That’s because 23 players either missed or played sparingly in the spring game, the final chance to see the new-look Buffs prior to the first full season under their new regime and in their new conference.
"I'm happy with the guys who are going to be here," Embree said after the game. "We know how to hit, we know how to throw a punch . . . we just need more guys. We can't do nothing about that; we have what we have. We'll have to try to stay healthy as best we can. But I'm happy with where we are.”
Among those out were five defensive linemen and linebackers Liloa Nobriga and Derrick Webb, which made for an exciting day for the offense and the fans. It was also a great help to quarterback Tyler Hansen, who was looking to solidify the starting spot in Embree’s new offense.
Hansen, who was 8-for-15 for 124 yards and a touchdown, has been the leader in the race for starting quarterback job all spring and Embree could make that official Tuesday when he plans to announce his starter after conferring with his staff.
He will be choosing between Hansen, who has been solid all spring and has played in each of the last three seasons or redshirt freshman Nick Hirschman, who has yet to play in college but played well in the spring game.
Hirschman completed 11 of 19 passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns. He led five of the seven scoring drives in the game.
Other players that impressed included walk-on Josh Ford, who transferred from Barton (Kan.) Community College and went to Mullen High School, led all rushers with 17 carries for 164 yards and a score. Ford has picked up the offense quickly, but still remains behind starting tailback Rodney Stewart, who had 86 total yards and a score.
Still, Ford’s play will likely earn him a spot in the rotation come fall if he can build on the performance in fall camp. Overall the rushing game accounted for 299 yards and two touchdowns.
Sophomore receiver Paul Richardson led the team with four catches for 61 yards and a touchdown and tight end Kyle Slavin had three catches for 50 yards and two touchdowns. Slavin also spent some time as the backup snapper, a role he has been working on this spring.
If there’s one thing the loss of 23 players did for Embree and the Buffs, it allowed them to identify some depth and give those players some confidence heading into the summer. One such player was defensive back Jordan Marquez, who had a 33-yard interception off No. 3 quarterback Brent Burnette that was returned for a touchdown. It was the only interception of the day and in any of the three main spring scrimmages.
CU plays 13 consecutive weeks next season and will likely need all the bodies it can get as the season progresses. And Embree has said all along that he won’t hesitate to play incoming freshmen if the need should arise.
In all, the spring game demonstrated the progress Colorado has made as a team in the few short weeks it’s worked under Embree and his staff. It showed that the team has bought in to Embree’s system and that slowly but surely it’s embracing the new staff and trying to move on to better days for the CU program.