Coach Prime comes up big in 1st recruiting class at Colorado

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Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports
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BOULDER, Colo. — Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders proudly recited the numbers from his first recruiting class at Colorado.

Two five-star recruits. A No. 21 overall class ranking, which was the highest in 15 years, he pointed out. A top-five class from the transfer portal, according to 247 Sports.

Then, a quick reminder – he’s not done gathering talent. Not by a long shot. This is just a brief pause, he teased, with possibility of more skilled players arriving sometime after the spring.

It’s taken Sanders less than two months in Boulder not only to revamp a downtrodden program but to give a starved fan base something else – hope.

“We’re not recruiting just no ordinary Tom, Dick and Harry,” Sanders said Wednesday on signing day. “We recruited some guys that can light up the scoreboard and prevent touchdowns from occurring. We’re coming. We’re serious about that.

“Hope is in the house. Hope is in the air. Hope is in the city. Hope is in the community.”

Sanders and his veteran staff have been busy scouring the nation for talent. The Hall of Fame NFL player known then as “Prime Time” has also posted on social media for recruits to reach out to him as well: “I ain’t hard to find.”

The Buffaloes signed players from 16 states and two from England. Not only that, they brought in a pair of five-star recruits in high school cornerback Cormani McClain and transfer cornerback/receiver Travis Hunter, who followed Sanders from Jackson State.

In all, there are around 35 newcomers on the spring roster. Maybe that’s why Sanders didn’t really want to talk about each of them by name.

“We’ve got names on the back of their shirts right now,” cracked Sanders, who starts spring practice March 19 with the intrasquad game scheduled for April 22. “I’m not familiar with every kid. I’m not being disrespectful. I’m just being honest.”

Only natural, given that he’s completely overhauled the roster from a team that went 1-11 last season. The class has four players from Georgia and seven from Sanders’ home state of Florida. There are eight defensive backs, which will come in handy given the level of quarterback play in the Pac-12.

In addition, Sanders brought in eight wide receivers, including Adam Hopkins, a four-star from Georgia. There’s also running back Dylan Edwards, who switched after verbally committing to Notre Dame.

Of course, don’t forget that transfer quarterback named Shedeur Sanders, who just happens to be the son of “Coach Prime” and threw 70 TD passes in two seasons at Jackson State.

Deion Sanders said he’s only getting warmed up, too.

“This is just a comma, because there’s a lot of people that’s going to bungee jump into the portal after spring because they’re going to be disappointed in playing time, commitment or the level of participation they’re garnishing,” Sanders said. “We’re going to take full advantage of that. So we’re not done. This is just the comma for the spring. But I love where we are, and what we have.”

It hasn’t taken long for Sanders to settle into the city of Boulder, calling it a “hidden gem.” He can’t wait to move into a house and have “a dog run around the yard.” He even doesn’t mind the snow, which blanketed Folsom Field on Wednesday. Quite honestly, he’s not sure why any player would want to go anywhere else.

“We expect to go get that kid,” Sanders said. “Only thing that can keep that kid from coming and signing with us, is a bag – someone paying them, the collectives or whatever. That’s it. Just outkicking the coverage. That’s it.

“Because the coaching staff, the atmosphere, the city, the publicity, the structure, the discipline, the academics, the graduation rate, the food in the cafeteria – I can keep going, because this thing is getting good. Just everything. It’s hard to say no. It really is.”

Listening in was athletic director Rick George, who appreciated the tone of what he heard. Sanders has quickly built the framework for a speedy turnaround.

“He’s brought a lot of energy and passion to this program again,” George said. “It’s what we desperately needed.”

QB Shedeur Sanders, CB Travis Hunter following Prime to Colorado

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Deion Sanders‘ quarterback and top recruit at Jackson State are following Coach Prime to Colorado.

Quarterback Shedeur Sanders, Deion’s son, was among Colorado’s first class of signees with its new coach.

Later Wednesday, cornerback Travis Hunter announced on his YouTube channel that he, too, would be transferring to the Buffaloes.

“I committed to Coach Prime at Jackson State when he was there, and I want to honor my commitment and stay with him,” Hunter said. “I’ve got to stay with my dawg.”

Hunter was one of the highest rated recruits in the Class of 2022. His signing with FCS Jackson State, flipping from a verbal commitment to Florida State, was an unprecedented move. No five-star recruit had ever signed with an FCS school out of high school.

Deion Sanders spent three seasons at Jackson State, winning two Southwestern Athletic Conference titles. He was hired by Colorado earlier this month and in his first meeting wit his new team, he told the players he planned to bring some of his Jackson State players to Boulder.

“I’m bringing my luggage with me, and it’s Louis (Vuitton),’ Sanders said.

Shedeur Sanders passed for 3,752 yards and 40 touchdowns for Jackson State (12-1) this season.

Hunter played eight games at both cornerback and receiver. He intercepted two passes on defense and caught 18 passes, including four for touchdowns, on offense.

Colorado also announced the signing of Jackson State transfer Tyler Brown, an offensive tackle and third-team FCS All-American.

Colorado, coming off a 1-11 season, signed 16 recruits from high school and junior college on Wednesday.

Most notably, the Buffs signed running back Dylan Edwards, a four-star recruit from Kansas who was previously verbally committed to Notre Dame, and receiver Adam Hopkins, a four-star from Georgia who was committed to Auburn.

Deion Sanders assembles veteran staff at Colorado

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Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports
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BOULDER, Colo. — Colorado coach Deion Sanders has assembled a veteran staff that includes 10 coaches who have helped develop more than 350 all-conference players and 85 All-Americans.

Sanders has been busy gathering his staff since being hired by the Buffaloes on Dec. 3. His budget is $5 million for assistant coaches, which was a substantive bump over the allocation afforded to former coach Karl Dorrell for assistants.

“Coach Prime” is diving in at Colorado after finishing up at Jackson State last weekend after his team lost 41-34 in overtime to North Carolina Central in the Celebration Bowl. It spoiled Sanders’ bid for an undefeated season.

Colorado announced the additions to Sanders’ staff Tuesday night. It includes Charles Kelly as the defensive coordinator/safeties coach and Sean Lewis as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach.

Kelly joins the Buffaloes from Alabama, where he served as the associate defensive coordinator. Lewis relocates to Boulder after five years as head coach at Kent State, bringing with him a high-scoring offense that averaged 49.8 points in 2020.

Bill O'Boyle will be the offensive line coach and Nick Williams in charge of defensive ends.

In addition, Sanders brought several coaches with him from Jackson State, including Brett Bartolone (wide receivers), Tim Brewster (tight ends), Gary Harrell (assistant head coach/running backs), Andre’ Hart (linebackers), Kevin Mathis (cornerbacks) and Dennis Thurman, who will be the director of quality control for the defense.

The group Sanders assembled has been a part of 40 10-win seasons, coached in 59 bowl games and brought home 27 conference title. They’ve made the postseason in either the NFL, FCS or FBS level 21 times, according to research by Colorado.