CU Recruiting Renaissance

“Renaissance” is a French word which translates to “rebirth”. For our history majors, the term “Renaissance” is most commonly associated with period in European history marking the transition from the Middle Ages to modernity and covering the 15th and 16th centuries.

For University of Colorado fans, the “Renaissance” of the program, the “rebirth” of Colorado football, took place shortly after Deion Sanders took to the podium at his introductory press conference on Sunday, December 4th.

Coach Prime has had only two press conferences since his hire, with the second coming after the second Signing Day on February 1st.

On both occasions, CU’s new head coach hit home runs.

A few tidbits from Wednesday’s press conference …

Opening statement … “Let me start by saying I absolutely love Boulder, Colorado. I really do. It was a hidden gem for me because I had no idea. I have never been skiing, I’ve never played in the snow, and 14 years in the NFL, God just blessed me that much but now I’m just ecstatic about Vail and everything associated with this. I absolutely love it. I can’t wait to get into a home so I can lay down and chill and have a dog run around the yard and call a place home, but this is unbelievable I had no idea.” (Perhaps Coach Prime will be staying more than 2-3 years in Boulder?);

On his coaching staff … “Now to the coaching staff. Between the 10 position coaches and five analysts, of those 15 coaches, five have served as head coaches previously, they have a combined 244 years, 75 at power five level and 52 as offensive or defensive coordinator which is awesome. They have been part of 49 10-win seasons which means these guys know what they’re doing.” (You get the feeling Coach Prime might be right? That this coaching staff will put together a lineup and a game plan which can compete in the Pac-12?);

On the origins of  “I’m comin’ “ … “I was sitting in the restaurant in Jackson, and God said ‘now’. I picked up the phone and called Constance, I called Ray and I said please get Rick on the phone. Rick got on the phone and I said, ‘I’m Comin.’ That’s where that came from. That’s truly where that came from.” (Critics see Coach Prime as a showman; as a brand. CU fans – and recruits – are learning that this guy is the real deal);

On If He’s Surprised By Early Recruiting Success … “How would we be surprised about success? That means we really didn’t expect success, if we’re surprised about success. We expect success. We expect to go get that kid. The only thing that could keep a kid from coming and signing with us is a bag.” (Hopefully someone will pin that last sentence on the wall in Coach Prime’s office).

You’ll be reading a great deal in the coming months about how CU’s recruiting numbers were inflated by the size of the Class, but that’s only partially true.  Yes, Coach Prime and his staff – in two months – signed 42 new scholarship players. It’s also true that last spring, Karl Dorrell and his staff brought in 32 new scholarship players.

And, um, no one in college football had anything positive to say about that large Class.

The Renaissance – the rebirth – of CU’s roster this off-season is far more about quality than it is about quantity.

First, let’s break down the numbers …

CU Recruiting Class of 2023 … 

  • 42 … the total number of overall recruits, the largest Class in CU history (old record: 32; 2022);
  • 14 … Most undergraduate transfers (old record: 5; 2021);
  • 9 … Most graduate transfers (old record: 4; 2022);
  • 8 … Most wide receiver recruits in a Class (old record: 5; 2016);
  • 8 … Most defensive back recruits in a Class (old record: 7; 1996, 2002)

Other numbers of note …

  • There are recruits from 16 different states, the most in CU history (old record: 13; 1973);
  • This Class has two five-star recruits, freshman cornerback Cormani McClain and sophomore transfer cornerback Travis Hunter. This marks the first time CU has had two five-star recruits in the same Recruiting Class, and, oh, by the way, equals the total number of five-star recruits CU has had over the past 25 years. Marcus Houston (2000) and Darrell Scott (2008) were CU’s other five-star recruits this century (some services had offensive lineman Ryan Miller – Class of 2007 – also rated as a five-star recruit);
  • This Class has a total of nine four- and five-star recruits, the most “blue-chip” prospects CU has ever had in a Class (old record: 7; 2002; 2008);
  • The Class rank of No. 21 in the nation (247 Sports) is the fifth-highest in school history. The Class of 2000 was ranked 13th; the Class of 2008 was ranked 15th; the Classes of 2002 and 2003 were both ranked 19th;
  • This Class is easily the highest in the Transfer Portal era. CU transfer Class is ranked 4th nationally. Other rankings … 2019: 42nd; 2020: 18th; 2021: 51st; 2022: 78th.

Now, I don’t want you to nod off with a bunch of stats, but in order to understand just how amazing Coach Prime’s first Class actually is, here are the numbers and rankings of CU’s recruiting Classes since Colorado joined the Pac-12 …

  • Class of 2011 … Jon Embree … 23 commitments … Rivals: 73rd … 247 Sports: 64th
  • Class of 2012 … Jon Embree … 28 commitments … Rivals: 36th … 247 Sports: 39th
  • Class of 2013 … Jon Embree/Mike MacIntyre … 21 commitments … Rivals: 67th … 247 Sports: 68th
  • Class of 2014 … Mike MacIntyre … 23 commitments … Rivals: 63rd … 247 Sports: 74th
  • Class of 2015 … Mike MacIntyre … 18 commitments … Rivals: 70th … 247 Sports: 69th
  • Class of 2016 … Mike MacIntyre … 18 commitments … Rivals: 65th … 247 Sports: 69th
  • Class of 2017 … Mike MacIntyre … 28 commitments … Rivals: 32nd … 247 Sports: 35th
  • Class of 2018 … Mike MacIntyre … 23 commitments … Rivals: 51st … 247 Sports: 53rd
  • Class of 2019 … Mike MacIntyre/Mel Tucker … 26 commitments … Rivals: 45th … 247 Sports: 44th … Transfer Portal Rank: 42nd … Overall Rank: 48th
  • Class of 2020 … Mel Tucker … 24 commitments … Rivals: 33rd … 247 Sports: 36th … Transfer Portal Rank: 18th … Overall Rank: 36th
  • Class of 2021 … Karl Dorrell … 19 commitments … Rivals: 63rd … 247 Sports: 64th … Transfer Portal Rank: 51st … Overall Rank: 65th
  • Class of 2022 … Karl Dorrell … 25 commitments … Rivals: 45th … 247 Sports: 47th … Transfer Portal Rank: 78th … Overall Rank: 58th
  • Class of 2023 … Deion Sanders … 22 commitments … Rivals: 25th … 247 Sports: 39th … Transfer Porta Rank: 4th … Overall Rank: 21st

To simplify our discussion, suffice it to say that, before Coach Prime, CU only had three Recruiting Classes which even made it into the Top 40 in the nation, being the Class of 2012 (when Jon Embree recruited the nucleus of the roster which would help the Buffs win the Pac-12 South in 2016); the Class of 2017 (when Mike MacIntyre tried to cash in on the success of the 2016 team), and the Class of 2020 (Mel Tucker’s one and only full Class while in Boulder).

The highlights from those three Classes which found their way into the Top 40 …

Class of 2012 … Two four-star prospects: CB Yuri Wright … CB Ken Crawley … Number of top 500 prospects: 3

Class of 2017 … Two four-star prospects: OL Jake Moretti … WR K.D. Nixon … Number of top 500 prospects: 5

Class of 2020 … Three four-star prospects: RB Ashaad Clayton … DL Jason Harris … CB Christian Gonzalez … Number of top 500 prospects: 5

Now, compare those Classes with the Cass of 2023 …

Freshman Class of 2023 … One five-star prospect: CB Cormani McClain … Three four-star prospects: RB Dylan Edwards … WR Adam Hopkins … WR Omarion Miller … Transfers … One five-star prospect: CB/WR Travis Hunter … Four four-star prospects: S Myles Slusher … OL Yousef Mugharbil … LB Vonta Bentley … QB Shedeur Sanders … Number of top 500 prospects (out of high school): 10

So … In Coach Prime’s first Class, he has as many Top 500 prospects as the best two Classes of the past decade … combined. He has as many five-star prospects in his first Class … as CU had previously signed in the last quarter century.

And he’s just getting started.

“We’re not done”, Coach Prime said at the press conference. “This is just a pause. This is just a comma. There’s a lot of people that are going to bungee jump in the portal after the spring because they’re going to be disappointed in their playing time, commitment, or level or participation that they’re garnishing. We are going to take full advantage of that.”

Oh, and while Coach Prime & Co. are still working on additions to the Class of 2023, the work is already underway on the Recruiting Class of 2024. CU already has five commitments (Class ranked 12th nationally), with two four-star recruits (already as many as two of the three non-Prime Classes to make it into the Top 40 since CU joined the Pac-12), with all five commits being ranked in the top 700 nationally (three in the top 500).

CU is now recruiting at a level not seen since, well, before there were national recruiting services. Some of CU’s Recruiting Classes under Bill McCartney would have attracted as much attention as Coach Prime’s first Class, had there been internet services out there to generate that attention.

CU’s highly rated Recruiting Classes under McCartney produced ten-win seasons, conference titles, and national championship contenders.

That’s a Recruiting Renaissance Buff fans are more than happy to watch unfold …


8 Replies to “CU Recruiting Renaissance”

  1. RobO made a good point on 2/5 about NIL. Sorry to be responding to this late. Over the last few days, the details of the failed Rashada Florida Collective deal were made public. Perhaps, Stuart will have some insight/thoughts on this or write another article addressing NIL again.

    I think NIL will evolve and probably be less money than we think but maybe include most all the scholarship players. In the beginning, I heard the Caleb Williams’ etc.. made bank. I think you could get decent money if you are a Top20-30 overall recruit–Arch Manning (not that he needs it). Most of the others will get some but it cannot set you up for life. One Rashada article said the max deal rumored in college football is in the $8M range.

    With the Rashada deal falling through, it tells me four things: (1) your expected NIL deal is only as good as the people underwriting it and the actual contract itself; (2) there will be some NIL/Boosters backers who will lose it all, and just not pay out–this does happens under many different circumstances–i.e. Sports Authority went BK, then Mile High had no naming sponsor for a few years; (3) teams and NIL collectives are re-thinking things in terms of maximizing the player potential while protecting the school, coaches and overall locker-room; and (4) any agreement has to protect the player.

    Rashada’s Florida deal was sort of dead on arrival. It gave him $500,000 the moment he enrolled in school. Since the deal was signed before him enrolling, this looked like an inducement to sign, not NIL to be earned. This probably put the school in trouble or at substantial risk. Rashada did enroll in school, but if I had to bet, the school pulled the initial $500K payment, which never arrived. Thus, hence he asked out of his NLI and they let him out.

    Rashada’s deal was $13.5M was over 4 years, which I found odd. $250K/mo as Frosh, $ as Soph, $375K/mo as Jr (if so, he would be making more over two months, than many assistant coaches.) If you are a Star QB, how many stay 4-5 years? If you are starting but not quite a Star, wouldn’t the NIL collective want you out before paying $375K/mo as a junior? Conversely, if you flame out or get beat out, you transfer anyways?

    Another problem, the NIL contract provided termination at anytime without cause or reason (the collective can “in its sole and absolute discretion” … terminate the agreement “without penalty or further obligation”). In lawyer terms this is a “Phantom Earn-Out Agreement.” It does not protect the player at all.

    The Rashada NIL requirements for the huge money were “nil:” 1) Reside in Gainsville (not sure if full time or part time); 2) one “branded internet” post–Twitter/Facebook each month; 3) eight fan engagements yearly; and 4) fifteen autographs on memorabilia. One article mentioned it was incentive based, so I’m not sure if this required football metrics/exposure (ie. play certain # of games, start at QB??). This might not have been in the actual contract but could be part of the understanding (I’m sure there were emails going back and forth saying something). If football metrics/incentives exist, this presents an absolute nightmare for the player and coaching staff/school.

    For team chemistry and coaching flexibility purposes (I would not want NIL backers even insinuating that their guy has to play) all NIL deals need somewhat equal footing. Some guys can have more, but if the team NIL is a few haves, and a bunch of have-nots; that can rupture a locker-room. 18-23 yo athletes are interesting, as is. I think this is why most of the major professional sports have rookie contract schemes that don’t break the bank (i.e. young NHL stars live with older players). With a Rashada type deal and Rashada not playing to expectations, team chemistry could be throttled–something like the Bronco’s saddled with Russ Wilson’s contract. Another is Barry Bonds not well liked in the Giants clubhouse despite still winning MVP’s due to all the special clubhouse perks the Giants gave him. Even grown men get jealous seeing it in their face everyday. I would imagine if things were not quickly working out for Rashada, the upperclassmen would not take well to him making $250K/mo as a redshirt; then $300K/mo as a Soph unless he is the starting QB and they are winning games. This would be quite the rub.

    NIL will evolve. IMO, NIL should make the players comfortable with spending money, telephones, family attending games, being able to fly home, maybe a car, or nicer housing (after SO year), certainly an insurance policy for injury or future medicals. A deal cannot be so much so soon that a player loses sight and NIL becomes a total distraction for the player, locker-room, coaches etc… I don’t think you can set up a FR for life with millions, or there is a huge risk they just don’t focus on football enough. IMO, huge NIL can disincentivize a 17-18yo. Could you imagine Darrell Scott with a huge NIL contract? JaMarcus Russell (we know what he did with his huge rookie deal)? There are many examples of players across all sports.

    Also, IMO, this may be a deal with the school or apparel provider, but they should get a piece of the merchandise pool if their jersey is a good seller. Same with the NCAA football video games etc… Same with autographs on sports memorabilia sold. Plus, a reasonable NIL contract, but not millions. Also, you can’t have a LIV golf situation where you get guaranteed $$ up front or in tranches, then they draw against your outside revenue…

    The last point I would make on huge NIL deals, I am sure this is prohibited, but if a Shady NIL deal puts a young at-risk for mortgaging their future earnings in the NFL or anything else that is a huge problem. When you sign a $13.5M contract you employ a reputed Sports Attorney; Most are pseudo agents anyways. This is a very fine line that is rife with risk. You get that old pseudo agent/Ed Martin (Michigan Fab-5) relationship problem, where there are expectations down the line. Finally, if an 18yo is flush with a ton of cash, then there are purchases plus investments, plus in theory it should be easy to get larger loans with a % down, as you have income and expected future income. I don’t think you want that creeping in for 17-18 yo’s because if they run up a balance way over their eventual NIL payout, the only way to make it back is as a Successful Pro. That is a long-shot.

    A final side-note that a close friend who played major college football decades ago, he highlighted how things were under the old NCAA system. Each team would have some rich kids, where their college years were very easy and they had a great time irrespective of how good they were at football. On the other side were poorer kids who got their scholarship and a small stipend–they had trouble just calling home, flying home for holidays, and minimal funds to do much of anything–those were the much better players. That created problems in many locker-rooms back then. A Frosh pocketing $500K the day he enrolls + $250K/mo is not a good recipe.

  2. I really want to understand NIL these days. I am positive or donors are not shelling out millions of dollars, we would have heard of that. But Coach Prime tells everyone he wants to make the kid comfortable while he is here. What does that take 20k? 40k? It probably depends on the kid but I am betting every 4 star is looking for something along 20k minimum, 5 stars more, maybe? But I think that sort of money is something CU can do.

    Thanks Stuart for the article. I was thinking much along the same lines. We have so many transfers we are 21 just becuase of the scale, but seeing the quality and how that compares to what we were in the past. Do we know how that compares to Utah, USC, Oregon? How many 4 stars and 5 stars are in their 23 recruiting class.

    One last set of notes: the custodian told Coach Mo that she has not seen the team work this hard before. I have to say that surprises me and yet doesn’t. The off-season workouts I have seen online are 100% within my expectations for a football program. If we were not showing this effort beforehand across the entire team no wonder we were getting pushed around (I think historically only a few players pushed themselves in th3 off-season and others went through the motions.).

    We have some grown a$$ men on the team. The new tight end looks bigger and stronger than Brady ever did. Sami is no longer a giant and fits in with the other guys, the wide recievers not only look fast but some pf them look seriously strong (MLC looks really good), Travis Hunter is no longer just that lengthy kid, he has added some weight and size and looks so quick. Shedeur looks real solid as well. I am excited not just by the new comers though. I think there is some real talent on this team it was just not being pushed right. Will Reed add the size he needs to compete with Cormani and Hunter for playing time? Will woods add the size he needs to beat out Shilo and the other Jackson State safety and the other transfer? Will Sami add the strength and technique he needs? I think we had 3 good o line will they continue the development we saw during last year? I still say Williams could be special at linebacker, I am interested to see if Kerry develops more there. I loved Hankerson last year and he was injured for a lot of it.

    I am excited for the spring game!

      1. and when looking at it a different way

        usc 33 commits 1 two star or below
        Oregon 39 commits 2 two stars or below
        Colorado 43 commits 11 two stars or below

        usc nineteen 4 and 5 star to thirteen 3 star
        Oregon twenty-five 4 and 5 star to twelve 3 star
        Colorado eight 4 and 5 star to twenty 4 3 star.

        gotta win this year to reverse the 5-4 star with the 3 star

        Go Prime…………………………………..will it to happen

        1. Thank VK,
          This shows that while this class is much more talented than ours has been it’s still way below the blue bloods. It always stuns me how bad those blue bloods often play. USC will collapse when punched in the mouth. Oregon often the same. I wonder why? Does USC and Pregon get all the 4-5 star wide recievers and db’s while Alabama, Michigan, Georgia racking up lineman? Qb’s matter of course more than most but why does USC through multiple coaches show that same tendency to fall apart when they are out physicalled? Maybe everyone does, heck TCU definitely did during the national championship and Texas is just a garbage heap when compared to where they should be with their talent…..

          I recognize that 4-5 stars make a difference. But I wonder what the difference if between those elite programs that get tons of talent. Is it where that talent is coming from or is it in the coaching and management?

          1. The answer to your question?
            Check out USC’s 2021 roster … plenty of 4- and 5-stars … and a 4-8 record.

  3. “I can’t wait to get into a home so I can lay down and chill and have a dog run around the yard and call a place home, but this is unbelievable I had no idea.” (Perhaps Coach Prime will be staying more than 2-3 years in Boulder?)”

    I’ve been saying this all along, go a head and look at my posts, I’ll wait…

    After watching CP’s CBS interview before he even took the job, and the other videos of him arriving and seeing his reaction to Boulder the community, Boulder the school, Boulder the Champion Center AND those great Rocky Mountains; along with the relationship between RG & him and I’m not sure why if successful he would be in a hurry to leave.

    Great move by Rick George to get CP up to Vail for some snowmobiling and fun!

    “They have been part of 49 10-win seasons which means these guys know what they’re doing.” (You get the feeling Coach Prime might be right? That this coaching staff will put together a lineup and a game plan which can compete in the Pac-12?)”

    And one of the reasons CP is killing it in recruiting, the one place I was totally wrong, wait for it…

    I thought CP would be successful because of who his is, very true still, but I also though he’d bring in sponsors who would provide NIL, but NO! I was wrong, he is simply telling them I will get you THE NFL not nil. Which is nil, as in nothing compared to the NFL. And it’s working because of CP is a GOAT and the staff he’s put together.

    Coaches who a year ago we wouldn’t have seen in CU’s future, none of us! Grand Slam Home Run MR. George! Quality coaches and CP’s himself are getting recruits without promises of nil. They will still get NIL once the team starts winning, but I gotta believe that this really is going to be a major difference in CP’s team v. a A&M that spent a boat load of money last year for what?

    Kids coming in to build something and earn their place at the NFL table are the type of players that should grow together as they push through CP & staff’s workouts. They will work harder for these coaches that have been there and been successful.

    Add in how truly awesome Boulder really is and once the kids find out what a gem it is the 2nd and 3rd year players will help in the recruiting too.

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