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MacIntyre’s Up-Tempo System Taking Shape

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Former Colorado head coach Jon Embree was unable to get the job done in Boulder. Can new head coach Mike MacIntyre clean up the mess and win with an up-tempo style? Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images.
Former Colorado head coach Jon Embree was unable to get the job done in Boulder. Can new head coach Mike MacIntyre clean up the mess and win with an up-tempo style? Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images.

Speed, quickness and deception — new Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre is going to need lots of each if he wants to win in the Pac-12 Conference.

Former Buffs head coach Jon Embree didn’t understand that. That’s why the 1987 CU graduate was told to pack his bags and leave Boulder after just two seasons at the helm.

Of course, who can blame Embree for trying to win with the smashmouth, three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust model? That’s how the former CU tight end and his teammates won in the ’80s.

But this isn’t the ’80s anymore. This is 2013, a time when players possess unearthly speed, coaches are more clever than ever before and teams are regularly giving scoreboards a 50-point workout each week and making it look easy.

Yes, those 9-6 scores are a thing of the past, and so is the slogging, predictable, plow-between-the-tackles style that produced them.

Though MacIntyre has been a Pac-12 coach for just eight months — he was introduced as CU’s coach in December — he seems to understand all of this.

MacIntyre wants to use Folsom Field and its 5,360-foot elevation to the Buffs’ advantage, firing off a bunch more plays out of his Pistol formation each game in hopes of seeing defenders with their hands on their knees in second halves.

“We did different tempos at the schools I’ve been at before,” MacIntyre said Thursday during a live chat with fans and the media. “We will do different tempos at Boulder to use the altitude.”

And the 48-year-old MacIntyre appears to have his eyes specifically on prospects who are lighter, faster and should, therefore, make his up-tempo system work and give the Buffs a better chance of competing in the lightning-fast Pac-12.

Consider: CU’s 2013 recruiting class, which was assembled by Embree and his assistants, contained a total of seven offensive and defensive linemen who weighed 270 pounds on average. Conversely, the two linemen who thus far have committed to MacIntyre and CU as part of the 2014 cycle average 243 pounds. As for defensive backs, MacIntyre’s verbal commitments up to this point weigh 10 pounds less than Embree’s sign-ons.

Is this a huge difference? No. Is this a huge coincidence? Perhaps. But I think it’s part of a larger story and a larger plan.

What also makes me believe so is the fact that new CU strength and conditioning coach Dave Forman, shortly after he joined MacIntyre’s staff in January, ordered some of the defensive linemen to lose a combined 100 pounds by the start of preseason camp in August. If the Pac-12’s offensive players are fast, those on the defensive side of the ball must be fast enough to catch them and bring them down, right?

Because of Boulder’s elevation, a huge home-field advantage is there for the Buffs’ taking. Now it’s up to someone to recruit the right players and craft a game plan around it.

After eight months on the job, MacIntryre appears to be that someone.