From Hope to Expectation

On the day that he was named the Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year, CU head coach Deion Sanders was making the rounds at the Thursday night NFL game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Seattle Seahawks. There was the photo op with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones on the field before the game, and some fun with the pregame crew.

Unlike Coach Prime’s appearance before the College Football Playoff National Championship game last January, when he was decked out in Buff gear from head-to-toe, CU’s head coach was well dressed, but only in Prime gear (perhaps there is some rule about college football coaches appearing on NFL broadcasts in school colors).

More important than what he was wearing, though, was what Coach Prime said:

“This was a season of hope”, he said. “We instilled hope, not only in our fan base but in college football alike, but next year is a season of expectations. So right now we’re recruiting our butts off. I’m recruiting as I speak”.


This quote only added to the raised expectations Coach Prime gave the Buff Nation after CU’s season-ending 23-17 loss to Utah.

“Trust me we’re in the process,” Sanders said after the game a week ago Saturday. “Coach Ray (Forsett, the Buffs’ chief of staff), this is his time. This is his moment. This is where he excels. This is where the scouting department core is, where they start doing their thing.

“We already know what’s going to come, probably in the next few days to a week and a half. We already know what’s going to transpire. You’re gonna be pleased with what’s coming, I promise you that. But everything you see that we have a lack thereof, a deficit, we’re going to fill that need.”

Buff fans can only hope.

Oh, wait, we’re done hoping. We’re moving on to the season of expectations.

Most Buff fans understood that there would be bad news this offseason before there would be good. We were prepared to rationalize that you can’t add to the roster before there are subtractions.

The Transfer Portal losses to date have been few, although a bit surprising. Tight end Caleb Fauria, linebacker Marvin Ham, together with offensive linemen Gerad Lichtenhan and Van Wells, have been the first to announce that they are leaving the program.

Not a large number of defections, but … three of the four players leaving were starters. When you are trying to rebuild your roster, you expect to lose the disgruntled backups (like Fauria), but you would like to think that many of your starters will stick with you for Year Two.

The other surprising factoid from the early list of players leaving … There were only eight scholarship players from the 2022 team which stayed for the 2023 season. Four of those players are the first out the door to start the 2023 offseason.

And it’s about to get worse.

The Transfer Portal officially opens on Monday, December 4th. While there have been some significant announcements from across the nation from players who are leaving their present schools (including what seems to be about half of the quarterbacks in the Pac-12 who are not going to the NFL), most of the players who will be entering the Portal will start to do so on Monday (there is a 30-day window to enter the Portal now, then another 15-day window to enter the Portal in April).

Then there have been the losses in the coaching staff. Buff fans were elated (and more than a little surprised) last December that a sitting head coach agreed to join the CU coaching staff as a coordinator, but Sean Lewis left his head coaching gig at Kent State to become the offensive coordinator for Coach Prime.

The best guess at the time: Lewis would stay on as coordinator for a few seasons. Then, when and if Coach Prime left Boulder, it would be an easy transition to promote Lewis to be CU’s next head coach.

Instead, things went sideways, and Lewis gave up his play calling duties late in the season.

Despite the demotion, Lewis was nonetheless seen to be a good enough coach to be hired as the new head coach at San Diego State. While a loss to the Buff Nation, it is actually an unusual compliment to Coach Prime. CU hadn’t had an assistant head coach hired away to be a head coach at another program since Tom Cable left after the 1999 season to become the head coach at Idaho (and Lewis is perhaps the first CU coordinator to leave Boulder for a Power Five school since Gary Barnett left the Buffs after the 1991 season to become the head coach at Northwestern).

This weekend, the coaching staff suffered another loss, with the report that defensive ends coach Nick Williams was also leaving the Buffs staff. Williams had been at Georgia for four years and then Texas A&M for two seasons prior to coming to Boulder. While the CU defensive line was not a standout group in 2023, Williams has been one of Coach Prime’s best recruiters.


Coach Prime told us good news was coming this week, but we haven’t had much in the way of good news, unless you are counting the naming of Coach Prime as the SI Sportsperson of the Year.

Instead, this past week has been a series of defections, with no news of any additions.

Signing Day is Wednesday, December 20th.

Last December, little was expected from Coach Prime and his nascent staff when it came to the Recruiting Class of 2023. Head coach Karl Dorrell had been fired in October, and the remaining staff had little incentive to recruit for what they knew would be a new coaching staff.

And yet, the new staff brought in the No. 29 Recruiting Class, landing five-star cornerback Cormani McClain, to go with three four-star recruits: running back Dylan Edwards, together with wide receivers Omarion Cooper and Adam Hopkins.

It was more than the Buff Nation could realistically have hoped for from a Class put together in three weeks.

Now, 12 months later, hope for a strong Recruiting Class has been replaced by expectations. With a full year to recruit, and with the Buffs having taken the nation by storm early in the season to show what was possible in Boulder, there was reason to believe the 2024 Recruiting Class would have as much fire power as the Class of 2023, if not more.

But, with less than three weeks before Signing Day, the Class has nine members. There is again four-star talent, with two athletes – Kamron Mikell and Aaron Butler – and a defensive end, Brandon Davis-Swain, presently committed to Colorado.

Buff fans understood that Coach Prime would bring in a small Class … But nine members? A Class ranked 69th?

There is still plenty of time for the CU coaching staff to gain some significant commitments before Signing Day … but will they?

Coach Prime jokes that he will be bringing in a host of new offensive linemen to shore up CU’s weakest link … but will he?

A little good news in the next week or so, to offset the bad news which we know is coming, would be most welcome.

As Coach Prime himself put it … the Buff Nation is moving past the Season of Hope.

We’re moving on to the Season of Expectations.

Make it so … Corey Phillips, CU Director of Player Personnel … 




2 Replies to “From Hope to Expectation”

  1. Really curious about offensive coordinator. I was expecting the new guy to be named today, after conference play ended and before the portal window opens. You would think he wants input on his guys coming in, and recruits want to know who they’re playing for.

  2. 4 star OT from Texas Tech is now in the portal
    Not sure what is happening at LA-Monroe but it looks like there is a mass exodus of O line men from there with a couple of high 3 stars. Also from LA-M is a four star D lineman. Outside of that pickins is still slim for O linemen.
    Jake Wiley is back in the portal. Is he any better than anyone last year?

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