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Former Colorado star talks Deion Sanders, football revival in Boulder: ‘Tremendously exciting’

Former Colorado star talks Deion Sanders, football revival in Boulder: ‘Tremendously exciting’
  • PublishedSeptember 23, 2023

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The hype around the Colorado Buffaloes football program is at an all-time high, as Deion Sanders leads his team into Eugene, Oregon, against the No. 10 Oregon Ducks on Saturday. 

For a program that went 1-11 in 2022 and managed double-digit wins just once in the past 21 seasons, the rise has seemingly come out of nowhere. 

CU fans rush the field

Colorado Buffaloes tight end Michael Harrison, #87, celebrates with the fans on the field after winning the Rocky Mountain Showdown against the Colorado State Rams 43-35 in double over time at Folsom Field Sept. 16, 2023. (Andy Cross/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

It all starts with Sanders, who completely flipped the roster after being hired in December and used the transfer portal to his advantage. 

“After 20 years of Buffs awful football, to have ‘Coach Prime’ bring the Buffs back to the national conversation has been tremendously exciting. I look at life through black and gold glasses. I’m a Colorado Buffaloes alumni. I was a part of the one national championship for that school,” two-time All-American and 1990 Colorado national champion Chad Brown told Fox News Digital. 

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“So the glory days of my time, they felt like they were not just a lifetime ago, but like several lifetimes ago. So, now to have ‘Coach Prime’ and the Buffs to start the season 3-0, optimism is high. The ability for Buffs fans to look back at those once glory days and project those into the future, it doesn’t seem like a wish to hope and a dream anymore. It seems like a reality.” 

Sanders took a good amount of criticism in the offseason for the way he transformed the roster at Colorado, with the Buffaloes returning just 10 scholarship players from 2022 and 68 new scholarship players on the roster, according to The Athletic. 

Sanders benefited from an NCAA rule that allows first-year head coaches to cut players, though the university must honor the players’ scholarships. 

“The Buffs were 1-11 last year, one of the worst teams in college football, and have been for several years. So, the roster needed some turnover. Now, was the process pretty? It wasn’t,” Brown said when asked for his thoughts on Sanders’ roster flip. 

Deion Sanders coaches vs Colorado State

Colorado Buffaloes head coach Deion Sanders looks on from the sideline in the third quarter against the Colorado State Rams at Folsom Field on Sept. 16, 2023 in Boulder, Colorado. (Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

Brown is not a fan of the rule that allows first-year coaches to cut players from the roster, calling it an “ugly part of college football” while also understanding what Sanders was hired to do.  

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“Now, a new coach comes in, and because you can’t rush the quarterback as well or because you can’t cover one-on-one as well, now you’ve lost your opportunity to play football,” Brown continued. “That part absolutely bums me out. So, I see both sides. ‘Coach Prime’ was tasked with turning the Buffaloes into what they are now – part of the national conversation and a team that will hopefully be a part of the College Football Playoff. Maybe not this year, but down the road. 

“But I also feel bad for those kids who have played their last snap with college football due to a new coach coming in who’s got a different vision than what the previous coach had.”

While Sanders’ methods have been questioned, it is hard to argue with the results. 

Colorado’s undefeated start and Sanders personality have put the national spotlight on Boulder, with Fox’s “Big Noon Kickoff” and ESPN’s “College Gameday” both traveling to Colorado for the Week 3 game against Colorado State. 

Sanders has stated he is getting “so many” recruiting calls “it’s absurd.” It has been reported that Bryce Underwood, considered the No. 1 quarterback recruit of the 2025 class, will make a visit to Colorado when the Buffaloes take on the No. 6 USC Trojans Sept. 30, according to Yahoo Sports. 

Chad Brown calls a CU game

Former NFL linebacker Chad Brown radio broadcasts the game between the Air Force Falcons against the Colorado Buffaloes at the Coors Events Center in Boulder, Colorado, Nov. 25, 2012. (Andy Cross/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

“It’s amazing,” Brown told Fox News Digital. “I don’t think there’s another coach in the country who can draw kids in that way. Obviously, Nick Saban has sold the Alabama experience – You come here, you play your three years, you’ll probably end up in the NFL. We lead the league in first-round draft picks and all these other things that they can sell at Alabama. 

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“Well, I don’t think Colorado is too far away from being able to sell that but also, in addition to that, Shedeur Sanders drives a Rolls-Royce to class every day. While I think that is ridiculous, to a 19 or 17-year-old, that certainly is selling worthy and recruiting worthy of the kind of dollars that are flowing into the program, the NIL opportunities which are now a part of college football.”

While the Colorado hype train is moving at a lightning-fast pace, it almost came to a screeching halt in Week 3, and the schedule now turns incredibly tough as Pac-12 play arrives. 

The Buffaloes needed a 98-yard drive and a two-point conversion in order to beat Colorado State in double overtime last week, while two matchups against top-10 teams are next up on the schedule. 

“The Colorado State game showed some chinks in the armor,” Brown said. 

Travis Hunter vs Colorado State

Travis Hunter, #12 of the Colorado Buffaloes, stands on the field before the start of a game against the Colorado State Rams at Folsom Field on Sept. 16, 2023 in Boulder, Colorado. (Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

No. 19 Colorado will be without two-way star Travis Hunter against Oregon after he was sent to the hospital following a late hit by Colorado State safety Henry Blackburn. 

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“The Colorado State game also exposed the flaws on the offensive and defensive lines, where they’re not quite big and physical enough, and they’re certainly not fast enough,” Brown told Fox News Digital. “For Oregon, which has been a program that’s been a top 10, top 15 program for quite a while now, for USC with a Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback, the Buffs will be tested in ways that they haven’t. 

“Do I believe they’ll play hard? Do I believe that they will put their absolute best effort out there? Absolutely. Will they learn from some of the mistakes during the CSU game? I think they will. But in the end, it’s about the Jimmy’s and the Joe’s. The ‘Coach Prime’ effect has been tremendous. And those kids have played with confidence and maybe played past their skill levels in some cases, but the pure talent for Oregon and USC is going to make this a much more uphill climb than they faced the first three weeks of the season.”

Brown, who now works for Compass Media, 104.3 The Fan in Denver and a handful of other stations, gives Colorado a chance against the Ducks but says USC is a whole different animal. 

“They have a chance against Oregon. I think Shedeur Sanders is a better quarterback than Bo Nix at Oregon. But once they get to USC and the Heisman Trophy winner – Caleb Williams – that’s a whole different deal altogether.” 

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Deion Sanders at Folsom

Colorado Buffaloes head coach Deion Sanders on the set of ESPN College GameDay prior to the game between the Colorado Buffaloes and the Colorado State Rams at Folsom Field. (Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports)

Regardless of how the next few weeks play out, Colorado and “Coach Prime” have already exceeded Brown’s expectations, with the former college and NFL star now expecting a bowl berth from the Buffaloes at the bare minimum. 

“Because of those things that I talked about earlier – 88 new guys on the roster, 68 new scholarship players – I was thinking three or four wins, maybe five max,” Brown said. “Because while the talent would be there, they wouldn’t be able to come together and play clean and efficient. Well, the first two weeks this season in particular, they were the better, cleaner-playing football team. 

“TCU was in the national championship game, yet they played a better, cleaner brand than they did. They were better coached for the first two weeks this season than a team on the opposite sideline. So, I didn’t think that was going to be possible, particularly so early. So at this point, I’ve raised my expectations to a bowl game at the very minimum, which is six wins.” 

Colorado and Oregon kick off at 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday. 

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