The Deion Sanders era at Colorado began with the bang of a 3-0 start and brief appearing in the AP Top 25 rankings, but an eventual 4-8 finish let out a lot of air from the program. The issues that undid the Buffaloes — — were easy to see, and "Coach Prime" knows well that there's plenty of fine-tuning to be done if the Buffs intend to produce a winner upon their move to the Big 12 in 2024.
After orchestrating an unprecedented roster overhaul last offseason that banked on transfers, Sanders plans to stay aggressive in picking up existing talent in the portal. With the transfer portal opening on Monday, Sanders said live with 247Sports that high school recruiting will also be a key piece of the equation.
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"When you watched us play, what did you see?" Sanders told Carl Reed. "'Oh, if they just had some protection for [quarterback] Shedeur [Sanders]. Oh, if they could just get after that pass.' We are going to address that. We are going to address that from the transfer portal and the high school ranks. High school to me is like draft choices in the NFL. The portal is free agency. We are in free agency right now, and I am thankful we have and will have the wherewithal to get what we need.
"Right now, it's all about protecting the quarterback, running the football and stopping the run," Sanders continued. "We're going to be very active in the portal with linemen, linebackers, and a few corners. ... That's what I want. And we're going to put it together."
As for recruiting high school players, Sanders plans to take a methodical approach with an emphasis on early enrollment.
"We're going out and looking for these high school guys at certain positions where they can come in and have an impact," Sanders said. "And it's up to them, but I would recommend to these high school guys if they are going to make this transition ... they have to get in during the spring, man. They have to come in so they can learn the playbooks and culture and expectations ... and be on the path to success."
Sanders downplays concerns, sees breakthrough
Recruiting has become a hot talking point given some of the setbacks for Sanders and his staff. Colorado's 2024 recruiting class only has nine verbal pledges and ranks 66th nationally, according to 247Sports. There have also been a string of recent decommitments, including the only quarterback previously committed to the Buffs in 2024, Danny O'Neil.
Sanders has downplayed those concerns
"You have to understand, we have not lost anything that we desperately have to have," Sanders said. "Now if you say a [player like] Travis [Hunter] or Shedeur or this guy or that guy, I have got a problem now. And I'm going to address that. I'm looking at this portal and seeing quarterbacks and key guys from certain schools where I'm like, 'Wooo, that hurt. They weren't ready for that.' It's going to be attrition. You are going to lose certain players, because that is just life. ... That is why you are constantly recruiting and improving and creating competition."
If Sanders and Co. are successful in filling the gaps — via transfers or recruits — the Buffs coach is bullish on what Colorado can do in 2024 in its new conference home. Sanders pointed to the fact that the Buffs, despite the 4-8 record this year, were competitive in plenty of games.
"We got our butts kicked twice," Sanders said. "Every other game was within six to eight points maybe. We were in a multitude of games. We were in 10 games. We got our butts kicked twice. Fulfilling those needs is going to be a wonderful thing. We know what we want, how we want, and who we want. We've already identified it, and we are going to go get it."