The State of the State: Colorado Look at College Football Futures

August 18, 2023

Can Coach Prime turn CU into a contender once again?

© Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

A remarkable transformation is underway in Boulder, but will it pay dividends?

When Colorado kicked off the 2022 college football season, it had 84 players on scholarship. A year later, on the heels of a 1-11 season, only 13 of those remain.

To some, that’s a harsh indictment, putting the blame for a losing season on the kids. But to one person, it’s the right thing to do; it’s cleaning house in order to change a culture.

Deion Sanders didn’t mince words when he was named CU’s head coach in early December. He was coming to Boulder to win, and he planned on doing it quickly.

Part of Coach Prime’s plan has been to broom virtually anyone that was associated with the past regime, replacing them with better options. It’s cold. It’s calculated. It’s cutthroat. But it’s also how winning is done in modern college football.

Sanders has put the transfer portal to use in a manner never before seen. He’s sent former players packing, while luring four- and five-star recruits to Boulder. He’s raided other big-time programs around the country, bringing players to CU through his sheer will of personality.

As a result, one of the least talented teams in the country last season is suddenly stocked with players. Coach Prime’s son, Shedeur Sanders, will run the show, after being a successful quarterback at Jackson State. He’ll be joined by a cast of skill position players that includes Jimmy Horn, Travis Hunter and Xavier Weaver at wideout, with Alton McCaskill the likely starter at running back.

They’ll be exciting to watch, but it won’t matter if the Buffs defense isn’t better. After giving up 44.5 points per game last season, it’ll be difficult for them to be much worse. Sanders has raided programs like Alabama, Arkansas, Clemson and Florida State to restock the cupboards. It’ll give CU a chance to be significantly better in 2023.

Can Coach Prime bring it all together? That’s the big question, as he has to get an entirely new staff and roster to get on the same page in very short order.

There will surely be some bumps along the way, but the fan base needs to remember where the project started. Colorado was arguably the worst team in the country last season, with its only win coming in overtime against Cal.

Blowing things up and starting over might seem like a rash decision, but it was the only option in Boulder. Coach Prime has taken the paddles to the chest of the CU program; time will tell if he can jolt it back to life.

Bud Parmalee’s pick: Colorado over 3.5 wins in 2023 (+110)

The Buffs have to beat Colorado State, Stanford and Arizona at home. That gives them nine other chances to find a victory. Home games against Nebraska and Oregon State offer an opportunity, as do road trips to Arizona State and Washington State. CU will be a borderline bowl team; the Buffs will cruise to four wins or more.