As the Buffs leave the Big 12 for the Pac-12 Conference they will encounter new opponents, new recruiting areas and new challenges. Maybe this is why new head coach Jon Embree has surrounded himself with so many familiar faces.
All of the full time positions have been filled, and the staff has one common theme: Colorado ties. Including Embree himself and linebackers coach Brian Cabral, who was retained form the previous staff, four coaches were former CU players, five were former CU coaches and three are Colorado natives.
Meet the staff for 2011:
Eric Bieniemy – Offensive Coordinator/ running backs coach
Bieniemy is perhaps one of the most decorated players in the history of CU. As the starting tailback in his senior season, he was second in the nation in rushing, leading CU to the National Championship in 1990. He finished that season with 1,628 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns, finished third in the Heisman voting and was a unanimous All-American selection.
He still holds school career records for rushing, all-purpose yards, touchdowns, and points scored. He was drafted in the second round by the San Diego Chargers with one Super Bowl appearance with the Chargers in 1995. He also had stints with the Cincinnati Bengals and Philadelphia Eagles.
After his playing career, he returned to Colorado, where he coached at Jefferson High School while finishing his sociology degree at CU. He then joined Embree on Gary Barnett’s staff as an assistant in 2001. He also spent three years as a running backs coach and recruiting coordinator with UCLA.
Before he was hired at CU, Bieniemy has spent the last five years as the running backs coach for the Minnesota Vikings.
Greg Brown – Defensive coordinator/ secondary coach
This will be Brown’s third stint with CU, and he brings with him 31 years of coaching experience, including 15 years at the NFL level.
Brown’s first stint at CU was from 1991 to 1993 as the secondary coach under Bill McCartney. In those years, he coached Deon Figures and Chris Hudson, both of whom went on to win the Jim Thorpe Award, which is given to the nation’s top defensive backs.
After leaving in 1993 for various stops in the NFL, former head coach Dan Hawkins brought Brown back to CU in 2006, where he remained until 2009, when he left to be the co-defensive coordinator at the University of Arizona.
Born in Denver and a graduate of Arvada High School, Brown has had two other coaching stints in Colorado as an assistant at Green Mountain High School in Lakewood and with the Denver Gold of the now defunct USFL.
Steve Marshall – Offensive line coach
Marshall joins Embree’s staff with 32 years of experience, 31 as an offensive line coach. Marshall is also a CU returnee. He spent one year in 2000 under Barnett, where he coached five players who would go on to be NFL draft picks.
Marshall has been to 11 schools in every BCS conference but the Big Ten, including two Pac-10 stops. This will be crucial for scouting and recruiting when Colorado opens play in the Pac-12.
His most recent job was at Cal, where he was the offensive line coach for two years. He has also made college coaching stops at Virginia Tech, Tennessee, UCLA, Texas A&M and North Carolina.
Marshall also spent six years at the NFL level with the Cleveland Browns and Houston Texans.
J.D. Brookhart – Tight end coach/special teams coordinator
Brookhart is one of only two coaches on the staff with non-interim head coaching experience. His football career has been intertwined with that of Embree’s ever since their days as teammates at Cherry Creek High School in Denver.
After high school, Brookhart played on the opposite sideline as a wide receiver for Colorado State while Embree was at CU. After stellar college careers, the opponents again became teammates when they were both invited to training camp with the Los Angeles Rams.
Brookhart was cut from the LA Rams, but at the age of 30, Brookhart got back into football as an unpaid assistant with the Denver Broncos under Mike Shanahan. Two years later, the University of Pittsburgh hired him as the tight ends coach.
After seven years at Pitt, he was hired as the head coach of Akron University of the Mid-Atlantic Conference in 2003. He posted a 30-42 record and led the team to its first MAC Championship and bowl game in 2005, but was fired in 2009 after a 3-9 season.
In addition to coaching the tight ends and special teams, Brookhart will be relied on to recruit the Great Lakes area.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this introduction of the new Buff coaching staff.
Contact CU Independent Sports Writer Mitchell Byars at Mitchell.Byars@colorado.edu.