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Was Colorado coach Deion Sanders’ first season a success? — Andscape

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Year 1 of the Deion Sanders Experience at the University of Colorado is about to come to a close.

The Buffaloes enter their final game of the season against Utah on Saturday with a 4-7 record and a five-game losing streak in Pac-12 play. But debate rages on about Sanders’ future, the future of his son, Shedeur Sanders, and whether or not “Coach Prime” will return to Colorado next season. Andscape columnists William C. Rhoden and Clinton Yates, and columnist Jean-Jacques Taylor discuss.

Why was this season a success or failure for Sanders and Colorado?

Clinton Yates: It was a success because people showed up. In college football, there’s no greater way to gauge interest better than attendance. They sold out the spring game, and at most home games this year, folks stayed until the end. Also, they were ranked at one point this season. It’s easy to look at wins and losses and just say: of course it’s an improvement. But the people there will tell you they were happy with the product in 2023.

When people are coming from all over the country to take vacations in Boulder to watch football? That’s a win. Nevermind all the cash infused to the town, locally.

William C. Rhoden: Of course a six win season and a bowl appearance would have been optimal. Nevertheless, the first season was unquestionably a short-term success. Colorado won one game last year and was irrelevant. This year under Sanders, Colorado won four games and could win five. More importantly, early in the season, Coach Prime and Colorado became the epicenter of college football.

Will he win in the long run? That’s another question. I’m not sure how much better Colorado can become or will become. The powers that be are already making adjustments to the transfer portal and next year coaches will be much more attuned to Sanders’ coaching methods and style.

But for the here and now, yes, this season was a win.

Jean-Jacques Taylor: No doubt, this was a successful season for Colorado by virtually any metric you want to use. Don’t forget, this was easily the worst team in FBS last year. They were outscored by 29 points a game. Well, they won four games this year and became a regular on national TV. Until this week, they had only been blown out by Oregon, which has pretty much blown out everybody they’ve played. The worst part of this season was blowing a 29-0 lead to hapless Stanford. Arizona is playing some of the best football in the country and they led the Wildcats until the final play. The hardest thing for any bad team to do is learn how to win.

Shedeur Sanders and Travis Hunter would be stars no matter where they played. A bowl game would’ve been spectacular, but the offensive and defensive lines were shady from Day 1 and nothing changed during the season.

Colorado quarterback Shedeur Sanders throws a pass for a first quarter touchdown against Colorado State at Folsom Field on Sept. 16 in Boulder, Colorado.

Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Should Shedeur Sanders enter the 2024 NFL draft?

Rhoden: Unless he is on a mission to be a martyr for his father, Sheduer Sanders should declare for the NFL draft, like yesterday. And his father and coach should give his blessings.

Sheduer is already the most sacked quarterback among Power 5 signal callers and it’s only getting worse. Sheduer was knocked out of last week’s game against Washington State and the punishment is only gonna get worse against Utah and next season.

All talented college football players should only stay in college and risk injury to the extent that they need playing time or need to be seen. Otherwise for NFL-quality talent, playing college football is a fool’s mission that only benefits the university. 

Shedeur is loyal to his father. I’m sure and both he and Deion know that without a capable quarterback the Colorado experiment will go down in flames. If Deion cares about Shedeur’s physical well-being, and if Shedeur has any hopes of having a career in the National Football League, he must leave the nest. And he’s got to do it now. If Deion tries to convince his son to stay at Colorado, it would be an abdication of parental responsibility.

Yates: Respectfully, I’m hugely looking forward to seeing Shedeur playing for a coach not named Deion Sanders. That’s no knock on Prime, we’ve just seen these two together for SO long and now that the young man is, well, a man, it just feels like it’s time for him to spread his wings in a family way as well as a football way. 

For a dropback quarterback he’s still quite agile and his accuracy and decision-making when protected are still fantastic. It was pretty brutal watching him take sack after sack, but let’s also not forget that Colorado isn’t the only place he’s ever played. 

I’d recommend folks watch tape from his Jackson State days as well because he was a force and that’s where you can truly see what he brings to the table in the NFL with a pro frame, mindset and skill set. 

Taylor: The reality is Shedeur was always going to play four seasons for his father. History shows that the more passes you attempt in college the better you tend to play in college. If he plays a normal year in 2024, Shedeur is going to finish his career with almost 1,800 pass attempts, which means he will have seen every kind of coverage imaginable. That will ease his transition to the NFL. He’s already rich, so he doesn’t need the money and he’d really like to contend for a championship with his father. They’re going to dominate the portal and now they have money to pay NIL money to players. Everybody knows Colorado needs OL help, so kids know playing time is available. He lives a great college life. The NFL is different. One more year will season him more and it’s the last year he’ll have fun before he goes to work. Plus, he has a chance to be the No.1 quarterback in the draft next year.

What needs to change for Sanders and Colorado next season?

Taylor: Colorado must get better on the offensive and defensive lines. Period. They must add talent and they need to recruit some high school linemen they can develop. Doing so will allow them to protect Sheduer better – Colorado leads the NCAA in sacks allowed – and run the ball better, which would take pressure off of him. Colorado’s skill guys are good enough to win. Its lines are not.

Rhoden: A massive infusion of grade A talent along the offensive and defensive line. The Travis Hunter of defensive linemen.

Yates: The offensive and defensive fronts are certainly top of mind, but let’s also not forget that we’ve shuffled through a couple playcallers this season. The program as a whole is still growing, nevermind the product on the field. Continuity over the offseason in terms of coaches and staff, not just players is definitely something I’ll be paying attention to.

True or False: Deion Sanders will be at Colorado next season?

Taylor: Deion isn’t going anywhere. He’s not for everybody and everybody isn’t for him. He has a great setup at a university that allows him to be unapologetically himself. The Big 12 will be a good league for him because Colorado can dip into Texas [recruiting] pretty easily.

Rhoden: True. I think.

If Shedeur leaves Colorado, all bets are off. Does Prime love coaching? I believe Prime loves coaching his sons.

Yates: If Deion Sanders finds a reason to leave Colorado after one season, that means Prime never wanted to be there to begin with — and I just don’t believe that to be true.



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