Coach Prime Comes to Colorado

In an unprecedented move for Colorado University, they have won the sweepstakes that were the race for Coach Prime. Deion Sanders is a legend in football circles and always will be. Even before he took control of a college program as a coach he was one of the most respected former NFL players in recent memory. Ask ten people who the greatest NFL player of all time was and you might get five that tell you Sanders.

It’s Prime-time in Colorado

Last season Colorado University fell to the bottom of the Pac-12 rankings. They won just 1 game in 2022, but it wasn’t how much they lost, but rather HOW they lost all season long that led them to look for a new coach. They lost ten games by a 20-point deficit or more. If you count their one victory, they remained competitive in just two games in 2022. With the defense allowing an average of 44.5 points per game all season long. The worst part is, if not for their one victory holding Cal to just 13 points, their average would be over 47 points.

This was not sustainable long term if this program had any hopes of winning again. So they sought out a big-name defensive mind who can bring in a better-recruiting class just based on name value alone. That man is Coach Deion Sanders, better known as Coach Prime. The man who was known as the best cornerback of all time in the NFL has now started to create an unbelievable legacy as a coach in a very short time.

Experience Coaching

I was honestly surprised to see how long Prime has been coaching. I wasn’t aware he was the head coach of a few training academy teams for kids. From 2012-2013 he was the Head Coach of the Prime Prep Academy. After a two-year hiatus, he jumped back into coaching as the Head Coach of Triple A Academy. He stayed here for two seasons as well.

In 2017 Coach Prime accepted a job as the offensive coordinator for Trinity Christian Academy which his sons attended. He stayed there for a full four seasons. On September 21st, 2020, Deion Sanders was hired as the head coach of Jackson State. Being an HCBU school, and in the FCS at that, this was a huge win for them bringing in a big name, that wanted to bring attention to the school, and draw a higher caliber of athlete. This seemingly worked to perfection.

With 2020 being all but ruined for Prime, he didn’t get his first chance to coach the program until the Spring of 2021. When they finally began the spring season, the Tigers would collect a 4-3 record showing the makings of something great right away. Little did anyone know at the time, Sanders would go on to lose just two more games during his entire stay at Jackson State.

Impact on Jackson State’s Talent Level

After collecting a 4-3 record in the spring season, it was time to get down to business. For the 2021 fall season, Jackson State dominated winning 11 of 13 games. This resulted in a SWAC title under his belt, but it came with other accolades as well. Including the Eddie Robinson award, given to the top coach in FCS football. Ultimately they lost to South Carolina State 31-10 in their bowl game that season.

His biggest impact on the program was the players he was able to attract from day one. In 2020 before he had a full offseason to recruit, Jackson State didn’t bring in a single recruit rated over 3 stars. Their only 3-star prospect to come in was via a transfer at the time. Fast forward to 2021, and it was like suddenly Jackson State was a destination school.

He immediately brought in several four-star recruits. Including his son Shedeur Sanders at QB, Quaydarius Davis WR, De’Jahn Warren DB, Trevonte Rucker WR, and KaTron Evans DT. However, they weren’t done grabbing top-flight talent. The transfer pool was arguably even more beneficial for the school at the time, as kids from across the country flocked to Jackson State to play for Coach Prime and his program.

Jackson State would bring in another four four-star recruits, and many more three-star players as well this season which essentially built the roster that is still dominant today. What I found particularly interesting was the fact that Jackson State began to bring kids in from much larger schools via transfer. Two prospects came from Texas, one from USC, one from Florida State, and another from Florida. This is how Prime was able to build a winning program so quickly.

In 2022 it was more of the same, except this time Sanders was able to flip a five-star recruit and get him to instead commit to Jackson State. This was called the biggest day ever in the history of college recruiting by some. They also had a very strong group of transfer players come aboard once again. This led to an even better roster in 2022. This was reflected in the record when Jackson State went undefeated.

Transfer Portal Could Prove to be a Larger Talent Pool

With Coach Prime leaving for Colorado University, I expect several players from Jackson State to follow via the transfer portal when they can. I also believe we will see the same effect he had at Jackson State with highly talented players looking to get on the field will transfer to CU, knowing the current roster is lacking elite talent.

The big test here will be what he can do in year one with the recruitment of players whether they be incoming freshmen or transfers from other programs. With a 27-5 record and two FCS championships, Coach Prime is one of the hottest coaches in the college game currently, and this will only aid Colorado when it comes to rebuilding an ailing program for the 2023 season. Could we see CU go from worst to first in one season?

Challenge At Hand

Coach Prime is not one to shy away from a challenge. While Colorado University is often regarded as the top college program in Colorado, they have seen just three winning seasons since 2003. We have watched five different coaches try their hand at bringing CU back to its winning ways during the Gary Barnett, Rick Neuheisel, and Bill McCartney era in the 90s.

Since then we have watched Dan Hawkins, Jon Embree, Mike Macintyre, Mel Tucker, and Karl Dorrell combine for just one winning season since 2006. This is not only hard to watch, but it’s also embarrassing on a National Level. This streak of losing only compounds the issues the program has always had in acquiring top-flight players during the recruitment process. No player is going to choose to attend a program with that history of losing if they have other options.

The thing is, the cupboard is not bare for Sanders in Colorado as of yet. Dorrell seemed to find some traction in the recruiting process over his three seasons with the team.

Running Game Should be the Offensive Focus

In 2022 the Buffaloes had three backs combined for 1,024 yards with all three averaging over 4 yards per carry. Deion Smith the junior leading the way with over 400 yards rushing. Senior Alex Fontenot, who has one more year of eligibility had 328 yards rushing and 4.7 yards per carry, while freshman runner Anthony Hankerson collected 286 yards at 4.0 yards per carry. They will need a strong run game in 2023.

Quarterback Could be a Mess

Last season we saw a group of quarterbacks ultimately play early and often for the team including Freshmen Owen McCown, and Junior Brendon Lewis. J.T. Shrout and Maddox Kopp also played but no quarterback was more effective than former four-star dual-threat quarterback Brendon Lewis. Lewis was the only quarterback on the team to complete over 60% of his passes last season. He didn’t throw any touchdowns, but he also didn’t throw an interception, making him the only quarterback to manage that as well.

Lewis could be the most promising quarterback on the roster currently, given the performance of the other guys on the roster I see no reason why Coach Prime won’t turn to Lewis. Lewis’s ability to take off and run in itself will open up this offense more than ever before. Forcing the defense to account for 6 players that can produce offensive yards. Lewis could be fighting an uphill battle given his limited playing time so far, but when your incumbent starter managed just 7 touchdown passes to 8 interceptions, I’d say it’s time to look elsewhere.

Defense Will Be a Project for Prime

Now coached by a man known for his ability to snare interceptions throughout his football career, we can expect his first order of business will be to find a way to create turnovers. Last season the Buffs produced just 6 interceptions all season long as a team. That is horrible given they played 12 games. Their ability to force fumbles was no better with just five fumbles forced all season long.

The blame cannot be placed solely on the secondary, however. The pass rush simply wasn’t good enough in 2022. They produced 9 sacks in 12 games. With just 20 additional hits on the quarterback. This has to be changed in 2023 if they hope to stop allowing 44 points or more in a game 2023. While there are some pieces to work with, I expect Deion to pursue defensive talent heavily this off-season.

Cornerback Nikko Reed appears to be a solid puzzle piece to build around after he was one of the better defenders last season. He led the team in interceptions and pass breakups. Safety Trevor Woods was a tackling machine last season and I expect him to be an integral part of the defense in 2023. The big disappointment for me personally is that Josh Chandler-Semedo no longer has any eligibility. He would have been fun to watch in a revamped defense. Last season, he led the team in tackles, tackles for a loss, and sacks. He should be a guy to watch playing professional football in 2023, whether it’s with the NFL, CFL, XFL, or USFL remains to be seen.


Ultimately I believe Coach Prime is the perfect coach to dig the Buffs back out of the two-decade-long hole they have dug themselves in terms of recruitment. He also is the right coach to get the most out of the talent on the roster already. I truly didn’t believe Prime would consider CU as an option given all the other offers he had on the table at the time. CU has never truly been a destination school for coaches for a while, and we don’t seem to often produce NFL talent as such. I believe these two factors could change fairly quickly with Sanders in charge.

Perhaps we see a generational swing, as we did over four decades ago when Bill McCartney took over a 2-8 program in 1982 and proceeded to build a program that saw 8 straight winning seasons under his tutelage before he handed the program to Rick Neuheisel who then continued this legacy with three winning seasons in four years as the head coach. Gary Barnett was the last coach to lead this team to sustained success when he managed five winning seasons from 1999-2005. It’s long overdue that we see success for this CU program. I know I for one can’t wait to see how the 2023 recruitment class looks, and ultimately what the roster looks like for opening day.

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