We need to talk about Deion Sanders.
42,277 people attended Colorado’s Spring Game last weekend, and that’s about the same number of players that have asked to transfer or been cut in the last week.
I hope Deion Sanders knows what he’s doing. Because I’m going to be honest- as a Pac-12 fan. As someone who has a podcast covering the Pac-12. As someone who played at a current Pac-12 school… I don’t know what he’s doing.
Maybe I’m shortsighted. Maybe I don’t see the vision.
But my lifelong understanding of the game of football has led me to believe that in order to play football, you need football players.
As of this moment, with over 50 scholarship players hitting the exit since Deion’s arrival, they don’t have the ability to field a competitive team next year.
Yes, I know players will transfer in. But Deion and Colorado aren’t going to be the only ones chasing available prospects.
Deion Sanders told Pat MacAfee that one of the reasons he cut so many players was because in order to make room for new furniture, you have to get rid of old furniture.
While I’m sure the players he got rid of will like being described as old furniture as much as they’ve enjoyed not being given access to their 2022 practice film in order to help themselves land a new spot, I understand his metaphor.
But the difference between furniture shopping to fill a new house- something I’m literally in the middle of doing, and hunting the right prospects that have a higher pedigree and more potential to help you win, is that you don’t bid on a one-of-a-kind dining room table against 50 other shoppers.
Deion seems to be assuming that his cult of personality is going to lead him to be the primary option for the country’s elite displaced blue chip prospects. And maybe he’s right. Betting on himself is what got him in this position in the first place.
But you don’t churn three-fourths of a roster unless you plan on winning now, and in the Pac-12, you just don’t win without depth. Is he really going to be able to re-stock, establish chemistry, and develop talent in time to be able to go head to head with Lincoln Riley and Dan Lanning?
And speaking of other Pac-12 coaches; you have master developers out here like Jonathan Smith at Oregon State, and Kyle Whittingham at Utah. They’ll take a JuCo DB or a two star skinny lineman from Texas and turn them into NFL draft picks. They are teachers, which up until recently, seemed to be one of the primary functions of coaching.
What does it say about your own faith in your ability to develop if you spend a few weeks around someone and tell them they’re better off anywhere but in your presence?
Deion’s son, Deion Sanders Jr., responded to that exact criticism on Twitter, saying the game has changed because as a coach you only have 2-3 years to make a team competitive or you’ll be fired, so coaches are motivated to instead seek out ready-made ballers.
But this assumes the portal is full of exactly that. And it isn’t. Outside of a few select prospects testing a still-turbulent NIL market, it’s almost all leftover musical chairs. The only way to get ready-made ballers is to have the resources to entice them. Does Colorado have that cash? More than USC? More than Oregon?
And even if you have the resources, you need to be careful the way you backdoor some of these transfers. You get a kid in trouble because you had a handler put a feeler out there to see if a backup SEC DB might be interested in a move to Boulder, is that kid, his family, or the handler going to fall on the grenade if the NCAA comes knocking?
Deion Sanders told a 247 Sports reporter who inquired about the cuts that he knows what he’s doing, and “it isn’t his first rodeo.” Where I’d push back on that is that it’s EVERYBODY’S FIRST RODEO.
This is a brave new world of college football, and almost nobody knows what they’re doing.
But sometimes, when the boundaries are undefined, it’s better to move fast, break things, and ask for forgiveness instead of permission. I hope for Colorado’s sake that this is one of those times.
Let that sink in.