COLORADO SPRINGS - University of Colorado football coach Jon Embree wants his first Buffaloes team to be aware of CU's past - not necessarily to repeat it, but to refer to it in establishing its own goals.
"I just want our players to embrace it . . . we have to know who we are and where we're going," Embree said Wednesday at the Colorado Football Kickoff Luncheon, an annual event hosted by the Colorado Springs Sports Corporation.
Also in attendance was Air Force Coach Troy Calhoun, Colorado State-Pueblo Coach John Wristen and first-year Northern Colorado Coach Earnest Collins, Jr. Colorado State was represented by sophomore quarterback Pete Thomas, who filled in for Coach Steve Fairchild.
Embree said all the members of his staff who have CU ties as players have had varied experiences at the school.
"But the bottom line is, we're all done," he said. "I want (current Buffs players) to be able to stand up in front of the team ten years from now when they're done and tell them about their experiences and how it related to the things before them. We need to know about all the great things that have been done here - we've won a Heisman, two Butkuses, two Thorpes, a Mackey, a Davey O'Brien . . .
"We've accomplished some great things here. We've won a national championship, we've played in some of the biggest games in college football history. They need to know that, they need to understand what they're a part of."
Rather than imploring his players to duplicate the past, "I'm just letting them know what their heritage is," Embree said.
Most preseason forecasts haven't been kind to the Buffs, predicting no better than a four- or five-win season, if that, in CU's inaugural year in the Pac-12 Conference. But Embree isn't listening, watching or reading; he's more optimistic than that without putting a number on the W's and L's.
Why the optimism?
"Because I know me," he said. "I know my coaching staff. I believe in those players . . . that they've made unbelievable changes in their habits off the field, the fact that every guy is there this summer working out. I don't think that guarantees anything, but it gives you a chance."
Embree reiterated what he's said several times since spring drills ended - that his first CU team likely won't be the most talented in the nation but adding, "The most talented team doesn't always win - that's why you play the game. These guys will go out and fight and compete and we'll see what happens."
Predicting the Buffs will be better in four years than they will be in his first season "isn't fair to these seniors," Embree added. "What about the guys who won't be here in four years? That's how I look at it."
As for a number of wins in his first year, Embree claimed he doesn't know what would satisfy him or his players. He recounted CU's 1993 campaign under Bill McCartney when the Buffs finished 7-3-1 and McCartney's assistant were moping at season's end.
McCartney, recalled Embree, told his staffers that record was about what he expected and that '94 would be CU's season. He was right; the Buffs finished 11-1, with one sub-par half in their loss at Nebraska preventing them from playing for the national championship.
"That moment always stuck with me, because as coaches and players you sometimes expect certain things," Embree said. "But when you look at it realistically and you're able to see what your talent was (during) the season, how you dealt with injuries and how this or that might have happened, it changes things . . ."
The Buffs are coming off five consecutive losing seasons under Dan Hawkins, including a 5-7 record in his final year.
BUFF BITS: Embree said athletic director Mike Bohn has consulted him about future scheduling. "He's been good about it . . . but I've been thinking about Hawaii (CU opens at Hawaii on Sept. 3)," Embree said. As for scheduling perceived "cupcakes," he pointed out that the Buffs lost to Montana State in their opener five seasons ago. "You've got to play whoever they put out there . . . I just want to build Colorado. You've got to be excited about whoever you play; you've got to treat every (opponent) like they mean something." . . . . Senior quarterback Tyler Hansen "isn't one of the leaders on this team, he is THE leader," Embree said . . . . Embree doesn't expect any more player attrition before players report for preseason camp on Aug. 3. He added that the only player who could be in jeopardy for the opener due to injury is tailback Brian Lockridge (ankle) . . . Embree called 2011 "very good" for high school football in Colorado. "It's a good crop from a collegiate standpoint." . . . . Calhoun believes CU will be successful in the Pac-12 - and Embree takes that as high praise. "I think the world of Troy," he said. "I have a great relationship with Gary Kubiak (former Broncos assistant, Texans head coach) and Mike (Shanahan, Denver/Washington) and I know how they feel about him. They've worked with him and I've watched him from afar and know what he's done at the Academy. It's a real unique situation; I don't know how they do it from a recruiting standpoint (and) the demands that are put on them."