Dec. 30, 2002
UCLA head football coach Karl Dorrell has announced the first four members of his coaching staff. Eric Bieniemy, who has coached running backs at Colorado the past two seasons, has been hired to coach the UCLA running backs. Jon Embree, who coached both offense and defense during his 10 seasons at Colorado, will coach the Bruin wide receivers.
Gary Bernardi, who has coached the UCLA tight ends and served as recruiting coordinator for the past nine years, and Don Johnson, who has been the Bruin defensive line coach for the past three years, will be part of the new staff. They will both continue to coach their current positions.
Bieniemy, 33, comes to UCLA after two seasons as running backs coach at Colorado, his alma mater. This season, the CU running attack ranked seventh nationally during the regular season with an average of 241.2 yards per game. Tailback Chris Brown earned first-team All-America honors and ranked third in the nation and first in the Big 12 in rushing (158.5 yards per game). He also ranked eighth nationaly in all-purpose yards (162.2) and 10th in scoring (9.8 points), leading the Big 12 in both categories.
In 2001, his first season on the Buffalo staff, CU finished eighth in the nation in rushing, averaging 228.5 yards per game. However, the tailbacks and fullbacks combined for 2,620 yards, the most yards out of all the running back positions in college football for 2001. In 2000, he served as an assistant at Thomas Jefferson High School in Denver, CO.
Prior to beginning his coaching career, he enjoyed a nine-year career in the National Football League as a running back/kick returner.
Bieniemy's footprints are still all over the Colorado record book, as he remains the school's all-time leader in rushing (3,940 yards), all-purpose yards (4,351), touchdowns (42) and scoring (254 points). He was the nation's second leading rusher in 1990 with 1,628 yards, along with 17 touchdowns, when he finished third in the Heisman Trophy balloting that year behind BYU's Ty Detmer (the winner) and Notre Dame's Raghib Ismail. His most memorable game was at Nebraska as a senior in 1990, as he scored four fourth quarter touchdowns in leading CU to a 27-12 win that put CU in the driver's seat for a second straight Big Eight title as well as on the road to the school's first national championship in football.
In 1990, he earned unanimous All-America honors. He was a two-time first-team all Big-Eight performer, in 1988 and in 1990, earning the conference's offensive player-of-the-year honor as a senior. As a junior, he was named to CU's prestigious 25-member "All-Century Football Team," the only active player at the time to be selected to the group honoring the first 100 years of Buffalo football.
He was a second round draft pick by the San Diego Chargers in the 1991 National Football League draft (the 39th player selected overall). He enjoyed a nine-year career in the NFL with three teams: San Diego (1991-94), Cincinnati (1995-98) and Philadelphia (1999). In 142 games, he rushed for 1,589 yards and 11 touchdowns, while catching 146 passes for 1,223 yards. He also returned kickoffs, and returned one kick for a touchdown while with Cincinnati.
Bieniemy was born Aug. 15, 1969 in New Orleans. He lettered in football and track at Bishop Amat High School in West Covina, Calif., earning second-team All-America honors in football as a senior when he rushed for 2,002 yards and 30 touchdowns. He is married to former Mia Maxie, and the couple has two children, Eric III (7) and Elijah (3).
Following his NFL career, he returned to Colorado as a full-time student and graduated in May 2001 with a degree in sociology.
Embree comes to UCLA after 10 seasons on the Colorado staff. He coached the tight ends his first two seasons (1993-94), before moving to defense to coach the ends in the first year of Rick Neuheisel's tenure as head coach (1995). He returned to coaching tight ends under Gary Barnett in 1999 and switched to wide receivers for the 2001 season. This season, split end Derek McCoy earned All-Big 12 honorable mention.
Assigned to recruit Colorado, and particularly the Denver area, Embree played a pivotal role in helping CU to secure Marcus Houston in 2000. Houston, out of Denver's Thomas Jefferson High, is considered the most celebrated high school football performer in state history, and Embree's recruiting skills were an integral part of keeping him in his home state.
Embree, 37, worked as a volunteer coach at CU under Bill McCartney in 1991, also working with the tight ends, and was the receivers and tight ends coach at Douglas County (CO) High School in 1992.
He graduated from the University of Colorado with a B.A. degree in communications in 1987. He lettered four seasons (1983-86) as a tight end at Colorado. He ended his career in the top five in both career receptions (80) and yards (1,116) along with scoring five touchdowns. He won CU's Lee Willard Award in 1983 as the coaches selected him the team's most outstanding freshman. His 1,116 yards rank as the second most by a tight end in CU history, while his 80 catches are still fourth among all ends.
His top season came his sophomore year (1984), when he was first team All-Big Eight and set school records with 51 receptions for 680 yards, both of which stood until 1992. Even though CU abandoned a passing offense for the wishbone his junior year, he still caught the eyes of pro scouts and was a sixth-round draft choice by the Los Angeles Rams in the 1987 NFL Draft. He spent two years with the Rams (1987-88), playing in 13 games, and concluded his career in 1989 with Seattle, as a severe elbow injury ended his pro career.
He has coached several top players, including all-Big Eight performer Christian Fauria, now with the National Football League's New England Patriots. Several others have gone on to the NFL, including Daniel Graham, who he tutored his sophomore and junior seasons and went on to break several of his own CU tight end records in 2001.
He was born Oct. 15, 1965 in Los Angeles, Calif. He is married to the former Natalyn Grubb, and they have three children, Taylor (13), Connor (11), and Hannah (6).
This past season under Bernardi's guidance, UCLA tight end Mike Seidman earned first-team All-Pac-10 acclaim and was a finalist for the John Mackey Award, presented to the nation's top tight end. He also set a UCLA record for yardage by a tight end with 631 yards and his 41 receptions were tied for No. 2 on that UCLA tight end list.
Johnson's defensive line played well throughout the season despite the loss of Rodney Leisle for half the year. Junior end Dave Ball accounted for 11 quarterback sacks, tying for fourth place on UCLA's single-season list, and was a second-team all-league selection. Senior tackle Steve Morgan earned all-Pac-10 honorable mention.