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How Pac-12 coaches feel about Coach Prime

After an exciting start to the season, Deion Sanders and the Buffaloes only made it to four wins

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Colorado Buffaloes head coach Deion Sanders watches warmups in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023.

Colorado Buffaloes head coach Deion Sanders watches warmups in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023. Utah won 23-17.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Deion Sanders has big plans for 2024. Fresh off a 4-8 season with his once-hyped Colorado squad, Coach Prime still has faith that his team can be a real contender very soon.

“I like where we are. I really do,” he said after the Buffaloes’ season-ending loss to Utah, as the Deseret News previously reported.

But other coaches don’t feel as confident about Colorado’s future, according to The Athletic.

Drawing on interviews with six coordinators and assistant coaches from other Pac-12 programs, who were granted anonymity so that they could speak freely, The Athletic reported that Sanders will have to make significant changes if he hopes to hang with college football’s top schools.

Here are three key areas of concern that the other coaches pointed to:

Colorado’s offensive line

Although Sanders was able to give Colorado a makeover with the help of the transfer portal last offseason, he wasn’t able to build a balanced roster, according to The Athletic.

He had a star quarterback (his son, Shedeur), a pretty strong receiving corps, but no one notable on the offensive line.

“Offensive line-wise, they didn’t take a single coveted guy out of the portal,” a Pac-12 assistant told The Athletic.

Unsurprisingly, the offensive line turned out to be a big problem for Colorado, leading to dozens of sacks and a weak run game.

“Colorado finished the season second-to-last among 133 FBS teams in sacks allowed with 56 and last in rushing yards per attempt at 2.31,” The Athletic reported.

A controversial demotion

About two-thirds of the way into the season, Sanders switched up his coaching team, promoting Pat Shurmur to co-offensive coordinator. “That functionally demoted offensive coordinator Sean Lewis, who left a head coaching job at Kent State to join Sanders at Colorado,” The Athletic reported.

A Pac-12 assistant told The Athletic that Sanders’ decision won’t be soon forgotten by coaches who have an opportunity to join the team.

“A lot of OCs will be hesitant to come into Colorado now seeing what Sean Lewis did,” the assistant said. “People were talking about him as a head coach candidate after Week 4, and for you to demote him? That’s telling.”

Lewis did indeed get a head coaching job for next season. He’s headed to San Diego State, according to The Athletic.

Coach Prime’s coaching style

To build a successful program, you have to do more than attract strong players from the transfer portal, coaches told The Athletic. You have to work hard to get the most out of everyone who’s already in the room.

“What you have to do, at least with the good coaches I’ve been around, is you pour into the kids who are there. You give them a new lease on life. You make them believe they’re better than they are,” a Pac-12 assistant said.

Sanders doesn’t seem to have the patience for that, at least not yet. After the Utah game, he told reporters that working hard to develop young players doesn’t quite fit with his win now mentality.

“We want to win now, right?” he said, as the Deseret News previously reported. “I don’t mind putting them high school kids in the microwave and letting them warm up a little bit, but you gotta understand what you really get out of that.”

In August, he said he cares more about winning than the typical team-building process, according to The Athletic.

“I don’t care about culture,” he said. “I don’t even care if they like each other. I want to win.”