Coach Deion Sanders has recruited so many new players for his new job in Colorado that he can’t be expected to know them all by name.
So he made a special request to the media Wednesday at his first news conference in Boulder since being introduced as the Buffaloes’ new football coach on Dec. 4.
“Okay, avoid the names,” Sanders told reporters before they began questioning him. “I’m not familiar with everyone’s name. All the names of the players, I am not. I’m not going to pretend that I am. I will give them nicknames when appropriate and call them by their first names. I have names on the back of their shirts right now, but I’m not familiar with all the kids… And I’m not being disrespectful. I’m just being honest.”
This is understandable considering the fact that he has attracted a class of 42 newcomers in just eight weeks on the job, including 23 transfers from other four-year universities. Twenty-nine of them are already registered. And there could be more soon after the NCAA transfer portal opens again in May.
Together they are the largest class of newcomers in recorded school history and have been ranked 21st nationally. according to 247 Sports — a remarkable turn of events for a program that has had losing seasons in 15 of the past 17 years, including a 1-11 season in 2022.
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Sanders, a member of the College and Pro Football Hall of Fame, discussed his plans for more recruiting this spring, how he was able to accomplish all of this, as well as his views on money being part of the recruiting game now that players can earn income by name, images and likenesses (NIL).
What about the NIL money?
When asked about his recruiting pitch for players, Sanders gave a response that addresses suspicions some may have had about NIL money suddenly bringing recruits to Boulder. Sanders has dramatically helped raise the national profile of Colorado. So it stands to reason that recruits have a better chance of making money with NIL.
“I’m not selling anything,” Sanders said at the news conference, which was also streamed online. “That’s the thing. It is what it is. One of the first things I say if you’re here for NIL, or to be rich: ‘We’re not the school for you.’ But if you’re here to become a man, to get a degree, a great education and growing up and winning and going pro, possibly if you do all the right things, we are. So we’re not here for the NIL. We’re here for the NFL, and we’re here to make you a man. But no we have nothing for sale.
His press conference came on national recruiting signing day, even though most of CU’s newcomers had previously signed or enrolled.
Possibly the boldest statement Sanders made Wednesday was when asked about his recruiting success in such a short time. He said that he and his staff hope for such a success. He then dropped this line on his mindset when recruiting a player:
“The only thing that could stop that kid from coming and signing with us is a bag (money), someone to pay him, the buses (NIL) or whatever,” said Sanders, also known as Coach Prime. “And that’s it. And just getting over the coverage. That’s it, because the coaching staff, the environment, the city, the publicity, the structure, the discipline, the academics, the graduation, the food in the cafeteria. I could go on because this is getting good. Just everything. It’s hard to say no.”
Sanders, 55, said Boulder “sells itself” with its mountains, beauty and lack of crime. He said he also tells parents of recruits that he has sat in “all three seats.”
“I’ve been the player and the kid that was being drafted,” said Sanders, who was wearing a Nike Colorado jacket as required by his contract with CU. “I’ve been the parent sitting right next to the kid being recruited. Now I’m the coach recruiting the damn kid. So mom, I know what you’re feeling.”
He noted that today’s players are too young to remember him from his stardom as a player in the NFL and Major League Baseball. But “his parents did,” he said. “So the parents are finding the consistency of the way I support life and the way I support myself.”
It attracted players from all over. They came from 16 different states and two foreign countries, the most in CU history.
Sanders isn’t done recruiting for 2023
The transfer portal opens again in May. He opens spring practice at CU in March, concluding with spring play on April 22. It is limited by NCAA rule to 85 scholarship players. Therefore, it is possible that more players will leave Colorado, or be forced to leave, with the entry of additional players.
The signing day on Wednesday “is just a pause,” he said. “This is just a comma. Because there are a lot of people who are going to bungee jump on that portal after spring because they’re going to be disappointed with the playing time and the commitment or the level of participation that they’re getting. And we’re going to make the most of that. So we’re not done.”
Hope is back in Boulder
Sanders praised Boulder and the reception it has received from the community, which had not seen its football program garner as much national attention since the 1990s and late 1980s, when the Buffs were a Top 25 regular. Colorado regularly attended bowl games under coach Bill McCartney, who recently visited Sanders at the CU track facility. McCartney led the Buffs to share the national title in 1990.
“Hope has been restored, I really do,” Sanders said. “I think it’s been there, but sometimes you need to flip that switch of hope. And hope is in the house. Hope is in the air. Hope is in the city. Hope is in the community. Hope is within all of you (the media). And you want to write good things. You don’t want to write bad things.”
Cormani McClain, the No. 1 cornerback recruit in the nation, officially signed with Colorado on Wednesday after previously committing to Miami (Fla.).
Alabama linebacker Demouy Kennedy also announced on Instagram that he would be transferring to Colorado. He was Alabama State’s top-ranked recruit in 2020, according to 247 Sports, but has played backup or special teams since then and then suffered a season-ending knee injury in October. He is not among the 23 transfers counted in the newcomer class announced Wednesday, but he is being drafted by the Buffs.
After signing Wednesday, McClain will join Travis Hunter, a transfer from Jackson State who was ranked the No. 1 cornerback recruit in 2022. Both wanted to play for Sanders, a legendary former defensive back.
“I love where we are and what we have,” Sanders said. “I love high school because of what I see on paper.”
Is for he.
“He’s done a phenomenal job on the website but also in high school,” said Adam Gorney, national recruiting director for Rivals.com. “He closed with some big name guys who a million percent wouldn’t have gone to Colorado without him there.”
Follow reporter Brent Schrotenboer @Schrotenboer. Email: email@example.com
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