BOULDER - It's mid-season quiz time. Identify the college football coach who said the following about this week's opponent:
"They are deep, they are talented, they just change jersey numbers every year but the guys all look the same . . . . They draft, we recruit. And they get the first 25 picks of the draft."
That could be Colorado's Jon Embree as he (star) gazes at Southern California, but it's not. Embree might think it, but he didn't say it. USC features the probable No. 1 NFL draft choice in quarterback Matt Barkley, receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, tailback Silas Redd . . . and that's merely the headliners on offense.
The quotable coach was Tennessee's Derek Dooley, who was truthfully hyping No. 1 Alabama - the Vols' opponent Saturday in Knoxville.
Embree, meanwhile, is prepping his Buffaloes for Saturday's trip to the Los Angeles Coliseum to meet the No. 11 Trojans. USC is a 41-point favorite, a hideous but hardly surprising spread that Embree claimed he wasn't aware of until being briefed shortly before his weekly media luncheon on Tuesday.
Embree contends that he doesn't fret over that ugly figure seeping into the Buffs' locker room and doing early week psychological damage: "I don't really worry about that; it doesn't change how you prepare. You try and do everything that you would do normally. I don't read the papers or any of that stuff, so it doesn't affect me, and as coaches we just have to be positive on the field and do a good job of leading (players) and preparing them and then going out and playing. Go out and play the game."
That this game is being played in an area the Buffs recruit heavily and that the oddsmakers' inkling that the contest won't be close don't faze Embree either. In fact, he's viewing the Buffs' first visit to the Coliseum as Pac-12 Conference members as "a good opportunity . . . we (signed) ten kids last year out of California. I don't know how many we have committed now (from California), but there are a few more that are close. It's always good to go back out there and let kids play at home. That's one of the advantages of getting in this conference, going out and playing in Los Angeles or the Bay area every year so that kids can learn more about your program.
"Anytime one of our teams is out there, whether it's men's basketball or soccer, whatever, that's huge. We have a lot of alumni out there and we get a lot of kids in our general student population from California. It's a win-win."
Embree is basing that assessment as much on exposure as he is on results - and maybe more so this season. He believes CU prospects or potential prospects who attend or tune into Saturday's game can't help but see an opportunity to help the Buffs. He voiced the same thought last week before the nationally televised Thursday night game against Arizona State, which perhaps underscored his belief with a 51-14 win that actually was close for a half.
Although CU has been outscored 93-31 in its past two games, Embree doesn't see that lopsided total or the Buffs' other three losses as seriously damaging the reception he and his staffers are receiving from prospects.
"They need to understand there are different things going on within your program and how they fit," Embree said. "They need to understand that we're not instant oatmeal, we're not just adding water and get going. If that's what they're looking for, then this isn't the place for them.
"But if they want to be part of something special and help build something, if they want to get a great education, then they'll continue to want to be a Buff. Those are the things to talk about . . ."
Through games of Oct. 6, CU was tied for fifth nationally with Akron in the number of true freshmen played (13). Punch in the number of redshirt freshmen playing and the Buffs' first-year participant total goes to 21.
The same chart lists USC at 11 true freshmen and 25 first-year participants, which brings us back to Dooley's quote on the Crimson Tide. USC is in that "we recruit, they draft" mode, too. Eventually, Embree wants CU in that same conversation, but for now this has to be among his best opening lines in living rooms: "I ask kids, 'Is it your dream to play college football or watch someone else do it? Do you want to go stand in someone's line and wait a couple of years? If that's what you want, great. If you want a chance to play early and be a part of something special, then you'll come here.'"
When Embree elected to stay in-state - he was a nationally recruited Cherry Creek High School tight end prospect - and signed with former Buffs coach Bill McCartney in the mid-80s, he said he "dreamed of playing college football; I didn't dream of watching anyone else play."
Now, he might be dreaming of recruiting like an Alabama or a USC. But he's realistic enough to know that kind of cachet in the recruiting world is not going to materialize overnight. Instead, he and the Buffs must stay with the chase and keep hustling and grinding and talking up academic and athletic opportunities. (Several more wins along the way wouldn't hurt the sales pitch either.)
"There's a process; you have to be patient," Embree said. "You've got to get players in who can help you climb that ladder. You have to do a good job of developing players. You have to get some guys that maybe they (USC) don't take, and they may turn out to be better than the guys they do take.
"You have to have a little bit of that happen to give yourself that chance. There's no doubt there's some programs that have it rolling. But the great thing about college football is that it's cyclical. You just have to continue to develop your players, continue to recruit and get guys in who can do what you want to do . . . you just have to keep taking shots at those (upper tier) guys and eventually you start getting them."
Eventually, your program also must progress past the point of having "opportunity" as its top selling point - and that's certainly a point not lost on Embree.
BUFF BITS: Sophomore linebacker Brady Daigh, who was taken from the field Thursday night on a stretcher, returned to the team Sunday but did not practice then or Tuesday (Monday was a day off). Embree said Daigh "is fine, but he still has soreness in his neck." Daigh is listed as probable for USC . . . . Ray Polk (high ankle sprain) is officially questionable, but the senior safety's prognosis isn't that dire. Polk believes he can play . . . . Freshman tailback Christian Powell, the team's leading rusher, didn't play against ASU because of a deep thigh bruise but is probable for USC . . . . Embree celebrated his 47th birthday on Monday. His best gift? Being with his family and being able to celebrate another birthday. Also, "I'm blessed to be doing what I'm doing," he said . . . . Freshman receiver Gerald Thomas calls the chance to play USC in the Coliseum "cool; it's one of the things I was looking forward to (at CU). I grew up as a big Reggie Bush fan. I used to follow USC and now I get a chance to play against them. It's exciting . . . with the right mindset maybe we can pull the big upset."