Parking a Ford GT on Folsom Field one weekend and a McLaren on the indoor field the next added some flash to a pair of recruiting weekends for the Colorado Buffaloes.
New head coach Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders loves the flash. His actual message to recruits, however, is more basic and direct.
“We don’t pitch (to recruits),” Sanders told BuffZone. “We’re honest, we’re straightforward. It’s criteria, man: smart, tough, fast, disciplined with character. That character thing says a lot.
“When a kid is talking about the bag (money) more than he’s talking about his position coach, the scheme, what we can do here together, how can we change this game. … We’re going to change the game – that’s what we want to hear. How does he fit in with what we’re trying to accomplish? Not okay, what am I gonna get? We don’t want that. We don’t want that kid that starts off like that.”
On Wednesday, Sanders, who was hired Dec. 4 after a successful three-year run at Jackson State, will have his first national signing day as the Buffaloes’ head coach.
It’s a class that will be mixed with high school recruits and transfers. It’s a class that, like all college athletes these days, will wonder about NIL (name, image and likeness) possibilities. And, it’s a class that, in part, will be intrigued about playing for Sanders, a Pro Football Hall of Famer who also played more than a decade in Major League Baseball.
Sanders also hopes it’s a class that sees what he did as an athlete, what he’s done as a coach, including his 27-6 mark in three seasons at Jackson State, and wants to be a part of changing a program that is coming off a dismal, 1-11 season.
“We’re winners,” Sanders said of why players should want to come to CU and play for him and his staff. “We have a tremendous staff, comprised of winners and guys who have gone to the ultimate levels of football – the NFL. … Great college coaches, as well as great communicators that really care. I think we’ve included a staff that really has the heart and the care and concern for these young men.
“If you give us a boy, we’re gonna give you back a man. We’re gonna make sure he’s a man in the classroom, on the field, off the field in the community, and in his personal relationship with his girlfriend or whatever.”
The process of building the team he wants is just beginning. National signing day is almost like a holiday to college football fans, but Sanders said that’s just the beginning.
“Wednesday’s a big deal, but there’s a continuation after that,” he said. “A lot of guys are in bowl games and they can’t get in the portal. They don’t want to get into the portal (yet). So Wednesday’s a big deal, but it’s not the end-all.”
Sanders said he has a “40-40-20” plan of building the roster with 40% graduate transfers, 40% undergraduate transfers and 20% high school recruits.
“You can’t just hang your hat on the high school (signing) day,” he said. “You’ve got to hang your hat on the other days. These high school guys, it takes, what, a couple years for them to really mature? I’m not patient like that. I want to win right now.”
Building the roster won’t be quick, either, because there are some players around the country who have already transferred once and they need to graduate in the spring before transferring again.
“It’s gonna come together,” Sanders said of CU’s roster. “You’ve got to see how it comes together by the time summer hits.”
As the roster comes together, Sanders knows “the bag” will be a factor. In the new age of college sports, NIL money is on the minds of many players and Sanders is all for athletes being compensated. As he builds a team at Colorado, however, he doesn’t want NIL to be the main purpose.
“I enjoy some parts of (recruiting),” Sanders said. “I don’t enjoy all parts of it because now somewhat – not necessarily our kids that we’re going after right now – but now it’s pay to play. And that’s not how it’s intended to be. … I don’t know but maybe three or four guys that really have NILs, and (Shedeur Sanders, his son and Jackson State’s quarterback) is one of them. Travis (Hunter of Jackson State) is one of them that you really see their name, image and likeness being manufactured in and progressed.
“Everything else is a collective. That’s just, ‘Hey, I’ll give you some money if you come here and play.’ That’s all that is. That’s where we’ve gone in college football and that’s not what it’s supposed to be. These kids shouldn’t be worried about the bag. They should be worried about getting to the NFL, not getting to the NIL.”