Woelk: Coach Prime, Buffs Send Message On Signing Day

Woelk: Coach Prime, Buffs Send Message On Signing Day

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BOULDER – That noise you heard Wednesday afternoon?

It’s the sound of a program waking up, a sleeping giant ready to get up from under the Flatirons, flex its muscles and get back to work after too many years of sleep.

The Colorado Buffaloes are back. Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders sent the message loud and clear during his first signing day press conference, where the Buffs officially announced a class that will include 42 rookies, 47 total newcomers and more star power than any CU class from recent memory.

Strictly from a numbers point of view, the Coach Prime class and its team put together in six short weeks is impressive.

— Two five-star rookies, a first in Colorado football history.

– Seven four-star players, matching the most of any CU class.

— A ranking n° 21 at the national level and a transfer class ranked n° 4.

– Eleven players from the talent-rich states of Florida and Georgia, marking a significant shift in CU’s recruiting strategy.

But there are more than numbers in this class. It includes the best defensive back in the country in each of the past two seasons (not a surprise for a coach who has both college and professional Hall of Fame credentials as a defensive back). It features a healthy mix of defensive and offensive players at skill positions and in the trenches, and nearly 30 of the newcomers have already signed up and will be available for Spring Ball.

Perhaps most importantly, Coach Prime added this promise as he discussed his first signature course in Boulder:

“We’re not done,” Sanders said with a smile. “It’s just a break. It’s just a comma. There are a lot of people who are going to bungee jump into the portal in the spring because they are going to be disappointed with their playing time, the commitment or the level of participation that they garnish. And we are going to take full advantage of it.”

In other words, what once was a historical remake of the roster isn’t over yet.


In effect. While there’s no specific quantitative metric for such a rebuild, it’s hard to imagine any other college coach who’s ever taken the reins of a 1-11 team and signed this classy caliber.

There’s depth, there’s talent, there’s youth, there’s experience — and most importantly, there’s a plan.

Sanders’ strategy has been to bring a perfect blend of all of the above.

The Buffs signed 14 undergraduate transfers, nine graduate transfers and two JC transfers. Each of them has the potential to be an immediate contributor next season.

CU also signed 17 high school recruits. A handful could indeed become important pieces of the puzzle next fall, the rest will undoubtedly be part of the equation in the years to come.

This means that Coach Prime did not follow any of the conventional paths of a new coach rebuilding a program.

He did not sacrifice the immediate future for the long term. He brought in players who should immediately improve the Buffs next fall.

But he also didn’t mortgage the long term for a quick fix. Sanders made sure to sign highly regarded prep stars such as DB Cormani McClain and RB Dylan Edwards. These types of players not only give Colorado a chance to be better right away, but they also provide a long-term foundation — one that it will continue to strengthen over the next few years.

CU’s class is also historic thanks to an NCAA decision last spring. Due to the Covid-related “hangover” of additional eligibility and the explosive growth of the transfer portal, college football’s governing body has issued a simple yet incredibly impactful decision.

The NCAA dictated that a rule limiting signing programs to 25 players per class would be suspended for two years.

The move allowed Coach Prime to add 41 new players in a single signing period (and likely more before the dust settles).

The result is that Colorado is back to being a national player almost overnight. It’s been a while since buffaloes have been discussed on the same level as the Southern Californians and Oregonians of the world – but the message was delivered loud and clear on Wednesday afternoon.

The Buffaloes are back. Coach Prime proved that the initial hype over his Colorado stint isn’t a sudden flash that will fade when the cleats hit the turf next fall.

Guaranteed, the rest of the Pac-12 took notice on Wednesday. While coaches throughout the conference were no doubt singing the praises of their most recent signings, each of those coaches found themselves casting a wary eye on Boulder.

The Buffaloes are no longer a program trying to punch above their weight.

Coach Prime turned Colorado into a heavyweight contender.

The giant under the Flatirons no longer sleeps.

SPRING SCHEDULE: The Buffs will conclude Coach Prime’s first spring football season with Black & Gold Day 2023 on Saturday, April 22. The day will include several activities as well as an intra-squad game at Folsom Field at 1 p.m.

General admission tickets will cost $10 and go on sale February 13. Students will be free but will have to claim their tickets in the same way as for men’s basketball.

Further information including TV, radio, parking and details of other activities surrounding the day will be available soon.

Spring training for the team begins March 19.

SUNSHINE STATE EMPHASIS: Sanders grew up in Florida and played at Florida State and a number of his assistants have strong Florida connections. So, it’s no surprise that this class contains seven Florida players, the most from the Sunshine State since 1978.

“I love my Florida boys,” Sanders said. “It’s just something about him that I love. I think if you track down all the successful teams in college football, you’re going to find some Florida boys. They make a huge difference.”

GO FAST: Sanders emphasized the program’s recruiting speed — an attribute he says goes beyond the playing field.

“Smart, tough, fast, disciplined with character,” Sanders said of his philosophy. “Speed ​​is definitely an attribute we recruit. It doesn’t just mean speed and quickness. It means understanding the playbook quickly. It means understanding the decisions you need to make quickly. Your expectations are quick. We want you to grow and mature, make the right decisions quickly. So quick is definitely an attribute, but being on the pitch isn’t everything.”

NO SALES PITCH: Sanders said he didn’t have to engage in a sales pitch to convince rookies and their families that Colorado was the place to be.

“If you want to get rich at NIL, we’re not the school for you,” he said. “But if you’re here to be a man, get a degree, get a great education and maybe get ahead if you do all the good things we are. We’re not here for the NIL, we’re here for the NFL. We have to make a man out of you but we have nothing to sell.”

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