Rocky Mountain Prime
It’s Prime Time in Boulder, Colorado. After three strong seasons at FCS Jackson State, Deion Sanders got the opportunity to jump to the FBS. And that jump took him to the Rocky Mountains.
Colorado was far and away the worst Power 5 football team in 2022. The Buffaloes went 1-11, with their one win being a 20-13 overtime upset over lowly Cal and just one loss coming by fewer than 23 points.
Hard times are nothing new for Colorado. Despite being one of the nation’s best programs from the late-80s through early-00s, the Buffs have experienced a steady decline since that point. They’ve gone to just two bowl games since 2007 and have lost double-digit games five times.
This is a program that was in desperate need of a spark. And they hired the biggest spark imaginable.
You can argue that there is no coach more popular and more polarizing than Deion Sanders. He is one of the greatest athletes of all time and the same swagger that set him apart as a player now sets him apart as a coach.
Guys want to play for Coach Prime, no matter where he’s coaching. There’s no better evidence of this than the nation’s top 2022 recruit, Travis Hunter, going to Jackson State. Cormani McClain, the top CB in the class of 2023, signing with Colorado further validates that point.
Playing for Deion means getting coached by a football legend and staying in the national spotlight that follows him everywhere. It’s easy to see why it’s attractive for players.
But then there’s the other side of Sanders. He’s brutally honest, and to many, brutally honest to a fault. His comments about “bringing his own luggage with him” and “cleaning out old furniture” – references to his incoming transfers and the players he inherited at CU – weren’t well accepted. His roster management – over 70 players from the 2022 CU roster have left the program – has faced public criticism from other coaches.
Sanders is unapologetically himself. His coaching style isn’t for everyone, but for a place like Colorado, it may be exactly what they need. It certainly worked for Jackson State.
But will it work in year one? It’s impossible to say. The mass exodus of transfers out of the program has brought an influx of transfers into Boulder, many of whom came from Power 5 programs. If a few players can excel, there’s a chance to, at the very least, be an exciting team.
But very few from that group have actually proven they can play at this level, and there’s a serious lack of depth on the roster. The potential also exists for another rough go of things. And if that does happen, does the national attention begin to work against them?
Either way, the spotlight will be on the Buffs early. Their first two games of the season at TCU and versus Nebraska earned FOX’s “Big Noon Saturday” slot. September games against Pac-12 contenders Oregon and USC are likely to be nationally broadcast as well.
Everyone will keep close eyes on Prime’s tenure in Boulder, and regardless of how year one goes, you can guarantee there will be plenty of overreactions.