UNIVERSAL CITY, CALIF. -
The last I saw of Ray Polk
and David Bakhtiari
early Monday afternoon, they were standing in a long, meandering fast food line, only a squib kick away from the Universal Studios theme park entrance.
Take a few steps into a place like that and sensory overload is immediate. In a football player's case, particularly that of an offensive lineman, the appetite is the first to yield.
Bakhtiari, a 290-pound Colorado junior tackle, had been contemplating his next meal since boarding a jet 21/2 hours earlier at DIA. Now, he was seriously contemplating a burger and fries, while Polk, a senior safety, was pondering a funnel cake.
Neither choice might have been what Jake Cox, CU's newly appointed Director of Nutrition and an addition to Malcolm Blacken's strength and conditioning staff, would have had them order. But hey, let's cut these guys some slack. Training camp opens in less than two weeks (Aug. 6) and I'm guessing funnel cakes aren't going to be a routine chow line choice for the 2012 Buffs.
As a matter of full disclosure, I didn't stick around to watch Bakhtiari and Polk order; they could have exercised a last-minute option for a spinach salad, hummus and sprouts. Doubtful, but there's always that outside chance. (UPDATE: Bakhtiari went healthy, ordering chicken, rice and mixed vegetables; Polk got his funnel cake, along with the burger and fries his teammate was contemplating.)
And as a matter of full disclosure Part II, I wasn't there to hear Bakhtiari's and Polk's choices because there was a Ben & Jerry's just around the corner. Luckily for me, B & J's didn't offer anything with a base ingredient of spinach, hummus or sprouts. My two scoops of the Americone something-or-other were heavenly and I'm not reporting to the new director of nutrition.
Bakhtiari, Polk, coach Jon Embree, a couple of athletic media relations staffers (Dave Plati, Curtis Snyder) and another hanger-on (me) are here for CU's second Pac-12 Conference Football Media Day. It's Tuesday at Universal Studios, with the Buffs contingent up early (10:15 a.m. MDT).
There are countless reasons to like CU's move last summer to the Pac-12, but you tell me, is staging a football media day at Universal Studios just a bit more appealing than a hotel ballroom near the Kansas City or Dallas airport? Nothing against those fine Big 12 burgs and their fine hotel ballrooms, but a nod to Universal Studios (last July the Pac-12 got the Fox Studios Lot for a day) should be a no-brainer.
Before we left Denver, Bakhtiari and Polk wanted a casual briefing on what might be asked of them on Tuesday morning. A handful of possible questions from a media contingent that still needs to be convinced that the Buffs belong in their new western digs:
- Does CU expect to be better in Year 2 in its new conference than it was in Year 1 (3-10 overall, 2-7 conference)? If so, why?
- In 2011, the Buffs took up positions at or near the bottom of the conference statistics. How will your respective positions - the O-line and the secondary - be improved?
- Your head coach said repeatedly on National Signing Day and during spring drills that members of his second recruiting class would be given every chance to see the field on opening day. How difficult is it going to be to turn things around possibly playing that many freshmen?
- From what you've seen in summer workouts, who's the best bet to be your starting quarterback?
- Is Paul Richardson as far ahead in his recovery (ACL surgery in April) as his tweets suggest? How much would his presence early (or at all) mean to this team?
Of course, there will be more - some pointed more toward CU/Pac-12 football, others perhaps even pointed at the Penn State debacle, and still others perhaps aimed at what has been a very difficult summer in Colorado.
Embree didn't fly out Monday morning with the rest of the CU contingent, instead coming in later Monday night after attending to another day of late details that kept him in Boulder. Like the rest of the league's coaches, he's probably more than a little relieved that this season's preseason media responsibilities are limited to the West Coast. Last summer, there also was an East Coast junket that new commissioner Larry Scott believed would help introduce his new brand to the New York media.
What questions can Embree expect on Tuesday morning? For starters, see the speculative list above . . . then maybe stir in these:
- With one season under your belt, what were your first impressions of the Pac-12?
- How quickly can the Buffs win in this league?
- Did a three-win debut season take any personal toll?
- You faced a brutal schedule (13 straight games, no bye week) in your break-in season. Do you see your 2012 schedule as any more forgiving?
- When you were hired, you made a point of emphasizing the need for a strong running game. Will you be closer to having one this season?
The Pac-12 has new coaches this season at UCLA (Jim Mora, Jr.), Arizona (Rich Rodriguez), Arizona State (Todd Graham) and Washington State (Mike Leach). Not-so-bold prediction: Among that group, the pirate from Pullman (Leach) will come away as the media day darling. Happened in the Big 12 when Leach was at Texas Tech and I'm betting he hasn't undergone a personality bypass. Leach is a character - plus, he can coach.
Among the things to like about football media days is the optimism (for the most part) of coaches. All of them are unbeaten, no starters have gone down with injuries yet, and media/alumni/fans haven't begun the barking that always comes so naturally in mid-November.
Something else - and this is the best thing - to like about football media days is what they signal: College football is very, very close to starting.