Raising the Bar

Wednesday, December 20th – Signing Day, 2023 – began early. I was up and ready to go at 6:15 a.m., MT … but I was already late.

Yes, it was only 6:15 a.m., Mountain Time, with sunlight still ninety minutes away, but it was already 8:15 a.m., Eastern Time. Wide receiver Kamron Mikell and defensive lineman Eric Brantley, Jr., two freshmen joining the Herd from the talent-rich state of Georgia, had already sent in the Letters of Intent.

By 7:00 a.m., five new Buffs had already been processed.

And so it went for the rest of the morning, with new commitments coming in almost as fast as I could process them. I was constantly checking in at the CUBuffs.com website, 247 Sports, Rivals, and Twitter (sorry, I mean X).

Click. Click. Click.

Refresh. Refresh. Refresh.

It wasn’t long, though, before the “where is Jordan Seaton’s commitment?” posts started. By noon, the 247 Sports message board thread was already 29 pages long, with over 2,500 posts.

Signing Day is always fun, and is always a little tense. With the advent of the Transfer Portal, some of the luster has been taken off of the shine of Signing Day. It’s become less about getting the signature of a prize high school recruit as it is getting commitments from players who can plug holes in the lineup. Coach Prime had said he wasn’t going to emphasize high school recruits his first few seasons at CU, and he was holding true to his word this fall, with the commitments for the CU Freshman Class remaining in single digits.

As a result, Buff fans weren’t looking for a rush of high school commitments on Wednesday. What the Buff Nation was looking, however, for from Coach Prime and his staff on Signing Day, were the following:

  1. Jordan Seaton becoming Coach Prime’s third five-star commitment in as many years;
  2. All of the prize recruits which had committed to play for Colorado sticking with their commitments; and
  3. A surprise flip or two, commitments which would become the icing on the cake of a Top 25 Class.

By early afternoon Wednesday, though, it was becoming apparent that none of three expectations were going to be met.

Jordan Seaton, who had committed to Colorado on national television just two weeks earlier, was nowhere to be found. The internet rumors started flying, with the Seaton-signing-with-Maryland getting the most traction.

Meanwhile, the Buffs lost a commitment they had for two months. Amontrae Bradford, a three-star edge rusher from Statesboro, Georgia, opted not to play with his cousin, Kamron Mikell, but instead signed with Georgia Tech (and, to add insult to injury: On3 Sports, after Bradford switched to Georgia Tech, elevated his status from three stars to four stars). This came on top of the loss of Issiah Walker, a junior college transfer who didn’t have enough transfer credits to enroll at Colorado, and the loss of Indiana offensive lineman Matthew Bradford, who flipped and signed with Oregon.

To make matters worse, CU wasn’t flipping anyone else’s commitments, signing only those prospects who had already committed to Colorado.

All of the sudden, what was supposed to be a fun day for the Buff Nation was turning into a disappointment. No flips from other schools. Players turning down Coach Prime for other opportunities. No Jordan Seaton.

By late afternoon on Signing Day, the saga as to where Jordan Seaton would sign was becoming a referendum not only on the CU Class of 2024, but on the ability of Coach Prime to sign high school talent in general, and to sign non-skill position stars in  particular.

The internet became a feeding frenzy for CU and Coach Prime haters. In particular, fans of Oregon, Nebraska, and Colorado State were having a field day, laughing at CU’s now ridiculously low freshman Class – down to only five signees – and the apparent embarrassing loss of the jewel of the Class, Jordan Seaton.

As Wednesday came and went, however, with Seaton not signing with a different school, the tide began to turn. There were rumblings that Seaton was still going to sign with Colorado after all, and that all would be right with world. When it became apparent on Friday – with a video of Jordan Seaton in a car driven by Deion Sanders, Jr. – the sun came out once again.

Now, as the dust is settling on the CU Recruiting Class of 2024, and the internet jousting is being toned down (just a little bit), the numbers on Coach Prime’s second Class are becoming a little less volatile:

  • Rivals … Freshman Class (8 signees): 67th in the nation (still showing Omar White and Zycarl Lewis as commits, but neither have signed with CU) … Transfer Class: 2nd in the nation (just behind Louisville) … Combined Class: 27th in the nation (2nd in the Big 12, behind only Texas Tech);
  • 247 Sports … Freshman Class (6 signees acknowledged): 99th in the nation … Transfer Class: 1st in the nation … Combined Class: 21st in the nation

There is plenty to debate about when it comes to Coach Prime’s theory of building a program. Development has for generations been seen as the way to build a program, especially when you are talking about the offensive and defensive lines. Freshmen linemen come in, hit the weight room for a year, then play special teams as a redshirt-freshman and as a sophomore, learning the system and building a bond with their fellow linemates. Then, if they survive, they get to be starters as juniors and seniors.

Coach Prime doesn’t adhere to that theory, and, in the new age of the Transfer Portal, he doesn’t have to.

Deion Sanders has often stated he has a 40-40-20 plan with recruiting: 40% grad (older) transfers, 40% undergrad (younger) transfers, 20% high school.

Colorado’s 2024 class to date:

  • Older transfers: 10 (43.5%)
  • Younger transfers: 7 (30.4%)
  • High school signees: 6 (26.1%)

So … if you are looking just at the Class of 2024, Coach Prime is doing pretty much what he said he would do. Now, if you want to hold him to the idea that the entire roster should be made up of the 40-40-20 split, then yes, the University of Colorado is well short of his goals, as to get to 20% of the 85-man roster, he would need to bring in 17 true freshman each off-season.

Regardless, Coach Prime is putting together Classes the likes of which Buff fans haven’t seen in a generation.

Send these stats to your favorite Buff hater (many of these numbers are courtesy of Brian Howell at the Daily Camera, who has taken over for Dave Plati as the best source of historical data):

— Since 2000, Colorado has signed six five-star recruits (5 high school;  1 portal). Three have been signed by Deion Sanders (Travis Hunter, Cormani McClain, Jordan Seaton); two by Dan Hawkins (Ryan Miller, Darrell Scott); and one by Gary Barnett (Marcus Houston).

So … three five-star players in the past 20 years before Coach Prime landed in Boulder; three five-star players in the past two years since Coach Prime became a Buff.

— Per the 247Sports database, Colorado signed its two highest-rated wide receiver recruits ever in this Class … oh, and Coach Prime has now brought in four of the top five receivers ever:

  • 1. Drelon Miller, .9694 (2024)
  • 2. Kamron Mikell, .9501 (2024)
  • 3. Adam Hopkins, .9105 (2023)
  • 4. Paul Richardson, .9101 (2010)
  • 5. Omarion Miller, .9096 (2023)

Think back for a moment at all of the top wide receivers Colorado has had playing for it in the past 40 years. Then ponder the fact that Shedeur Sanders will have at his disposal four wideouts rated higher than all but Paul Richardson on your list.

— Colorado currently has three of the 10 highest rated recruits to ever sign with CU on its active roster:

  • Jordan Seaton – .9957 (3rd)
  • Cormani McClain – .9921 (4th)
  • Drelon Miller – .9694 (9th)

Oh, and this doesn’t count Travis Hunter, who would have been No. 1 on the list (.9999), but Hunter came to Colorado as a a transfer.

— This Class contains nine four-star and one five-star players. Never before, in any Recruiting Class since they started keeping track of such things in the 1990s, has CU had this many blue-chip players in one Class.

This past year, amidst great fanfare and great criticism, Coach Prime brought in an almost entirely new roster. Not all of the signees and transferees worked out; not all of the signees and transferees were able to fill the holes CU had in its lineup. Coach Prime’s methodology of building from the outside in only made it halfway to completion, with glaring holes in the roster along both lines.

Now, however, after enduring a few stressful few days, the Buff Nation can look at the Class of 2024 and smile. For 48 hours or so, the entire Class of 2024 – and Coach Prime’s credibility as a recruiter – seemed to hang in the balance as the Jordan Seaton drama played itself out. As it turned out, we didn’t have to worry about Seaton, or worry about the ability of Coach Prime to recruit, or to worry about the quality of the Class of 2024.

Down the line, we will – perhaps – be able to look back at this Recruiting Class, on pace to be CU’s second straight Top 25 Class (after going the entire length of CU’s participation in the Pac-12 without posting a single Class in the Top 35), as a watershed moment. A moment when the football program at the University of Colorado turned a corner, positioning itself to return to the upper echelons of college football.

At the very least, Coach Prime has demonstrated what is possible from a Recruiting Class at CU, with the Class of 2024 still not complete, with even more and better signings expected in February, and again after spring practices.

Then, after a successful 2024 campaign, a Top 25 Recruiting Class will be considered the floor, not the ceiling.

The bar has been raised …


11 Replies to “Raising the Bar”

  1. Merry Christmas Buffs.. Thanks for keep keeping us informed.. Great pick up today at LBacker.. Let’s get 6 wins next year and go from there ( maybe 13 ).. CU on the ice 🧊 🎣

  2. Lat years class/transfers were to stock an empty cupboard and not all were going to workout, but what did you expect the coach to say? “We got the best we could considering and this year will not be as good as expected.”

    No, he talked them up and coached them to get the best he and his staff could get, and it was going well at first, but it didn’t take long once in conference play for the line to be exposed as still in dire need for better players and the strong conference was able to exploit the Buffs line.

    Now that the Buffs have some P5 talent on the line, protect Shedeur and get a run game going and those one score losses should become wins. Can you imagine if the Buffs just won those games along with the four wins?

    That could happen next year, especially in the Big12 with no UW, Oregon or USC.

    Keep Shedeur upright and get the run game going and the Buffs will be a very different and improved team than this last season.

    1. “food players” are important.

      Bad coaches make good players look bad. CU was the master at this.

      Go Buffs.

      Like the class

      Wonder how many scholies they got left. And the next signing day is when? Portal or High School??

  3. Aint the internet grand? It sure has made my business 10 times easier…at the very least. Then there is the social media portion of which, other than posting here , I am not a part of. Funny because most of the CSU and Cobb fans I know are very silent on the rivalry in person. I accommodate them by not rubbing their nose in the fact its been a while since they beat the Buffs,

    Coach has done what he had to do the revive this program, that was pretty much given up for dead, in the quickest fashion. No one on the carousel would have come close. On paper now we have what looks like a very nice upgrade on talent on the lines. (Still worried a little about the MLBs)
    The job is still half done. At the risk if triggering earache, the coaches now have to put these kids in a position to win. I was really impressed with how Washington’s O line operated but I’m not sure how successful even they would have been in last year’s zombie offense. Its a mystery to me why a guy as dynamic as Sanders is still hitched up with a guy as undynamic (a word?) as Shurmur.
    Win and the recruiting becomes easier, of course. If we can win enough to get to a bowl above the current over populated bowl chaff and one that most of the country will tune in for maybe the portal heavier roster will keep things going. I still would like to see a few more numbers from high school. Its always nice for Colorado people to see a few Colorado kids in the starting lineup as well.

  4. Indeed an unprecedented approach to building a team so far. Yes, the ‘haters’ (I prefer using the term loosely), laugh while they can. Method to the madness will come full circle (imho) as freshman recruits mature and develop, becoming the foundation, and portal transfers as need based plug-ins. Coach Prime is the man. Go Buffs!

    1. HS class is small, but is it better to get a smaller quality class and supplement with transfers than to bring in recruits just to fill the class? Something that happened far too often in the past.

      This is only the first of two signing periods, so we’ll see. If getting a bunch of juniors through grad students this year improves the win record enough, recruiting follows and if Prime can get 4 and 5 stars now, what will happen if the Buffs win?

      In the past, CU had large underclassmen numbers and was playing a lot of younger players, while losing their best, transfers to USC & Oregon, coaches too, and was constantly restocking with youth… and not blue chip, but diamonds in the rough.

      Prime has reversed that.

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