That's working from behind. Essentially for Embree and his assistants, it was hit the ground hustling and see what happens.
This recruiting season isn't so frantic - at least in terms of organizing on the fly. Embree and his staff have had the luxury (a relative term in the frenetic world of recruiting) of being together for year and establishing needs/priorities based on a season spent coaching the Buffs.
December's official recruiting calendar shows a dead period that started on Dec. 19 extending through Jan. 3, 2012 - "dead" meaning coaches are prohibited from contacting prospects. Contact is permitted again on Jan. 4-8 (Jan. 8 is quiet), followed by another dead period on Jan. 9-12. The final contact period before National Signing Day on Wednesday, Feb. 1 runs from Jan. 13-29 (Jan. 29 is quiet), with two dead days (Jan. 30-31) preceding National Signing Day.
With a little time to spare before he hits the road again for business, Embree headed to San Francisco for Saturday's Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, which matches UCLA (and his son, Taylor) against Illinois. Embree is scheduled to return on Sunday, in time to resume recruiting next week.
Before his departure for the Bay Area, he took time to answer a dozen questions, offering a status report on CU's 2012 recruiting. The Q&A with CUBuffs.com:
•1. CUBuffs.com: The current dead period ends Jan. 4, and I'm assuming you'll hit the road immediately. What direction will you head?
Jon Embree: "That's right . . . and I'm heading West, to Hawaii and California. It'll be my first trip to Hawaii and second to California."
•2. CUBuffs.com: What's the biggest difference in this recruiting season and last - taking into account the full season you've had as opposed to last year?
JE: "The biggest difference is that a year ago, we really didn't get started (recruiting) until this coming week . . . talk about a short window. This year, we've had a better evaluation of players. We've gotten to see how they really feel about football and where it is on their list of things that are important to them, where it fits into their lives. And we've been able to establish relationships. We're almost where we need to be . . . I'd like to be doing a lot of junior recruiting, but we're not at that point yet. Next year I think we can be comfortably looking a year ahead."
•3. CUBuffs.com: How would you rate things to this point?
JE: "I think it's gone very well. We've missed on a couple of elite players, but only won three games. Say what want, but at end, it (winning) has to help. At the same time, we've gotten commitments from some very good players. We've been able to balance the roster at some positions. And there are still some guys we can finish on and have a very good class."
•4. CUBuffs.com: Have there been any major surprises out there for you?
JE: "The response has been really good . . . I don't feel like it's ever been, 'Wow, we don't have a chance on that kid,' but at the same time just getting in on a kid is not what you're looking for. Are you in their top two? Did you have a legitimate chance? If you're just one of five, you're not really in it. You have to be in their top two."
•5. CUBuffs.com: You've said before your visits began that prospects' reception has been good . . . has that held up?
JE: "Yeah, it's gone very well. Kids have been real receptive. They see the direction of program and want to be involved in helping us continue that process . . . and do some exciting things."
•6. CUBuffs.com: Along those lines, is there one common question recruits are asking you?
JE: "Not really, there's not one general question, but kids see what's going on. It's not like they haven't been paying attention. They see opportunity . . . they can come in and have an impact early. Those kinds of things. Most kids want that opportunity. I'm asking them, 'Do you want to play or stand on the sidelines and wait your turn?' These kids want to be a part of something that's growing. We won two of our last three, and we've talked to them about that every time we've called them. But you can't sit there and pretend like you don't have scars. We do, and I'm going to be honest. I'll tell where we are, what the deal is. At the end of the day, they'll know what our goals are - changing the culture, changing the environment, and giving them the opportunity for success in college. They've paid attention. It's been really good."
•7. CUBuffs.com: Do you have any "silent" commits?
JE: "Yeah, we've got a couple of guys - if they stay true to what they say. But I've told them that they need go public. They can help with some of the other players we're after. If they're going to truly be in, they need to be in. Taking trips is great, but if you're going to be a Buff, now's the time to do it. I can understand that some kids are involved in things they have to do, in recruiting and out. But we'll see over the next two weeks or so."
•8. CUBuffs.com: CU "turned" a handful of recruits last year . . . do you feel you have to take that approach this year?
JE: "There are a couple of guys we're actively recruiting who are committed to other schools. A year ago, we went out and got eight players from someone else. This year, we feel like we have to be good with the guys we've got (committed). The next two weeks are really important. Some schools during this time frame don't go out at all. Some go to (high school) all-star games and see guys. We'd rather see the guys we have (committed)."
•9. CUBuffs.com: Coaching changes have been prevalent . . . has there been an effect on your approach to things?
JE: "It really hasn't affected us. It may here or there help on a guy, but for the most part it hasn't done anything. Some name schools - for example, UCLA - didn't have a coach and still had three kids commit. Now, whether those kids wanted to get in before a coach was named and fill a scholarship, I don't know. But the overall situation (of schools changing coaches) hasn't really affected us."
10.CUBuffs.com: How would you respond to those recruiting analysts who say you're dangerously short on four- and five-star prospects?
JE: "That's all right, it doesn't bother me. To get elite playmakers we have to continue to improve ourselves. You can go around all day about stars. Greg Henderson (freshman corner) did pretty well for us and he wasn't a five-star guy. I just want football players. That (star rating) stuff is for barrooms and the Internet. You can point to five stars that bust and one stars that become stars. I'm just trying to get the best players. But again, we won three games . . . I don't think people realize how hard it was for us (CU) in the mid-90s. We'd won a lot of games, we had guys who had won the Heisman, the Thorpe Award and the Butkus. People have to realize we're not a logo school . . . Ohio State and USC have great classes every year. They've got 50 or 60 years of tradition, huge national fan bases. But that doesn't mean we can't do it here. That's what we're shooting for."
•11.CUBuffs.com: So, from that answer on the star system, I'm guessing your opinion of those ratings hasn't changed?
JE: "How many of these people really see kids play? A kid commits to Texas and goes from no stars to three, or from three to five. Explain that to me. I'm not down on these (recruiting) sites; they give fans good reason to go them, but it's like being in a sports bar. I'm not down on Rivals.com and Scout.com . . . I know they've helped kids get noticed. But their rating systems are different from coaches. Look at Michigan State, what was their senior class rated? You get a transfer in, you get some guys who pan out that weren't five-star guys . . . We - and I'm talking about coaches - have to be able to develop guys to give yourself a chance. That's just my take on it."
•12.CUBuffs.com: What would be a best-case finish for the Buffs in the final month leading to signing day?
JE: "First, I'm very happy with the guys we have; we want to hold onto them. But if we could get a couple of more corners, the right tight end, maybe a playmaker or two, the right defensive lineman . . . our situation on that side of the ball is not good. We need to get as many as we can (on defense). Some will play, some will redshirt. We need to build there and have legit depth. This class, with last year's class, gives us a good base from a program standpoint. We just have to go out and finish strong - and hopefully get a head start on some seniors for next year."