Rating the Hire: National Media on Coach Prime

January 31st 

Urban Meyer high on Coach Prime: “I think he’s going to flip it”

From CBS Sports … Colorado coach Deion Sanders has received a major endorsement ahead of his first season as coach of the Buffaloes, this time from former national championship-winning coach Urban Meyer. During an appearance on the All Things Covered podcast with Bryant McFadden and Patrick Peterson, Meyer threw his support behind Sanders and set some pretty high expectations for the Buffaloes over the next few years under Coach Prime’s watch.

“I think he’s going to flip it,” Meyer said. “Nothing crazy in the first year, but in the first couple years, I’d say certainly a bowl game and an eight or nine-win season.”

The Buffaloes have struggled mightily over the past two decades, reaching bowl eligibility just twice since 2008. Things tanked under third-year coach Karl Dorrell in 2022 as Colorado finished 1-11. Sanders does have a proven track record of turning a program around, though, flipping Jackson State from a 4-8 record in 2019 to a 23-3 record across his two full seasons with the HBCU program.

… “With much is given, much is expected and I think they’re going to feel that real soon,” Meyer said. “There’s a lot going on. Colorado and Prime is everywhere in the news. He’s getting recruits and recruits are talking about him. I think it’s one of the best things to happen to Colorado football since Bill McCartney in 1990 when they won it all.”

Read full story here

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January 26th

Stewart Mandel: Coach Prime Hire the Only “A+” Hire in the Power Five

From The Athletic … The 2022-23 coaching carousel was not as high-wattage as last year’s Lincoln Riley/Brian Kelly edition, but some notable names changed locales. My list feels light on sure things, so it’s almost certain to set a record for “this aged well” screenshots.

Colorado (A+): Jackson State coach Deion Sanders. There’s arguably no other coach in the sport Colorado realistically could have landed who could generate the level of excitement Coach Prime has for the longtime laughingstock program. He’s already landing the type of high-profile transfers and recruits who previously would not have paid the Buffs any attention. It’s a home-run hire whether or not Sanders ever wins big.

Nebraska (A-): Ex-Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule. The 47-year-old previously orchestrated remarkable turnarounds at Temple and Baylor, which should prove valuable in undertaking what could be a massive rebuild in Lincoln. He should do a better job than predecessor Scott Frost of identifying and developing the type of athletes realistically gettable by a program in the Heartland with no natural recruiting base.

Arizona State (B): Oregon offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham. My colleague Ari Wasserman made a strong case for ASU hiring Dillingham way back in September. He’s a 32-year-old up-and-comer and ASU alum who worked wonders with Bo Nix last season and should be an excellent recruiter. But also: He’s 32 years old. He has been a Power 5 assistant for four seasons. There could be a steep learning curve before the Sun Devils get going.

Stanford (C): Sacramento State coach Troy Taylor. Taylor is a great offensive mind who won big at an FCS school but has little experience recruiting at the Power 5 level and has hired several assistants who have none. Not ideal at a program steeped with challenges. Stanford’s administration is ambivalent at best about big-time football and may have settled for the cheapest candidate rather than the most confidence-inspiring.

Read full story here

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January 13th

Coaches on CU: Coach Prime will upgrade the program, but growth could be gradual

From ESPN … There’s a natural inclination to always look ahead in college football, especially at a time when the movement of players and coaches is fast and furious.

The 2022 season wrapped up Monday night, as Georgia thumped TCU in the College Football Playoff National Championship. So what’s on tap for 2023?

Georgia will pursue a third straight championship. USC quarterback Caleb Williams will try to become the first back-to-back Heisman Trophy winner since Ohio State’s Archie Griffin in 1974 and 1975. Perhaps there’s another TCU, a team pegged for the bottom half of its league that can defy the odds. Realignment is here with four teams entering the Big 12. There’s an interesting group of first-year coaches, headlined by Deion Sanders at Colorado.

There certainly will be risers and fallers around the country entering the final season before an expanded CFP.

I spent last week talking to coaches and other insiders around the sport, especially during the recent American Football Coaches Association convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, to gather predictions for the 2023 season. Here’s a look at seven things coaches are expecting next fall.

Deion Sanders will upgrade Colorado but growth could be gradual

Every coach I talked with about Sanders’ move to Colorado — including some who had worked at CU before — like the hire or at least elements. “Prime will do well,” was a common refrain in Charlotte. Colorado had plummeted to the bottom of the Power 5 and Sanders will immediately provide a bump in attention and overall appeal. He’s also receiving more administrative support than previous Colorado coaches.

“Deion’s going to inspire those kids to play,” a Pac-12 personnel chief said. “That’s two wins right there.”

As expected, Sanders has hit the transfer portal hard to reshape the Buffaloes’ roster. But some coaches are surprised by how many players he brought over from Jackson State (seven so far) of the FCS. Assistants who faced Jackson State said standouts such as quarterback Shedeur Sanders and Travis Hunter, who played both offense and defense, will immediately help at Colorado. Shedeur is seen as a “Air Raid-type QB” who will fit in well under new coordinator Sean Lewis, the former Kent State coach. But coaches think some of the other Jackson State imports could struggle with the jump up to the FBS level.

The Pac-12 projects as one of the nation’s deepest conferences, and it returns the best collection of quarterbacks, led by Caleb Williams but also featuring Washington’s Michael Penix Jr., Utah’s Cam Rising and Oregon’s Bo Nix. Coaches think bowl eligibility would be an excellent first season for Sanders.

The other area coaches are watching is whether Colorado will make any inroads in California, which long has been a priority recruiting area for the program. Sanders did not hire a California-based recruiter on his staff, and Pac-12 coaches who recruit the state haven’t yet seen Colorado establish much of a presence. Colorado has a commitment from 2024 recruit Daijon Calimon, a wide receiver out of Lawndale, California.

Read full story here

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December 30th 

Pac-12 Assistants on CU’s roster: “They’ll have some good mojo because of (Sanders), but personnel-wise (it’s tough)”

From The Athletic … Sanders, who took over as coach in early December, signed three four-star recruits who were previously committed to Notre Dame, Nebraska and Auburn — and then loaded up in the portal, signing former All-Americans and all-conference performers from his ex-team at Jackson State, junior colleges and Group of 5 programs.

Will it be enough to quickly flip an 1-11 program that has enjoyed one winning season (4-2 in 2020) and one bowl trip in the last six years? Can the 125th-ranked scoring offense and worst scoring defense against FBS opponents in 2022 find a handful of victories in 2023?

To get some perspective on how big a hole Sanders inherited, we sought the voices of Pac-12 assistant coaches, who spoke about CU’s roster on the condition of anonymity.

The toughest task, one assistant said, will be upgrading the offensive line. Finding talent in the portal is tricky, he said, because “your eyes start getting tainted and you make them better than they are because it’s all that’s out there.”

“Offensive line-wise, they’re not very good at all. Terrible, I think,” the Pac-12 offensive assistant continued. “They rotated in the quarterbacks, but they’re just OK. They’ve got zero speed. I think they did the best they could with it. Defensively, I think their D-line was big but slow. I think that was their strength. … They couldn’t cover. I don’t think there’s much there at all. It’s not like USC where you’ve got some pieces and you’re trying to find a couple of things to fix it. That thing’s a couple years away.”

At most, the assistant said, Sanders might be able to win four or five games in 2023.

“Maybe he can win five the next year … then get to six, seven,” he said. “It’s just a hard turnaround. I think it’s a great hire for them. It’s going to sell tickets and put people in the seats. They’ll have some good mojo because of him, but personnel-wise (it’s tough).”

Another Pac-12 assistant expects to see a much bigger change in personnel than what has transpired thus far. “It’s probably going to be (an) 80 percent facelift,” he said.

He expects Sanders to use the same 40-40-20 recruiting model he had at Jackson State: 40 percent grad transfers, 40 percent portal recruits with several years of eligibility left, and 20 percent high school recruits.

“He’s a pretty good evaluator,” the Pac-12 assistant said. “I think the two things I’m looking for with him is the actual coaching part of it in terms of his staff and his in-game coaching decisions. … I think he’s going to get talent, but he’s not going to do what he did at Jackson State, where he recruited way better talent than everyone else. I don’t believe that.

“I think it’ll be better. He’s definitely going to have a roster that’s going to be more competitive than what Karl had. But the actual coaching part of it is what people are going to want to see, including myself. The disparity is not going to be what it was (in the SWAC).”

Continue reading story here

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December 23rd

CBS Sports Gives Hire of Coach Prime an “A” (“If you accept that CU sold its soul a bit”)

From CBS Sports … Smaller and tidier. That’s a good way to describe the 2023 coaching carousel. Last year, there were 30 coaching changes, 23% of the FBS. This year was less shocking and more business as usual, but still, 24 new hires are in place entering the 2023 season, making up 18% of the FBS. (More than 40% of the available jobs have changed hands in the last two years alone.)

In the three previous years combined, there had been 71 coaching changes — 95 total since the 2019 season.

Surprised? Don’t be. Security is defined by size of a coach’s buyout these days. The top 10 coaches in that department are averaging more than $35 million in funny money if they were fired today. This list contains replacements for five coaches who lasted three seasons or fewer. Impatience still rules.

More than half of this cycle’s hires (13) have never previously been college head coaches. Seven of those 13 make their debuts under the age of 40. The reconfigured Conference USA is making the most changes (five).

Only the other end, former Michigan assistant Biff Poggi, 63, gets his first chance at Charlotte. Looming over it all, of course, is the Deion Sanders experiment at Colorado.

As for what it all means, judge for yourself. Only three of the seven coaches to whom we awarded As last season won 9+ games (Brian Kelly, Jeff Tedford, Lincoln Riley). The others went a combined 23-26 (Mario Cristobal, Billy Napier, Brent Venables, Jerry Kill).

Colorado … Deion Sanders … A … If you accept that CU sold its soul a bit in convincing Coach Prime to embrace two things he doesn’t necessarily like — the West and the cold — this is nothing but a monster hire. Sanders is already stripping the roster hoping to get competitive right away. The entire university has already lowered its transfer restrictions to help get more football players into school. There’s no doubt Prime can coach, and he’s already got a starting quarterback (son Shedeur Sanders) and the No. 1 player in 2022 (Travis Hunter), both of whom transferred in from Jackson State. Get ready. Deion is bringing street to Pearl Street.

Arizona State … Kenny Dillingham … B … One of the upsets of this carousel. AD Ray Anderson was allowed to make the hire after the failure of the Herm Edwards era. But Anderson made quite a comeback snagging one of the nation’s hottest coaches. Dillingham, 32, is the game’s youngest Power Five boss. He has extensive experience at four FBS schools, three in the Power Five. The Phoenix native is all in as the latest trying to wake this sleeping giant.

Stanford … Troy Taylor … C- … Like most folks, I last remember Troy Taylor as Cal’s QB (1986-89). This hire is more about what Stanford is willing to do with it. To compete in the Power Five, the Cardinal must loosen admission standards and jump into the transfer portal. Simple as that. Anything less and the uncertainty grows at a place that doesn’t know what conference it will play in. By the way, Taylor was 30-8 at Sacramento State.

Others … 

Nebraska … Matt Rhule … A+ … By all accounts, Rhule was AD Trev Alberts’ No. 1 choice. Rhule first turned down Nebraska. Alberts deserves a bonus himself for landing what might be the best name on the board. Rhule is a proven turnaround artist (see: Temple, Baylor) who will be in his element in Lincoln. Next step is a baby step for the Cornhuskers in what will be an even tougher Big Ten without divisions in the future: a dang bowl game.

Purdue … Ryan Walters … B- … If it wasn’t for Deion, Walters would likely be the coach at his alma mater. And it would have made total sense. But when Colorado went Prime, Walters became a curious hire in West Lafayette. The Boilermakers have traditionally hired offensive coaches. Throwing the ball is their best way to compete in the Big Ten. Meanwhile, Walters is one of the game’s top defensive minds. As Illinois’ coordinator, the Illini finished second in total defense and yards per play. But is this what Purdue needs?

Read full story here

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December 17th

Yardbarker Gives Sanders Hire an “A+”

From Yardbarker.com

Deion Sanders, Colorado | Previous gig: Jackson State HC

Coach Prime has made an instant impact in Boulder, already pulling together a star-studded staff.

Given his recruiting history in two years at Jackson State — one five-star and six four-stars — Sanders should not have trouble landing talented high school prospects.

 

 

The emergence of the transfer portal and its viability as a tool for instant improvement, as evidenced by Lincoln Riley at USC, should also help Sanders make the Buffaloes an instant contender in the Pac-12.

Grade: A+

Other hires … Matt Rhule, Nebraska … B+ … Troy Taylor, Stanford … B- … Ryan Walters, Purdue … B+ … Kenny Dillingham, Arizona State … B- …

Read full story here

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December 15th 

Coach Prime Gets a “B+” from USA Today

Paul Myerberg of USA TODAY Sports graded each FBS head coach hire and Sanders’ coming to Colorado was given a B+.

One of the most intriguing hires in Power Five history, Sanders has the reputation, recruiting draw and recent track record to reverse Colorado’s status as one of the worst programs in the country. He went 27-5 at Jackson State by compiling one of the most impressive rosters in the Championship Subdivision and should follow the same blueprint to make the Buffaloes appointment viewing beginning next September. The hire is a gamble, and like all gambles it could blow up in Colorado’s face. But the potential reward far outweighs the risk.

As Myerberg mentions, there is risk there, and the move from Jackson State to a Pac-12 program is a gigantic jump. On the other hand, in less than two weeks since being hired, the Buffs have landed a few high-profile recruits while putting together a talented coaching staff.

Quite a few programs earned A or A- grades for their hires: Nebraska (Matt Rhule), Wisconsin (Luke Fickell), Auburn (Hugh Freeze), Florida Atlantic (Tom Herman), and Louisville (Jeff Brohm).

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How Does Coach Prime Do It? “We can see the vision of what he wants to do and where he wants to go from the beginning”

From The Athletic … “We just had a lot of talent. He brought a lot of talent in there,” said defensive end Josh Griffis, who landed at Jackson State after leaving Florida State and spending a season in junior college and re-entered the transfer portal after Jackson State won the SWAC title. “A lot of times, we’d just out-talent everyone.”

So how did Jackson do it? And what’s it really like inside the walls of a program led by Coach Prime?

“He don’t waste time,” Bolden said.

Team meetings begin each day in Prime’s program, and the start of team meetings includes a message tailored for that day. Sometimes, there was a motivational message from Sanders himself. Sometimes, he read an excerpt from a book that caught his eye. Sometimes, he brought in a guest speaker.

Every now and then, those guest speakers made a headline, like when Sanders brought model and Instagram influencer Brittany Renner into the program to talk about players’ relationships with women, among other things.

Sometimes, there were straightforward life lessons. Some of his players once mentioned they didn’t know how to pray. For one team meeting, he began by teaching them how he does it.

Sanders’ pitch to recruits at Jackson State was often two-fold: Come rebuild HBCUs and come let me and my staff help get you to the league.

Defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman played in the NFL for almost a decade and followed up eight seasons on USC’s coaching staff with 15 coaching in the NFL. Special teams coordinator Alan Ricard cleared the way for Jamal Lewis as a fullback during his NFL run, earned a spot on a Pro Bowl roster and won a Super Bowl. Defensive backs coach Kevin Mathis spent a decade in the NFL before jumping into coaching. Defensive line coach Jeff Weeks was a fixture on NFL staffs before landing in Jackson.

“Every kid’s dream is to do what he did,” Griffis said. “Everyone wants to be coached by that. If you get a chance to do that, that brought a lot of kids in.”

Added Bolden: “He’s the GOAT. He knows something, right? His staff knows something, too. His staff is a replica of him: a lot of NFL experience.”

At Colorado, Sanders won’t have the powerful HBCU pitch that helped bring Hunter to Jackson State, but expect his emphasis on NFL experience to continue as he pieces together coaching his staff in Boulder.

“They don’t sugar coat anything. They tell you how it is. If you’re not good, they’ll tell you what you can improve on,” Griffis said. “If you’re not good, they’ll just tell you, ‘Hey, you’re not going to the NFL.’”

Sanders operates the same way most college staffs do. Meet that standard, and playing time follows. Don’t meet it? Meet your new friend: the bench.

“We can see the vision of what he wants to do and where he wants to go from the beginning,” said Jason Mercier, a junior linebacker who went to Jackson State from Florida International. “His favorite word is domination. That’s what he’ll always fall back on.”

That belief, call it swag or confidence, permeates the program, and players said that carries over to the roster. Sanders seeks out players who embody the ideal he built his persona upon.

He also builds a roster around the four tentpoles that made an appearance in his initial meeting with Colorado players. Other than “domination” and “dern,” players will hear “smart, fast, tough, discipline” as the program’s four other favorite words.

“He cares about you and your future. He gets us ready for real life, it’s not only about football. It’s real-life skills,” Mercier said.

Continue reading story here

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December 14th

The Athletic: What is the Floor and the Ceiling For Coach Prime?

From The Athletic … Questions for Ari Wasserman, the senior recruiting writer for The Athletic …

What is the floor and ceiling for Colorado and Coach Prime in the next two or three years? — Scott E. 

It’s not like it was a massive decommitment for Notre Dame, but wow Coach Prime acted quickly. Is that an isolated situation or a sign of things to come? Boulder is a cool spot but not great recruiting-wise, although that didn’t stop Deion Sanders in Jackson, Miss. Does it stop him now? — Jesse K. 

There are a lot of aspects to the job description of a college football coach. The job is about being a proficient recruiter, hiring an effective staff, installing a program culture, having an advanced football mind and serving as the CEO of more than 150 people. There’s a lot to unpack there, but it goes to show you why college football coaches make so much money. It’s a lot of work, and it’s five or more jobs in one.

Of all the aspects of the job Deion Sanders is going to be faced with as he takes over at Colorado, there is one I have zero doubts about. There is no way that man isn’t going to attract talent. Colorado is going to get players, and it is going to get players in bunches. That’s what Colorado paid Sanders for — to make the program relevant again and bring in top-flight talent. Sanders is bringing luggage with him, and it’s Louis. He may be purchasing some new luggage, too, and it’s Gucci.

How many blue-chip prospects will he get in this class? I’m not sure. He already has one in less than a week on the job, four-star running back Dylan Edwards of Derby (Kan.) High. Could it be four or five? Sure. But the early signing period is less than 10 days away, so I’m not going to judge Sanders one way or the other until the 2024 class.

That said, it is possible Colorado could sign a top-10 class next year. Give Sanders a full year to cook, and there’s a legitimate chance the Buffaloes could sign the best class in the Pac-12. We’ve never seen a hire like this before in college football, a person with this much flash and swagger who is an NFL legend doing things his way. He has a film crew following him around like they’re filming an “E! True Hollywood Story.” He’s talking openly about the portal on Instagram Live. He’s opening the doors into the program, and he’s doing things loudly.

People are watching him. I’ve written more about Colorado in this past week than I have in my entire career. Again, that’s the reason he was hired, and it’s already working. Sanders knew it didn’t matter where the school was located or whether it was in a fertile recruiting area. He knew he would bring attention and hype to his new place and that prospects would inherently want to play for him, even if it’s in a beautiful but tucked-away place like Boulder.

What’s the ceiling? The ceiling would be a Pac-12 championship in Year 3. Even if Sanders does some major damage in the portal this year — which would include bringing Travis Hunter over from Jackson State — and adds four or five more blue-chip prospects to its class, Colorado still has quite a way to go to flip its roster. Let’s not forget it was the worst Power 5 team in the country this past year. But in Year 3, after USC and UCLA are gone, and Sanders has had more than two years to assemble a roster? There’s nobody out there who can act like that’s not a realistic goal, especially when 80 percent of being a college coach is getting the players.

Sanders has also done an incredible job of filling out his coaching staff. He brought Kent State head coach Sean Lewis into the fold. Lewis runs a fast and exciting offense and could lend a hand when it comes to the logistics of being a head coach. If Sanders stays in his lane, acquires talent and lets his assistants do their jobs, why couldn’t Colorado be awesome in a Pac-12 that doesn’t have USC or UCLA anymore?

The floor is a complete and utter disaster. You have more non-competitive games, players bolting into the portal as quickly as they arrived in Boulder and Colorado proving there was never any substance behind the Prime Time hype. That, too, is out there as a realistic outcome of all of this.

But if you’re Colorado, a team that hasn’t done anything in the recent past, what do you have to lose by trying something new and bold? A lot of you are rooting against Sanders and think this whole thing is a house of cards destined to fall. That’s your prerogative. The upside potential here, though, made it a brilliant move for Colorado.

Sanders is going to get players. I can pretty much guarantee that. What he does once they’re there? We’ll see.

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December 13th

ESPN: Almost no downside to the Sanders hire

From ESPN … When the coaching carousel began in September, Deion Sanders wasn’t a complete afterthought but hovered more on the fringes than the forefront. By December, Sanders stepped out of a jet in Colorado in a familiar spot — as the center of attention.

He had interviewed for Power 5 jobs, most recently with TCU in 2021. A move from Jackson State to the FBS was inevitable, but where? A lighter-than-normal coaching cycle, especially in the Southeast, seemed to decrease the chances of a Sanders jump.

Colorado wasn’t a likely destination for the Pro Football Hall of Famer, or even a probable coaching vacancy when the season began. After a search process that began with other candidates, Colorado zeroed in on Sanders and brought him to the Rockies late on Dec. 3.

Sanders’ hiring at Colorado undoubtedly highlights a coaching carousel that, while not matching its predecessor in notable names and schools, contained plenty of interesting subplots. Most of the key jobs are filled, so it’s time to break down the biggest hires, the most head-scratching ones and the emerging trends from this year’s head-coaching carousel.

Almost no downside to Colorado’s hire of Sanders

Every coaching hire carries risk. Sanders is still relatively new to college coaching. Just because he dramatically elevated Jackson State in the SWAC doesn’t mean he can do the same for Colorado in an improving Pac-12.

But Colorado had fallen so far, both in performance and relevance, that a dynamic hire like Sanders has no real downside. Sanders gives the program an unprecedented bump in relevance, and his presence and ability to attract talent significantly increases the chances of better on-field play.

Because of Sanders, Colorado will be the story of the college football offseason. He’s that magnetic and truly the perfect coach for the transfer portal/NIL era. The program’s publicity bump comes after a 1-11 year and with only one winning record during a full season since 2005. While I didn’t love everything Sanders said in his initial team meeting, his comment about the program being so down for so long — and how things would change under his watch — really resonated.

Colorado seemed close to a hire about a month ago, according to sources. Former BYU and Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall had emerged as a strong candidate. Although Mendenhall is a good coach who had success in the region, the pivot to Sanders certainly could be seismic for the CU program. Sanders is already making strides in recruiting and attracting transfers. Players who wouldn’t have imagined themselves at Colorado before he arrived are now considering the Buffaloes.

Few teams have been hit harder by the portal than Colorado, which lost a group of standout players last year. Sanders could flip the portal from a negative to a positive, but he will need support from Colorado’s administration to help with incoming transfers. The school’s overall support for Sanders will be key in the transition. But the hire already has been a huge success, and Sanders is just getting started.

Continue reading story here

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December 12th

Rivals national recruiting director: Can Deion Sanders really pull this off? 

From Rivals.com … Rivals national recruiting director Adam Gorney wonders if Deion Sanders at Colorado could actually work …

Can Deion Sanders really pull this off?

That’s the question I’ve asked myself most over the last week or so as he has definitely provided a spark and an incredible amount of excitement around what was a moribund program, instantly winning some big recruiting battles and disassembling a recruiting class that had talented players but maybe not at the level to win big in the Pac-12.

Sanders has already made bold moves – exactly what we expected. He’s brought in some elite coaches with big-time recruiting connections whether it’s Tim Brewster or Corey Phillips from LSU or Nick Williams from Texas A&M among others.

He’s already flipped one of the best all-purpose backs in the 2023 class in speedy four-star Dylan Edwards from Notre Dame. Landing three-star JUCO defensive back Anthony Robinson was a major recruiting win that shouldn’t go unnoticed (Note: This commitment has not yet been confirmed). Three-star receiver Asaad Waseem was another big victory as that provides more entry into the Florida recruiting market.

We’re all waiting to see if Colorado could get even more serious with Malachi Coleman and Kadyn Proctor as both have shown decent amounts of interest in playing for Sanders, Coleman a little more than Proctor at this point. Colorado coaches are supposed to visit four-star linebacker Arion Carter this week as Alabama has been the favorite but the Buffs will be involved there.

We still wait on former five-star Travis Hunter’s decision along with former four-star Kevin Coleman and whether they’ll be heading to Boulder as well.

High school recruiting is off to a good start but needs to keep getting better. This isn’t Jackson State where Sanders can bring in three or four significant transfers and three or four elite high school players and go undefeated. A roster needs to be stocked because that’s how bad the Buffaloes were before Sanders got there.

Colorado went 1-11 this past season. That’s both good and bad for Sanders because he’ll get the credit for any improvement on that record but he’s starting from basically the ground floor. The Buffs didn’t just lose every game, they were all pretty much embarrassing blowouts all season, the only win coming against Cal in overtime.

Continue reading story here

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December 7th 

Jon Wilner: “There has never been a Pac-12 hire like this”

From the San Jose Mercury News … For the vast majority of the past 20 years, Colorado languished on the outskirts of the college football solar system, like one of those asteroids drifting through the Kuiper Belt beyond Pluto.

That all changed Saturday evening, when the Buffaloes hired Deion Luwynn Sanders Sr. and were instantly transformed into one of the brightest objects in the night sky — one guaranteed to transfix the sport.

“Coach Prime,” as Sanders is known, has taken over a program desperate for prime time.

And that makes perfect sense, for this fascinating, unconventional, astonishing hire is rooted in desperation.

… Thoughts on the hire …

— It’s a blowout victory for the Pac-12 at large, immediately elevating the profile of a struggling program and making the conference more interesting by a factor of 37.

Sanders is a sports celebrity and athletic icon who happens to be an inexperienced but promising football coach.

Everything he does and says will be a story, creating light where a black hole existed.

Recall that last spring, ESPN chose to broadcast live from only one spring game, USC’s late-April scrimmage, because of the hype surrounding the arrival of coach Lincoln Riley and quarterback Caleb Williams.

Don’t be surprised if something similar happens in Boulder a few months from now. And if not the spring game itself, other CU football events will generate immeasurably more interest than they have across the eons.

Anytime a low-level program becomes a source of national interest, the collective benefits.

That it’s happening at this moment in time, with USC and UCLA about to depart and the Pac-12 staring at an uncertain future, only benefits the conference.

And if Sanders actually wins at a high level in the next few years … oh, boy.

Bottom line: There has never been a Pac-12 hire like this.

— The responsibility for bringing Sanders on board, for better or worse, falls entirely on Colorado athletic director Rick George, who also hired Mel Tucker and Karl Dorrell in recent years.

(The former was moving in the right direction before Tucker abruptly left for Michigan State; the latter began in positive fashion, then unraveled completely.)

George met Sanders years ago, when they both lived in Dallas — George as an executive with the Rangers, Sanders after his playing career.

In most respects, Sanders seems like a poor fit for Colorado, for Boulder, even for the Pac-12, which generally leans into boring, low-key hires.

But the power of Sanders’ fame and personality — and the manner in which he connects with players — is light years beyond fit.

Continue reading story here

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December 6th 

Rich Eisen: “Well done, Colorado. You’ve Got a New Fan in Me”

Bruce Feldman on Why Deion Sanders can Fix Colorado in a Hurry … 

Joel Klatt “Over the Moon” on Sanders Hire … 

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December 5th 

ESPN gives hiring of Sanders an “A-“

From ESPN … Deion Sanders’ coaching career has reached the highest level of college football — and a surprising destination in Colorado.

Sanders, the Pro Football Hall of Famer who transformed Jackson State’s program the past few years, was named Colorado’s new coach Saturday night. After interviewing for several Power 5 jobs in recent years, Sanders’ ascent to the FBS seemed like only a matter of time. But rather than remaining in the South, where Sanders spent most of his playing career and his entire coaching career, he’s headed to a completely new region with the mission of reviving a once-elite Colorado program that has faded from view for much of the past 20 years.

“Not only will Coach Prime energize our fanbase, I’m confident that he will lead our program back to national prominence,” athletic director Rick George said in announcing the hire.

Sanders has been viewed as the perfect coach for the current college football climate, in which the transfer portal and name, image and likeness are king. He is a historic hire in many ways, including being Colorado’s third consecutive Black coach — a first for a Power 5 program. But can he boost a program that is 89-152 since the 2003 season? For more, click here.

Grade: A-

I wouldn’t give an automatic “A” for any program that hired Sanders. There are risks that come with the hire, just as there would be for most fairly new college coaches who haven’t worked at the Power 5 level before. But Sanders gives Colorado immediate relevance, which the program has sorely lacked for most of its time in the Pac-12. Colorado suddenly becomes a place notable recruits and transfers will consider. Sanders will have a learning curve, but Colorado will benefit from his arrival in multiple ways.

Other “Grades” of note … Matt Rhule/Nebraska: A- ; Kenny Dillingham/Arizona State: B+ 

December 4th 

ESPN: Sanders has the ability to surpass expectations quicker here than at other big-time programs

From ESPN … Deion Sanders’ coaching career has reached the highest level of college football — and a surprising destination in Colorado.

Sanders, the Pro Football Hall of Famer who transformed Jackson State’s program the past few years, was named Colorado’s new coach Saturday night. After interviewing for several Power 5 jobs in recent years, Sanders’ ascent to the FBS seemed like only a matter of time. But rather than remaining in the South, where Sanders spent most of his playing career and his entire coaching career, he’s headed to a completely new region with the mission of reviving a once-elite Colorado program that has faded from view for much of the past 20 years.

“Not only will Coach Prime energize our fanbase, I’m confident that he will lead our program back to national prominence,” athletic director Rick George said in announcing the hire.

Sanders has been viewed as the perfect coach for the current college football climate, in which the transfer portal and name, image and likeness are king. He is a historic hire in many ways, including Colorado’s third consecutive Black coach — a first for a Power 5 program.

Why Colorado

Paolo Uggetti: Since 2011, Colorado has finished in either last or 11th place in the Pac-12 10 times, but the program has plenty of intrigue and potential due to its history and location. It is an ideal landing spot for a coach like Sanders, whose fast-rising reputation as a head coach, recruiter and — perhaps most importantly — face of a program was going to garner him a Power 5 job sooner rather than later. Colorado has lagged behind its peers in nearly every category and, at the very least, the Buffaloes needed an injection of energy. Sanders will bring that and more, including a real recruiting advantage and an ability to institute a culture that will stand out in the Pac-12. Any success in Boulder will be received with open arms, and because Colorado has made a home out of the conference cellar over the past decade, Sanders has the ability to surpass expectations quicker here than at other big-time programs.

Adam Rittenberg: Sanders had interviewed for Power 5 jobs the last few years at TCU and Arkansas, but ultimately needed an opportunity. Although he has never worked in Colorado, the program has shown with the right coach and recruiting approach it can compete nationally. Colorado needs to recruit Texas, a state where Sanders lives and should provide immediate upgrades. His overall name recognition will completely reshape Colorado’s brand, which needs a boost as somewhat of a forgotten program in the Pac-12. Colorado is one of few Power 5 programs with a decent history of hiring Black coaches. The school has become the first Power 5 program to ever hire three consecutive Black coaches. Four of the past five Buffaloes coaches are Black.

Andrea Adelson: I think the better question is why Sanders? There is an easy answer here: Colorado needs its program jump-started, and gaining a coach with the name recognition and clear recruiting chops Sanders possesses is absolutely huge. Just look at what Sanders did in flipping the No. 1 recruit in the country last year, Travis Hunter, from Florida State to Jackson State on signing day. We all know how far behind Colorado has fallen in the Pac-12, but bringing in a coach with the brand Jackson has will immediately make Colorado relevant again in the minds of recruits. Jackson has nowhere to go but up with Colorado, and in all honesty, that lessens the pressure to win right away that would exist at a schools in, say, the SEC.

Jean-Jacques Taylor: Sanders needed only two full seasons to make Jackson State the jewel of the Southwestern Athletic Conference. The Tigers went undefeated in the conference for the second consecutive season, and they are 23-2 in their past 25 games. Jackson State had only one victory by a margin of fewer than 10 points this season, so Colorado is about accepting a bigger challenge. The Pac-12 is not nearly as daunting with USC and UCLA going to the Big Ten, and the bigger budget a Power 5 program provides will allow Sanders to maximize his strengths, such as recruiting.

Read full story here

CBS Sports: Interesting Decision by Sanders

From CBS Sports … While it’s unknown if Cincinnati or South Florida formally offered Sanders — let alone the value of those potential deals — Colorado feels like the oddest fit of Sanders’ three most prominent options, at least on the surface. Coach Prime is from Fort Myers, Florida, roughly a two-hour drive south of Tampa where USF is located. He played college football at Florida State and is a familiar name in not just the Sunshine State but throughout Georgia given his time playing for the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta Braves. He also spent four seasons with the Cincinnati Reds during his MLB career and is familiar with that city as well.

But Sanders has no previous connection to Colorado or the Pac-12. Of course, he is “Deion Sanders.” It’s not as if people of Colorado have never heard of him. However, when handicapping the three gigs as “best fits” for Sanders, Colorado appeared to be the least likely.

It’s clear Sanders feels differently. Perhaps the appeal of coaching an established Power Five program played a role in his decision. Cincinnati will join the Big 12 in 2023, and while that’s a great move on the surface, it also presents an unknown future for the program in a new league. It’s probably part of why Luke Fickell left for Wisconsin despite leading the Bearcats to the College Football Playoff in 2021.

Sanders might also see an opportunity with the Buffaloes in a new-look Pac-12. When USC and UCLA leave to join the Big Ten in 2024, it will leave an enormous power vacuum at the top of the league. Perhaps Sanders feels that his ability to draw talent to Boulder, coupled with his coaching skill can establish Colorado as a dominant program out West.

… If ever there was a Power Five program in need of a jolt of electricity to bring it back to life, Colorado is it. The program has had mediocre results on the recruiting trail as well; it hasn’t had a recruiting class ranked in the top 30 since 2008 and has routinely found itself outside the top 50.

Sanders’ ability to attract talent was a significant factor in Colorado’s interest.

Read full story here

Sports Illustrated: If Sanders succeeds at Colorado, other Schools will have some explaining to do

From Sports Illustrated … If Deion Sanders succeeds at Colorado, a lot of other schools are going to have some explaining to do. They will need to explain why they passed on a coach with a 27–5 record, who has won 21 of his past 22 games, and pulled off arguably the biggest recruiting coup in history. They’ll have to explain why they didn’t want the automatic boost of exposure, charisma and verve.

Maybe it doesn’t work—he is taking over the worst Power 5 program in the country, after all, which has one winning season in the past 17. But it’s a worthwhile gamble for athletic director Rick George, a boom-or-bust swing with sky’s-the-limit upside. And it stands out in sharp relief to all the programs that kept finding reasons not to hire Sanders.

The caveats, questions, concerns and rationalizations have been piling up for weeks around Coach Prime as an FBS coaching candidate. The more he has won at Jackson State, which improved to 12–0 on Saturday and won the SWAC championship in a rout, the more murmurs there have been about why he would be a risky hire at a bigger school.

It’s been quite a study.Hard to manage.Diva.Celebrity coach.No FBS experience.

  • Meanwhile, Hugh Freeze was hired at Auburn. Did he prove hard to manage at Mississippi? Only if being steeped in multiple scandals is a management issue. But now he has received a second chance in the Southeastern Conference.
    • Lane Kiffin got a raise and extension at Mississippi. Could Kiffin be considered a diva? Only if engaging in a Twitter war with a local TV reporter the week of his biggest rivalry game is a sign of unchecked vanity. But Lane turned down Auburn and remains in demand.
    • Trent Dilfer was hired at UAB out of a high school in Nashville, having never coached at any other level. Could the Super Bowl-winning quarterback and longtime ESPN analyst be considered a celebrity coach?
    • Biff Poggi was tabbed to be the next coach at Charlotte, which is upgrading to the American Athletic Conference. He was an investment manager-turned-high school coach-turned Jim Harbaugh’s muse at Michigan for the past couple of seasons.

    What’s the difference between Sanders and those coaches? Anything obvious at first sight? Anything at all? Hmm?!

    They are the kind of hiring situations that leave candidates of color shaking their heads, with the overall number of Black head coaches still at unacceptably low levels in college football. White coaches get more second chances—they are more often the unconventional hire, and certainly don’t face the level of “Well, but” drawbacks that helped send Sanders out West for his FBS Power 5 break.

    Lane Kiffin got a raise and extension at Mississippi. Could Kiffin be considered a diva? Only if engaging in a Twitter war with a local TV reporter the week of his biggest rivalry game is a sign of unchecked vanity. But Lane turned down Auburn and remains in demand.Trent Dilfer was hired at UAB out of a high school in Nashville, having never coached at any other level. Could the Super Bowl-winning quarterback and longtime ESPN analyst be considered a celebrity coach?Biff Poggi was tabbed to be the next coach at Charlotte, which is upgrading to the American Athletic Conference. He was an investment manager-turned-high school coach-turned Jim Harbaugh’s muse at Michigan for the past couple of seasons.

Read the full story here

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28 Replies to “Rating the Hire: National Media on Coach Prime”

  1. Doubt if I will ever have a complete handle on who is here (players) who is not, timelines for attendance, timelines for portal punching, greyshirts etc etc etc.
    My question is:
    When will CUBufs .com put our another roster? Now that the portal is closed why not now? Surely they wont wait until sometime in may when the portal opens again briefly. Are some of these kids from the Prime pipeline that still have to sign a paper? Getting past time for conditioning.

  2. Interesting critique piece from The Athletic citing anonymous conference coaches. In regard to the trenches I hope we add some more pieces. I think we’ll already be better because of the additions already made because of sheer dire need for more bodies. Assuming no more incumbents leave I think there will be yet to be defined roles for D-line guys like Sami, Rodman, and Tyas Martin. Same for a few of the returning O-line guys. To me one exciting and notable O-line exception inherited by Coach Prime could be Van Wells at center who I think has the potential to be a 4 year starting fixture barring injury. I looked again at his high school recruiting footage and he was already a real hoss back then

    1. the O line guys signed up seem to have more cred than the D line. We need someone there you can disrupt. the Dartmouth guy sounds like a keeper in the nose.

    2. So Sanders is bringing in the best of the lower divisions, filtering in a couple of guys from really good teams that played but may not have dominated and upgrading our recruiting class. I don’t think we are going to have USC talent next year, but I think we will be closer than some suspect. It is going to come down to coaching. The scheme on offense is going to really emphasize the talent we are getting at QB and wide reciever. That super fast Rb is going to be a mismatch weapon out of the backfield. Can the coaches coach these kids to be successful on offense. Kent State scored crap tons of points. The offensive line was effective there. I am unequivocally optimistic. I think Lewis will adapt just fine to power 5. I think OBoyle will be able to coach o lineman just fine at this level as well. I am not sure about the WR coach as Bartalone is transitioning from qb to wr. I have been ready to transition away from Hagan for a while now at RB. I think Harrell will be just fine. On defense there is a bigger question. Last years defense scheme was a travesty. I really don’t understand how a professional could expect that defense to work. I haven’t been involved in football since my freshman year of college and I could scheme against that defense. I suspect that will be fixed. Kelly ran a 3-4 at Florida State and Alabama runs one as well. His defenses at Florida State were solid, even 8n losing seasons didn’t give up huge amount of points. I will count on Sanders helping out with DB’s to make them better. I like Hart from what I have seen at linebacker. His players appear to be aggressive, prepared and have good technique from what I saw of Jackson State games. We’ll have to see who our d line coach is going to be but I suspect we are grabbing someone from a team still playing. We have a very hard non conference schedule and the PAC12 was better than expected this year so I would expect more of the same. That said winning Nebraska and CSU is not out of the question. In the PAC ASU, Arizona, Stanford, and Washington State are all within reach. It’s not an easy road and I think we will have to beat some teams that had good years this year to go bowling. I am excited to see spring practices….

  3. As the old year ends and the new year begins

    Happy old year and Happy new year and on to Prime Time.

    Those anonymously quoting assistants. are seeing things that us Prime coverts cannot/won’t see.
    Even with the roster upgrade the Buffs are at least two years behind the likes of UUUUUSC.
    Tough row and tough road.

    Ya gotta score to win. (ya okay defense wins championships) Start scoring 35 a game and play some defense
    Need a real o line. Been 15 years. Bring those big boys in and make them a machine
    Need a qb. Got one. Finally.
    Receivers Got some
    RB..Got some
    TE. who cares never use em. Just put out another lineman.

    Okay end of the year mini rant.

    Happy New Year.

    Go Buffs.

    Note: May the 78,000 new IRS agents miss your return.
    Note 2: May you always pay your bets , go get what’s yours: pennies and never be embarrassed.
    Note 3 May you always love your Buffs even if your faith has been down the Sheet-Hole
    Note 4: May Prime truly be the fire in the phoenix-buff that rises and rises and rises
    Note 5: May the new OC actually be an OC. DC as well. And the assistants.
    Final note: May the assistant coaches actually be able to make the players better and not just talk it.

  4. So Prime is an A and Rhule is an A+? Do I here pandering for the larger fan base and big 10?
    Thats funny because my in laws in Linkin dont think a whole lot of it. They remember when another coach came to them from the pros….Callahan (snicker)
    Speaking of Rhule you can speak of Baylor, a team I dislike even more than the Huskers….who got spanked by AF last night (double snicker)

    1. With USC and UCLA coming to the B1G, I’m not sure how nebraska is ever going to get out of the cellar… recruit takes a visit to Lincoln in November (20 degrees, cold & gloomy) and then LA the next weekend (including trip to Malibu, Beverly Hills, sunshine, 75 degrees, girls in bikinis, etc); ain’t no contest

    2. I was having the same thought with Rhule reading that piece and then saw your comment. Just want to say “seconded!” I get Rhule did good work at Baylor but he’s only at Nebraska because he fell on his face in the NFL. How do we know that Baylor was the norm and Carolina was an aberration and not the other way around with him? You want to tell me Luke Fickell is an A+ I will accept it based upon his track record. Rhule? Not so fast.

  5. Hearing what Eisner had to say regarding the schools that interviewed Deion and passed and matching that up with Deion’s excitement when touring the Championship Center for the first time and the humility in his voice when he simultaneously thanked RG and CU for the opportunity and promised wins with great belief, I can’t help but think that Deion won’t be as fast to want to leave as others think.

    If treated right and given as much love & respect as the University and it’s fans can with the support needed and at least build on the current commitment monies if success comes, why would Deion be in a hurry to leave?

    It sounds like other ADs gave him some ammunition to want to stay at CU a little longer if successful.

    Achieving goals of greatness while being FULLY appreciated may be what allows Deion to take a little less to stay. Finding a home that you love while getting paid a lot may be what it takes for him to say “I’ll hang at CU for 5 or 6 years (or whatever) and retire a winner.”

    Maybe the new OC is the next HC in waiting, and Deion stays a little longer because they both know the new HC will have long term success if he inherits a winning team with depths when the team is passed on to him.

    It’s going to be interesting, the amount of players of higher talent that already asking if there’s room for me is already happening; just 24 hours after the hire.

    1. I have been thinking some of the same things as you! Coach Sanders is a live out loud sort of guy and I think that many institutions will not like that approach. In fact in the past I think that CU would not have liked this approach but we NEEDED this so bad we were willing to take it. Becuase we have taken it I think we will get used to it and as a fan base many will like it. Our facilities are not bad, the impression everyone has of what we have is so completely wrong. The difference between Oregon and and us is so slight in facilities it is barely noticeable. Previous, the admin culture at CU was likely an impediment and would drive some coaches away but I think the changes Saliman is bring in is changing that so I think we have that on our side. I think there are three last items that might pull him away. 1. His Salary. I think we can get his salary over time close enough to what he wants we can keep him. 2. His staff. CU is stepping up big on staff but we are still likely under what the biggest programs offer by a lot. But is it 1 or 2 MM? That can possibly be made up and if we parlay this success into dollars that can likely be solved. 3. Boulder and Colorado. He is a self described southerner. Boulder is not the south. That said so many people come here and fall in love with Colorado I could see that happening. I don’t see this pulling him to a northern school though so this reason eliminates some schools for moving on. I also think we are just football crazy enough to really make him welcome.

    1. He since has backed off on that statement.
      I don’t think he deserves as much credit as the story gives him – I think he’s embarrassed to be claiming as much credit as he has.
      The better – and more likely story – I’ve read is that Rick George (while working for the Texas Rangers) became friends with Deion Sanders (then with the Dallas Cowboys) years ago, and that’s what gave George – and CU – and in with Coach Prime.

      1. Thanks for the clarification Stu. I was highly skeptical before watching it. I wonder if there is any truth to it. And if not… wtf Jeremy?

    1. I didn’t hear a single mean thing. I heard facts. They might be hard facts to hear but Prime didn’t sugarcoat it, talked to them like men:
      – There are people out there still playing football and we in a meeting
      – Your program is soft and complacent
      – You take these facilities for granted
      – You need to go all in or get out
      – You need to kill what you eat
      – I am bringing in athletes who are hungry, who take nothing for granted, who do compete, who aren’t complacent, who have high character. You need to stand toe to toe with them or else.

  6. Amazing the shade being thrown at Coach Prime for coming to Boulder- he will eat this sh_t up.

    Rick “The Hypocrite” Neuheisel of all people, who left CU in the lurch, had this to say when leaving for Washington back in 1999: “This is the place where I could realize all my goals as a college football coach.” The former UCLA quarterback said it was exciting for him to be back in the Pac-10 and called Washington a ” ‘have’ program” that will always be a “have.” “At Colorado it was difficult-not impossible-to get things moving. It was slow, arduous,” he explained. His comments were justifiable, but of course, Rick basically burned UW to the ground and did the same at UCLA, so he’s hardly an ‘expert’ on building a program (but give him a call if you’d like to build a dumpster fire).

    Rick is criticizing Coach Prime for encouraging players recruited to Jackson State to make the trip to Boulder, yet Neuheisel did the same thing when CU QB Taylor Barton ended up in Washington… so much hypocrisy going around. What people don’t like is that Deion says the quiet part OUT-LOUD so there’s no misunderstanding on where he’s taking his team.

    1. The full ride show always offer a lot of info but you are spot on about slick rick. If it wasnt for Childers that show would grind to a halt from ricky’s stick up the arse arrogant personality

  7. Has anyone figured out who “Louis” is? I know that there will be dawgs coming, but this name must have meaning.
    At one time, Ray Lewis said that he would want to coach with Coach Prime. I didn’t quite understand the statement when I watched. Ray Lewis would certainly be another Dawg on the field

  8. Different era and personalities, yet a similar feel. April of 1982, Coach McCartney asks CU Personnel about rivalries, and, when discovering there was no set “rival,” proclaims “to be the best, you have to beat the best.” Nebraska then became the “rival.” Although those in the audience tittered and thought he was a bit delusional, the sincerity and resolve were evident. In a way, his BELIEF was “electric.” December of 2022, speaking about a program that is similarly near rock bottom, Coach Prime spoke about hiring the best assistant coaches (which Coach McCartney did as well) and recruiting “Louis” players (as Coach McCartney did as well). Coach Prime has Coach McCartney’s resolve. His press conference, because of that BELIEF was equally electric. The only difference with Coach Prime, no titters among the audience. Both men “believed” that the turnaround would happen. Colorado fans are about to enter into an incredible “run,” albeit in a different time. Savor every moment and enjoy the ride,…

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