Woelk: Coach Prime, Buffs Send Message On Signing Day – University of Colorado Athletics

What's Happening

BOULDER — That noise you heard Wednesday afternoon? 

That is the sound of a program reawakening, a sleeping giant ready to stand up under the Flatirons, flex his muscles and return to work after too many years in slumber.

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

Strictly from a numbers standpoint, the class Coach Prime and his staff put together in six short weeks is impressive.

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

— Seven four-star players, matching the most in any CU class ever.

— A No. 21 ranking overall nationally and a No. 4-ranked transfer class.

— 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 just numbers in this class. It includes the nation’s top-ranked defensive back in each of the last two seasons (no surprise for a coach who has both college and professional Hall of Fame credentials as a defensive back). It includes a healthy mix of defensive and offensive players at both the skill positions and in the trenches, and nearly 30 of the newcomers have already enrolled and will be available for spring ball. 

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

“We’re not done,” Sanders said with a smile. “This is just a pause. This is just a comma. There’s a lot of people that are going to be bungee jumping into the portal out of spring because they’re going to be disappointed in their playing time, the commitment or the level of participation they’re garnishing. And we’re going to take full advantage.”

In other words, what has already been a historic roster remake is not yet finished. 


Indeed. While there is no specific quantitative measurement for such a rebuild, it’s hard to imagine any other college coach ever who has taken the reins of a 1-11 team and signed this caliber of class.

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

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

The Buffs signed 14 undergrad transfers, nine grad transfers and two JC transfers. Every one of them has the potential to be an immediate contributor next season. 

CU also signed 17 high school recruits. A handful could indeed become significant pieces to the puzzle next fall, the rest will no doubt be part of the equation in years to come.

What it means is that Coach Prime hasn’t followed either of the conventional paths of a new coach rebuilding a program.

He hasn’t sacrificed the immediate future for the long-term. He has brought in players who should immediately make the Buffs better next fall.

But neither has he mortgaged the long term for a quick fix. Sanders made sure that he signed highly rated prep stars such as DB Cormani McClain and RB Dylan Edwards. Those kinds of players give Colorado not only a chance to be better right away, but they also provide a foundation for the long term — a foundation Coach Prime will continue to strengthen over the coming years.

CU’s class is also historic thanks to an NCAA ruling from last spring. Because of the Covid-related “hangover” of extra eligibility and the explosive growth of the transfer portal, college football’s ruling body made a simple yet incredibly impactful ruling. 

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

That ruling allowed Coach Prime to add 41 new players in one signing period (and likely more before the dust settles).

The upshot is that Colorado has become a national player again almost overnight. It’s been a while since the Buffaloes were discussed on the same level as the Southern Californias and Oregons of the world — but the message was delivered loud and clear Wednesday afternoon.

The Buffaloes are back. Coach Prime has proven that the initial hullabaloo over his taking the job at Colorado is no sudden flash that will grow dim when the cleats hit the turf next fall.

Guaranteed, the rest of the Pac-12 took notice Wednesday. While coaches throughout the conference were no doubt singing the praises of their most recent signing classes, every one of those coaches found himself casting a wary eye toward Boulder.

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

Coach Prime has turned Colorado into a heavyweight contender.

The giant under the Flatirons is no longer asleep.

SPRING SCHEDULE: The Buffs will conclude Coach Prime’s first Spring Football season with the 2023 Black & Gold Day on Saturday, April 22. The day will include several activities along with an intrasquad  game at Folsom Field at 1 p.m. 

General admission tickets will be $10 and go on sale beginning Feb. 13.  Students will be free of charge but will need to claim their tickets similar to the claim process for men’s basketball.

More information including television, radio, parking and details about other activities surrounding the day will be made available soon.

Spring practices for the team start 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. Thus, it’s no surprise that this class contains seven players from Florida, the most from the Sunshine State since 1978.

“I love my Florida boys,” Sanders said. “It’s just something about him that I adore. I think if you track down every successful team in college football, you’re going to track down some Florida boys. They’re making a tremendous difference.”

MOVING FAST: Sanders has placed a high emphasis on recruiting speed to the program — an attribute he believes stretches beyond the playing field.

“Smart, tough, fast, disciplined with character,” Sanders said of his philosophy.  “Fast is definitely an attribute we recruit. That does not just mean fast and speed. It means understanding the playbook fast. It means comprehending decisions that you need to make fast. Your expectation is fast. We want you to grow and mature, make the proper decisions fast. So fast is definitely an attribute but it’s not all attained to being on the field.”

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

“If you want to get NIL rich, we’re not the school for you,” he said. “But if you’re here to become a man, get a degree, a tremendous education and possibly go prio if you do all the correct things we are. We’re not here for the NIL, we’re here for the NFL. We have to make you a man but we don’t have anything for sale.”