CULVER CITY, Calif. -- Colorado wide receiver Paul Richardson wondered what kind of reception he, Chidera Uzo-Diribe and coach Mike MacIntyre would receive at Pac-12 football media day on Friday.
Richardson figured the media wouldn't think much of the Buffs and the bulk of their questions would come with a negative tone because the program has been stuck in the Pac-12 cellar, but he was curious how his peers in the conference and other coaches would interact with the Buffs.
When Richardson was asked whether he believed other coaches and players in the conference respect the Colorado football program, he admitted it was a question he was interested to find an answer to on his trip.
All three members of the Colorado contingent came away feeling good about where they stand in the eyes of their peers, but they also admit they know there is work to do. Frankly, the Buffs are going to have to start winning some games in the Pac-12 and being more competitive across the board before the respect comes in full.
"I find it ironic that you ask me that because I thought being here that guys would look down on us or have a perception or an image of us," Richardson said. "I think with the two people they sent here to come represent our program, that they have respect for us. ... My goal is to have them respect the team that I am captain of."
Every year at this time it seems the new leaders in the program talk bravely about how they expect things to be different and how things have improved. Richardson, Uzo-Diribe and their fellow captains have been no different in that regard, but what is different is their willingness to talk frankly about what was wrong in the past.
"I think the difference will be we have guys back from injury," Richardson said. "We have better leaders. We have better captains. We have people that know how to lead now. We had people that could have potentially been good leaders, but they didn't really know how to lead.
"These coaches have been teaching us how to lead and we're prepared to."
There were games in each of the past two seasons in which the Buffs simply weren't competitive from start to finish, but more often than not, CU allowed opponents to get away from them, particularly in the second half.
Players say their new coaches have talked about finishing games, finishing in the classroom, finishing in weight room, finishing runs and finishing with other responsibilities since they were hired in December and January.
They figure eight months of having it pounded into their heads and hearts will help them win a few more of those games this fall.
"People don't understand," Richardson said. "A lot of those games that we played last year we were in at halftime. We can compete with these teams. It's just learning to finish.
"I feel like that is what we'll learn to do this fall camp is put a full game together. That's going to take focus."
But Jon Embree and his assistants and Dan Hawkins and his assistants also preached about finishing and playing complete games and doing the right things on and off the field.
Is there really anything different happening here?
"We've been taught how to finish and we've embraced the teaching of how to finish," Richardson said. "We had a lot of pro guys teaching us before and I think they just kind of expected us to do it. That's where we fell short. Now we have these guys who are taking the time to teach us how to do it and show us and that's going to make the difference."
CU fans will be eager to see that proven on the field when an opponent gets some second-half momentum this season. The Buffs' Pac-12 peers will be watching, too.
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