The major prelude to spring football at the University of Colorado ends Friday. Jon Embree calls it "Coaches' Week," but his players undoubtedly have plenty of more colorful names to describe it - just as Embree and his teammates did in their day.
"That's a nicer name than what it was when we were players," Embree said on Thursday.
Last winter, it was actually "Coaches' Two Weeks," but Embree said this winter's final chapter of off-season conditioning was narrowed to one week. It consisted of returning players working through eight "stations" ranging from running steps at Folsom Field, doing agility work, running a rope course, and cone and similar drills.
The team was separated by positions, with the emphasis on personal conditioning and individual competition.
"It's been real good," Embree said. "There's been focus, competition, guys rising up . . . I've seen leadership develop. I expect the best day (on Friday)."
Embree said players have been "pushed as far as we can from a mental standpoint," with the focus on teaching them to "compete when they're tired and learning to follow directions when they're tired . . . all things have been done under duress. At each station, you see who can and who can't (thrive) under pressure."
He said the grueling work has been revealing. Senior tight end Nick Kasa, who moved to offense during the 2011 season, "had a great day Thursday . . . I'm anxious to see him (in spring drills). We've got some good guys coming in."
Embree also acknowledged the "Coaches' Week" work of senior defensive tackle Will Pericak, junior defensive end Chidera Uzo-Diribe, sophomore outside linebacker Juda Parker, senior safety Ray Polk, and junior receiver Paul Richardson.
"They've all been phenomenal," Embree said. "They've literally dominated every time they've been up, whoever they've gone against, whatever the drill is - they've just dominated it. It's good to see they have that mindset of not just coasting if you're better than your competition. Every 'rep' they've gone like it was the last one, the only one. It's great that they have that mindset, and it's starting to spread to other guys, it really is."
Spring drills are set to begin on Saturday, March 10 and conclude on Saturday, April 14 with the annual spring game. The NCAA allows 15 practices. CU will have no drills during spring break (March 24-April 1).
O-LINE CHATTER: Junior David Bakhtiari, the Buffs' top offensive lineman, will get spring looks at left tackle and guard. Embree said that experimentation would be done to determine the best five O-linemen. Bakhtiari started 11 of 13 games (injured for two) last fall at left tackle . . . . Another reason for the experimentation with Bakhtiari: Sophomore Alex Lewis' development as a left tackle allows it. Embree said Lewis, who also was used frequently at tight end, "has a chance to be a very good player. I love his temperament and mindset. We've got to find a way for him to be on field if he continues to progress." . . . . Redshirt freshman Stephane Nembot, an in-season transfer from offense to defense, will practice at right tackle behind returning junior Jack Harris. Harris missed most of the 2011 season with a foot/ankle injury. He's full-go for the spring.
OUT (AND IN ONE CASE, OVER): Missing spring drills will be defensive lineman Nate Bonsu (shoulder), linebacker Doug Rippy (knee), running back Malcolm Creer (knee), defensive back Jered Bell (knee). Defensive back Vince Ewing will be classified as a permanent medical, meaning his career is done due to chronic knee problems. But Embree said he wanted Ewing to be "out helping. I want him to be a part of it."
BUFF BITS: The spring quarterback competition won't include Brent Burnette, who transferred in last January from Arizona Western College. Burnette can graduate in May and has elected not to return to the squad . . . . The spring numbers: 77 players (57 on scholarship). The breakdown: 8 seniors, 20 juniors, 32 sophomores, 17 freshmen (15 redshirt, two true) . . . . With the exception of the annual spring game, spring drills will be closed to the public. Embree said that decision was based on his wanting players to maintain focus for the 15 practices. He also said scrimmages would be conducted on week days rather than Saturdays . . . . Sophomore Cordary Allen, who began his career as a fullback before moving to tight end last fall, has been switched to defensive end . . . . Previous personnel moves included Kasa to tight end and DaVaughn Thornton to receiver (from tight end). Embree said spring scrutiny would be given to sophomore Kyle Washington as a weak linebacker, junior Parker Orms at safety, and junior Paul Vigo at safety - a position he has played on and off . . . . Embree is recovering from throat surgery two weeks ago to help him deal with sleep apnea.
(WATCH FOR MORE SPRING FOOTBALL COVERAGE NEXT WEEK ON CUBUFFS.COM)