- Erik McKinney, ESPN Staff Writer
Back-to-back abysmal seasons cost Colorado head coach Jon Embree his job, which means a transition for a program that would seem to have nowhere to go but up. But what stood out about Embree’s brief, two-year tenure, was the disproportionate amount of success he found on the recruiting trail, relative to the on-field record. While Colorado didn’t exactly dominate the recruiting landscape in the Pac-12 under Embree, the Buffaloes were a player for far more recruits than their recent lack of success would seem to indicate.
That had a lot to do with Embree’s personality and ability to relate to recruits, which included being able to sell his background as a former standout Colorado tight end and a coach with 10 years of experience as an assistant coach.
Embree also seemed to be following a blueprint for recruiting success that has kept Oregon State -- another school without an abundance of home-grown talent of other states -- more than relevant in a competitive conference. In his two full recruiting classes, Embree hit California and Texas hard. In the 14-player class of 2013, 11 verbal commitments were from those two states. He got players to buy into the idea of competing early for a position and bringing a proud Colorado football program back to relevance. Eventually, however, injuries and a nearly impossible uphill climb led to the end of his tenure.
With Embree’s dismissal, attention from an on-field perspective will turn to finding a replacement. But attention from a recruiting standpoint will focus on the assistants -- namely offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, run game coordinator Brian Cabral and defensive line coach Kanavis McGhee. Other Colorado coaches have done a fine job on the recruiting trail as well, but those three could play key roles in keeping the class together and moving the Buffaloes forward in a positive direction. Cabral is a 24-year veteran of the Colorado staff, while Bieniemy is an invaluable asset in the Los Angeles recruiting market and McGhee offers Colorado a Texas asset.
While the possibility exists that Embree’s ouster could signal several defections from the 2013 recruiting class, it’s likely that many of the commitments understood the situation and still will see Colorado as a place offering the same chance to make an early difference on the field.
Quarterbacks can be the driving force of a class, and dual-threat signal-caller Sefo Liufau (Tacoma, Wash./Bellarmine) -- one of Colorado’s top targets at the position -- said last month that he is fully in with the Buffaloes. That could turn out to be another big piece of the puzzle as Colorado moves forward in a new direction.