competition, the
caliber of athletes you see every week in the
David Bakhtiari: "Got this question a
lot from being in the Big 12 to being in the Pac-12.
I was fortunate enough to play in both leagues. In
both leagues at the end of the day there are big,
strong guys in each division. Big 12 is a little more
bigger, stronger. Pac-12 is a little more faster.
There are still the 'freaks' in each league. You
have the big, strong fast guys at the end of the day
that are going to come out and play at the end of
the day, so that's the biggest difference in
competition I see."
I feel good about the direction we're headed. It's going to be young talent. You have probably heard me say this before, we've upgraded our team speed and it's just whether it goes in the right direction.
Ray Polk: "I would have to agree. From
my standpoint, playing defense, there are just so
many threats in the Pac-12. You've got so many
good players in one conference that it's a different
ballgame. The Big 12 was great and it was a great
conference. For me, you would see, you know,
one great receiver on the team. Here, you know,
you have two or three.
It's just different. It's a different kind of
offense. We can all agree that Pac-12 football is a
great conference and the offensive schemes inside
of it, They're some of the best out there. It's
exciting to play and I'm happy to be in this
Coach, we have been collecting fan
questions from Twitter and Facebook so we
have one for you. Which position or positions
do you expect the incoming freshmen to create
the most competition?
Coach Embree: "Defensive back, we
signed five very good players so they will all have
a chance to compete with Greg Henderson coming
back. Greg, who is going to play next to Ray, tight
end and receiver after that, couple of young kids in
there that I think I have a chance to be good
players for us. They will be difference-makers
early so those will be the positions that they can
contribute the most and I would say D-line after
Talk about the difficulties of having
a new recruiting pipeline when you guys were
focused on Texas before.
Coach Embree: "It's not necessarily
new to myself and my staff. I always recruited in
California, I have had every part of California from
San Diego all the way up to the Bay Area. When I
assembled my staff, everyone had a piece of
California in their past.
I believe seven of our coaches have part of
California. We signed 10 days last year out of
California, seven out of Texas. I think right now,
we have four or five commits from California. So
we're continuing to move in that direction. I think
that's the best thing going out of the Conference
now. It's allowed us to be able to tell kids, you
know, we're going to bring them back home and
they will have a chance to play in front of family.
Obviously, with the Pac-12 Network and
what Larry [Scott] has done as far as getting exposure for
the teams in the Conference, that, again, allows
kids in the Pac-12 footprint for their families to see
them. It's been great to be a part of this
Conference and, especially from a California
standpoint from recruiting. A lot of great players
out here, a lot of really good players out here.
If you can have success here recruiting in
California, that will help your program immensely."
Ray and David can you talk about
the returning players who have caught your
eyes in summer workouts?
Ray Polk: "We're doing a great job.
We're working harder than we worked before. And
it's not just with the weight lifting and go running.
We're holding player-run meetings and we're doing
a lot of meeting on our own, so we're getting a
chance to get everybody involved in this defense.
For us, though, Greg Henderson is going
to be a great returner. We're excited to have him
back, Paul is going to be great if he's healthy, but
he's looking pretty good right now. The
quarterback situation will pan itself out, but we
have seniors on defense, like Doug Rippy and
Jon Major, that are going to make a huge
difference for us. I'm excited, it's going to be a fun
season and looking forward to it."
David Bakhtiari: "In the summer, we
split up, so he's with the skilled positions and I'm
more with the bigger guys. So I can't say for the
other guys but with the bigger guys, we're all out.
Our tight end, Nick Kasa is working out
unbelievably, Will Pericak has been killing on the
field and in the weight room. Chidera Uzo-Diribe
works out with them, and two offensive linemen,
Gus Handler and Daniel Munyer have been put in
a lot of work. I would say those are my top guys
excelling in the summer and working hard."