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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

October 13, 2011 at 8:15 PM

Five questions, five answers — Colorado

hansen.jpg

Time again for our weekly “Five questions, five answers” blog post, focusing on UW’s opponent, which Saturday is Colorado.

Our guest this week is Kyle Ringo, who covers Colorado for the Boulder Daily Camera.

As always, our questions, his answers:

Q1: Colorado is 1-5 but has lost a few winnable games. What is the general feeling on how the first year under Jon Embree has gone so far?

A: Folks are frustrated, not because they expected a winning season, but because the Buffs have been very close to winning three of the games they lost. They were within a touchdown and dropped an interception that could have been returned for a touchdown in the second half at Hawaii. They lost to Cal in overtime after allowing the Bears to convert a first down following first-and-30. They gave up 77 and 90 yard drives to Washington State in the final 5 minutes of the game. There is a feeling in Boulder that the Buffs could be at least 3-3 at this point if not for a couple plays.

Q2: What are some of the major changes Embree has made to schemes?

A: The Buffs run a version of the West Coast offense, though it is not fully implemented because the personnel is not in place to do so. Long term, the vision is to be like Stanford and Washington with a lot of options available and all of it based off a power running game. The defense has changed to a 3-4 from a 4-3, though the Buffs showed a lot of 3-4 looks in 2010. Embree is still waiting for the big change to take place and that is a mental makeover. He is trying to instill a physical, hardnosed approach to football but it might be another year or two before the Buffs are where he wants them in that regard.

Q3: What kind of season is quarterback Tyler Hansen (pictured at right in an AP photo) having, and did he have a harder time last week without leading receiver Paul Richardson, or was that just due to Stanford’s defense?

A: Hansen was asked how much he missed Richardson last week at Stanford. “A lot.” was the answer. But it’s unlikely Richardson would have made that big a difference against the Cardinal. The CU offense is much tougher to defend with Richardson in the mix. Defenses had been dedicating three players to him at times with a cornerback squatting on him at the line, a linebacker playing wide to take away slants and a safety over the top. Hansen has played better in general this season than any point earlier in his career. He is more mature and it shows in his decision making. He does a good job throwing the ball away and avoiding turnovers and interceptions, but he hasn’t shown the ability to take over a game or rally his team for wins late in games.

Q4: It sounds as if the Colorado secondary is really young and thin. Can you give an overview of what’s happened there?

A: CU came into the season with experienced safeties Ray Polk and Anthony Perkins expected to anchor the secondary and their stability and health has been a Godsend for the defense. In my eight seasons covering the program and college football I can’t remember a team cycling through nine cornerbacks because of injuries and suspensions. But that is where the Buffs are right now. True freshman Greg Henderson starts on one side Saturday and Terrel Smith starts on the other. Smith is a safety playing out of position. Former wide receiver Jason Espinoza switched from offense to defense several weeks ago and he should get plenty of playing time against the Huskies as well.

Q5: It looks like Colorado’s special teams have been a real issue all season. What are some of the more significant problems there?

A: It is actually a problem that began several years ago under the old coaching staff and hasn’t been rectified yet. Part of the problem is a lack of speed and depth on the roster. A lot of young guys and reserves were playing in the kicking game earlier in the season, but coaches are now using mostly starters because of all the mistakes that were being made. But the mistakes have continued. CU has allowed a blocked field goal in each of the past two weeks and allowed two blocked punts earlier this season. The Buffs rank 116th in the nation in both kickoff returns and kickoff return coverage. It’s been ugly. One bright spot has been true freshman kicker Will Oliver, who came in and won the job in early August with an uncommon self confidence for a guy his age being thrust into that position. Oliver is capable of kicking field goals for 55 yards in on most days when weather is not a factor.

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