Since Deion Sanders took over as the head football coach at the University of Colorado, more than 50 Colorado players have entered the transfer portal. Sanders is attempting a historic (and controversial) roster overhaul at a program that went 1-11 a season ago.
Sanders was clear after the team’s spring game in late April that additional roster changes were coming.
“You all know we’re gonna move on from some of the team members, and we’re gonna reload and get some kids that we really identify with,” Sanders said.
Over a dozen players jumped in the portal in the days after Sanders’ comments. Colorado’s coaches are actively looking for new additions via the transfer portal, as the program hopes to field a competitive roster in 2023.
“We don’t look behind us,” Sanders said. “We look ahead.”
Very low win total
Let’s look ahead. FanDuel lists a few college football win totals on its platform, and the mobile sportsbook operator has Colorado’s win total at 3.5 games with -134 odds on the over and +110 odds on the under.
Teams need to win six games to qualify for a bowl game. Currently, sports betting markets view Colorado as a team well outside the bowl picture despite nearly constant national media coverage. While major sports media outlets are fascinated by the hype train that is Sanders, the on-field performance may be rough in 2023.
Not only are the Buffaloes in need of more than a dozen players just to have enough bodies to field a competitive roster, but they’re also facing one of the nation’s tougher schedules. Colorado plays TCU and Nebraska as part of its nonconference schedule, with Nebraska expecting to improve under new coach Matt Rhule and TCU having played for the national championship last season. The Pac-12 schedule features plenty of tests, with games against Oregon, Utah, and USC, among others.
Sanders went 27-6 as Jackson State’s head coach, but his program wasn’t even playing the toughest teams in the FCS, and Jackson State held a dramatic talent advantage over its conference peers.
Colorado’s situation presents Sanders with a much tougher test, although the coach does bring a few offensive stars with him to Colorado like former five-star wide receiver recruit Travis Hunter and quarterback Shedeur Sanders, Deion’s son. Former Kent State head coach Sean Lewis will usher in an up-tempo scheme as the offensive coordinator, hoping to make good use of the team’s playmakers.
“The offense will surprise some people,” Chase Howell, who writes for The Action Network and covers Colorado for 24/7 Sports, told Sports Handle. “There is plenty of talent at the skill positions. It’s going to be a difficult offense to prepare for. They will go at a lightning pace, and I don’t think defenses can keep up at elevation. We’re going to see plenty of high totals and I think there will be lots of fun over games.”
Coach Prime’s plan to aggressively use the transfer portal means the team could struggle to find chemistry during the early portion of the season, though. While other programs spent the spring working with expected contributors, Colorado’s roster could look dramatically different come August, perhaps diminishing the potential returns from some of the spring practices.
— On3 (@On3sports) May 3, 2023
On the other hand, Colorado was awful in 2022. The Buffaloes went 1-11 and were outscored by an average of 29.1 points per game. They were the worst Power Five team in the country.
Will Colorado win the Pac-12 in 2023? That’s highly doubtful — Colorado is +6000 to win the conference on Caesars Sportsbook — but Sanders’ bold transfer strategy will almost certainly improve the on-field product from a year ago.
“It is still way too early to make a prognostication on the season without seeing the transfers they are going to bring in,” Howell said. “They still need to fill 20 slots. I will say this, I won’t be surprised at all if this is considered a rebuilding year and Colorado only wins two or three games. It can be difficult to get everyone on the same page. But they will have the talent to win at least six.”
Positive (and negative) attention abundant
Sanders doesn’t hide the fact that he essentially tells some players to transfer out of the program. He seems to view roster management like professional free agency. Other programs have similar behind-the-scenes discussions, but they’re less obvious about it, making Sanders a coach some fans detest.
“It’s no way that I can put new furniture in this beautiful home if we don’t clean out the old furniture."
Deion Sanders on the Pat McAfee Show 🤯 pic.twitter.com/3euoY1gjTs
— College Transfer Portal (@CollegeFBPortal) April 26, 2023
Matt Brown, a college sports journalist and publisher of Extra Points, recently wrote that Sanders’ moves could become a change-maker for athlete protections, as Sanders all but fired former players for subpar play.
“Because Colorado is being so public and so dang blatant about this, I think the odds that news coverage of this roster transition ends up in a future congressional hearing are roughly 100%,” Brown wrote. “This is exhibit A, B, and C for a future lawmaker to point to why athletes need legal protections to either [enshrine] their scholarship status or to grant collective bargaining powers.”
Colorado’s roster changes are unprecedented, and the man leading the charge is an outspoken former NFL superstar who doesn’t use generic coach speak to dance around his intentions. As bettors try to handicap Colorado this offseason, they’ll have to separate extreme levels of off-field noise from the on-field product.
“I think the fun part is we have no idea what to expect,” Howell said.