Prime Cuts: Sifting Through the Overreaction

Well, it’s not as if he didn’t tell us what was coming.

The video of the first meeting between Deion Sanders and his new team last December went viral. Coach Prime told Colorado players to hit the Transfer Portal because he was bringing his own guys:

“We got a few positions already taken care of because I’m bringing my own luggage with me,” Sanders told the players. “And it’s Louis, OK?”.

Coach Prime continued: “Ain’t gonna be no more the mess that these wonderful fans, the student body and some of your parents have put up with for probably two decades now.

“I’m coming. And when I get there, it’s gonna be changed, so I want y’all to get ready to go ahead and jump in that portal and do whatever you’re gonna get because the more of you jump into (the portal), the more room you make because we bring kids that are smart, tough.”

And it’s not as if Coach Prime didn’t tell everyone for the past five months that he was cleaning house, and that the restructuring would  include the bulk of the CU roster.

“This place is beautiful,” Sanders said in February. “And I’m pretty sure, with the lack of success, is people get complacent around here. They don’t understand the beauty and the diamond you have, and they just walk around fulfilling obligations for a job, instead of being happy, enthusiastic and just proud to be in this position.

“We will not settle for mediocrity,” Sanders said. “It is what it is. You’re going to get on this program, or you’re going to get up out of here. We plan on winning and we don’t have time to procrastinate.”

Coach Prime, the week before the Spring game, again told both his team and the press that a purge was coming …

“The team that we’re playing with now is not the team that we’re going to play with in Texas the first game (Sept. 2 at TCU),” Sanders said. “Do I need to say anymore? It’s not gonna be that. It’s gonna be a lot of new faces, a lot of new attitudes, a lot of new understandings and a lot of new wants and desires … There has to be a sense of urgency. You got to have it.”

After the Spring game, Coach Prime no less clear as to what was coming ….

“You all know that we’re going to move on from some of the team members and we’re going to reload and get some kids that we really identify with,” Sanders said. “This process is going to be quick, it’s going to be fast, but we’re going to get it done.”

And yet … the national press has had a field day lambasting Coach Prime and the University of Colorado …

From CBS Sports … Go ahead and question Deion Sanders. From a 35,000-foot view high above the Flatirons, Coach Prime’s mass flipping of the Colorado roster looks callous and reckless and wrong. Your feelings are valid. Sanders’ methods are questionable.

From the New York Post … Boulder is buzzing. There is apparent dysfunction around the Colorado Buffaloes football program after 18 players entered the transfer portal on Monday. The father of departing receiver Jordyn Tyson slammed Sanders in an interview the Denver Post, calling it an “ugly situation.” (you can click on the Post article on your time, I don’t click on anything from the Post).

Headline from Athlon Sports … “Deion Sanders under fire for how he’s flipping Colorado’s roster: The Deion Sanders method has caused nothing short of a controversy”.

Former Ohio State, Florida and Utah head coach Urban Meyer: “How do you function?” Meyer said according to On3. “You know, I can’t even imagine the recruiting going on right now and talking to other players and other programs and trying to get them to come to you. Then I’m also trying to wrap my head around players being told just to leave. We’ve all been as a coach, you know, I wouldn’t be truthful to say there weren’t times I wanted to tell players to leave, but you just really can’t do that. You can make it hard on them and make them either improve or they leave.”

The turnover has also given opposing coaches and recruiting directors the opportunity to openly question Coach Prime’s tactics. Nebraska’s head coach Matt Rhule has been particularly critical (and was the subject of last weekend’s essay: “Coach Prime Living (Rent free!) in Matt Rhule’s Head“), but Rhule has not been alone.

In an article in The Athletic, “Deion Sanders’ extreme Colorado makeover has coaches buzzing: ‘It’s a tremendous risk’ “, there are any number of quotable (anonymous) quotes taking Coach Prime and CU to task:

— “It’s a tremendous risk to replace all of those guys,” an ACC recruiting director said. “It’s an experiment that has never happened on this big of a scale.”

— “I can appreciate the aggression and the urgency to essentially bust things down to the studs and start over,” a Pac-12 director of player personnel (DPP) said. “My concern is the rapid hemorrhaging of personnel within specific position rooms. They have an unfathomably low amount of scholarship players in some rooms that demand high-volume personnel.

“I’d be less worried about culture and locker room dynamics right now in Year 1 than I would be about having enough players to line up and stay healthy.”

— “It is just absolutely unreasonable to think you can sign 25 players out of the spring transfer portal and make your team better,” the Big 12 DPP said, “unless the players they had were just that bad, which I don’t buy. In the end, is the sum of the 25 new guys going to be greater than the sum of the 25 old guys? Man, I don’t know.”

Fortunately for Coach Prime and the Buff Nation, CU athletic director Rick George has his coach’s back.

“I have confidence in him and his staff and they know what they’re doing,” George told ESPN following the Pac-12’s spring meetings this past week. “… He’s been very honest and forthright. He’s been very open about it publicly and privately. He’s trying to build a winner at Colorado, and this is his way to do it.”

George continued: “When [Sanders] first came in, he said, ‘There’s a lot of people here who may not be here,’ because he evaluated and looked at the talent on our team,” George said. “He’s just publicly stated it, where a lot of people don’t. We’re not the first to do this. The NCAA rule says you can have those discussions. If a student-athlete wants to stay, they can stay. The university has to pay for them, they don’t count on your scholarship limits and they’re not on the team.”

Despite the complaint that CU was “cutting” players from its roster, the fact remains that each of those players were offered the opportunity to stay at CU, have their scholarship honored (though it wouldn’t count against the 85-player scholarship limit), and earn their degree. Out of the 50+ players who were offered a chance at a free education in Boulder, only four decided to stay. The others felt that they wanted to play, and play somewhere else. Of those, to date only five have found new homes in a Power Five conference (with one of those, defensive back Taylor Upshaw, was a Coach Prime transfer from Michigan). The vast majority of those who have found new homes have found them at the G5 level or below.

The rest of college football is learning what Coach Prime and the Buff Nation already knew: The 2022 Colorado roster didn’t contain Power Five talent.

Sorry to put these numbers in front of you again, but these were some of the numbers put up by the Buffs this past season:

  • Total offense: 128th in the nation (out of 131 teams)
  • Scoring offense: 127th
  • Total defense: 130th
  • Scoring defense: 131st

Dive a little deeper, past the major statistics, and you find that CU was terrible in almost every facet of the game: rushing offense, 115th; rushing defense, 131st; passing offense, 118th; passing defense, 113th; first downs, 125th; first downs allowed, 129th; third down conversions, 118th; third down conversions allowed, 131st; turnover margin, 124th; sacks, 131st; net punting, 112th; time of possession, 120th.

You get the idea … you lived through it. You lived through a 1-11 campaign that was even worse than the record indicated. Scoring an average of 15.4 points per game, while giving up an average of 44.5 points per game.

In The Athletic article, above, one Big 12 director of player personnel asked the question: “It is just absolutely unreasonable to think you can sign 25 players out of the spring transfer portal and make your team better, unless the players they had were just that bad, which I don’t buy”.

Buff fans would beg to differ. The players CU had in 2022 were that bad. No doubt that it was also true that the coaching was bad. and the game planning was bad … but the players were not good. Keeping the majority of the 2022 roster, and expecting drastically better results, was never in the cards. Coach Prime understood that, and acted accordingly – overreactions be damned.

There are two truisms to the unprecedented cuts Coach Prime has made to the Colorado roster this spring:

  • The steps Coach Prime has taken has improved the talent on the CU roster; and
  • There are those in the world of college football who are not fans of how he is doing it.


8 Replies to “Prime Cuts: Sifting Through the Overreaction”

  1. It’s easy to be a critic. As the saying goes: “They don’t build statues for critics.” Transformational change usually does not happen for an organization or an individual until it becomes too painful not to do so. “The extreme risk” comment stood out. Of course, transformational change carries extreme risk. Most people want radical change with minimum risk. Doesn’t work that way. What that anonymous person is saying is totally obvious and also means that they would be too scared to do what is currently happening (and needed IMO). I expect the current critics to start chirping again when the Buffs lose some games against an absolutely brutal, as usual, schedule. The “I told you so” attitudes and comments about Prime not coaching at the FBS level, too much turnover in the roster, etc will pop up. Then, in 2024 and 2025, when significant wins and bowl eligibility (and perhaps even playoff contention) occur after the intangible elements of leadership and trust gel across the team and coaching staff, I would guess that many of the current critics will adopt one of three approaches: a) Silence b) Selective memory of “I didn’t say that” or c) Praise and comments that “I knew all along this would be a success”. Kudos to Rick George for hiring Coach Prime and having his back. Kudos to Coach Prime for doing what he said he would do. I, for one, will enjoy watching the progress unfold over the next few seasons.

  2. Well, if Jordan’s dad was pissed, I guess that tells us one of the few bright players from last year’s team was also asked to move on.

    If this works as I think it will in raising the level of talent to better compete on game days, how many similar purges will happen next year?

    It could be a truly brave new world in college athletics.

    Although, I guess the counter point to that is, how many teams were that bad and fired their coaches?

    The new staff factor/clause allowed Deion to do this magnitude of purging.

    Go Buffs

  3. When we got a top 30 recruiting class and the #1 transfer class i remember saying, “thats great but we still have a lack of talent returning outside of 2-3 players.” Then we were at some points at 90+ players on scholarship. Once the attrition started, while MLC and Tyson were tough to see go, it became a relief. I have been telling people the team may still struggle this year given they have not played together yet, but to assume they won’t be better than last year is absolutely laughable. If Prime shows improvement from last year then recruiting should become even easier. Ultimately this feels like the scouts from the movie Moneyball complaining because their guarding the gates of how it used to be done. But if this works to the tune of a semi successful season this will be the blueprint going forward and everyone knows it. To quote moneyball, “I know you are taking it to the teeth out there, but the first one through the wall always gets bloody, always. This is threatening not just a way of doing business but in their minds its threatening the game. But really what it is threatening is their livelihoods, its threatening their jobs., its threatening the way that they do things. And whenever that happens, whether it is a government or a way of doing business or whatever it is, the people who are holding the reins, with their hands on the switch, they go bats***t crazy. Anybody who is not tearing their team down right now, and rebuilding it, using your model, they’re dinosaurs.” That is what prime is attempting to accomplish. And dont fool yourself, it will happen if he wins. Everyone will do this. Everyone.

  4. The risk is in not turning over the roster at these levels. The combined stats lost by the players leaving barely equates to a decent starting level player and those for QB and RB less so, due in no small factor the O line. And as bad as the O was, the D was historically bad. Watching that team was like watching a train wreck or a car accident, you know you should turn away for your own mental health, but you just can’t because you can’t believe what you are seeing.

    The critics don’t have a true sense of how bad it has been and last year was the absolute bottom of the trough. If Prime’s turnaround doesn’t work, then I’m afraid the Buffs program is irredeemable. In Prime we trust because what other choice do we have?

  5. Roster overhauls can, and typically took years…until the transfer portal. Seems as though the criticism largely emanates from keyboard warriors whose coastal biases relieve them of any real credibility. This, of course…comes from a cup-is-always half full hard core Buff bias. Guess it depends on how you look at it. Me thinks CP et al will prove them wrong.

  6. Stuart:
    Great article. You are spot on. This was not a Power 5 team last year. It is time for Coach Prime. Patrick

  7. Haters Gonna Hate. They have just waiting in the weeds to blast Prime. Just wait until we lose a couple of games.

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