As if things couldn't have ended worse for the Colorado Buffaloes and Deion Sanders this season, the team's latest recruiting news is turning the soon-to-be Big 12 program back into the dumpster fire that it was hoping to stay away from in the Coach Prime era.
Despite a tightly-contested 23-17 loss to the Utah Utes without star quarterback Shedeur Sanders, the Buffaloes finished the year with six straight losses and just one win in their final nine games. Although a four-win season for the Buffaloes program was a big improvement from a 1-11 record the previous year, Deion Sanders expected a much bigger turnaround with the influx of talent he brought in from the transfer portal, including his son and two-way superstar Travis Hunter.
Unfortunately, it could be the lingering threat of incoming transfers and a mercenary mentality that is suddenly leading to high school recruits getting cold feet. Sanders and his staff experienced a mass exodus of commitments this week, including the decommitments of the team's top two quarterback recruits to eventually replace Sanders' son whenever he decides to declare for the NFL draft.
In just two days, the Buffaloes lost both 3-star quarterback Danny O'Neil out of Indianapolis and 4-star QB Antwann Hill out of Georgia. Hill was the much larger story as the No. 3 quarterback in his recruiting class, but after considering reclassifying to 2024, Hill has decided to stay in the 2025 class and reopen his commitment, although he stated publicly that Colorado is still a top priority for him during the process.
Later on Monday, a report surfaced that 3-star running back Jamarice Wilder would also be decommitting from Colorado.
BREAKING: Class of 2025 RB Jamarice Wilder tells me he has Decommitted from Colorado
The 5?9 185 RB from Venice, FL had been Committed to the Buffaloes since August
— Hayes Fawcett (@Hayesfawcett3) November 27, 2023
Deion Sanders Has a Team-Building Problem
As it now stands, the Buffaloes now have just eight total commitments from the 2024 recruiting class, according to ESPN. While Sanders and his staff can continue to blame other coaches for allegedly sabotaging his recruiting, the bigger problem is that the way he built the team in 2023 is backfiring tremendously for long-term team building.
After taking over as the head coach at Colorado, Sanders brought in 87 new players with just nine players under scholarship returning from the previous season. While some of those new players were 2022 high school seniors enrolling at Boulder, the vast majority of noteworthy starters and contributors came via the transfer portal.
For young players hoping to get playing time earlier in their college careers, Colorado is quickly losing its appeal as it continues to scour the transfer portal for older, more experienced players to jump the line and be thrust into the starting lineup as the high school recruits potentially wait two, three, or even four years for their chance to eventually see the field.
The coaching rumors surrounding Sanders certainly don't help, either. Although he has publicly shot down rumors, speculation surfaced about Coach Prime taking over at Texas A&M following Jimbo Fisher's firing, and it'll be far from the last job that Sanders is linked to over the next few seasons as head coach vacancies open up at programs with far more resources than Boulder can provide.
For an incoming freshman, that kind of uncertainty and constant drama can make it hard to see a stable four (or five) years with one school, and that's a likely factor in the decisions of these recruits like Hill and O'Neil to consider committing to other programs.
The speculation and drama isn't going away anytime soon, and for Sanders, he'll need to decide whether or not the huge focus on the transfer portal is a worthwhile endeavor for long-term roster construction. For now, Sanders needs to bring in any kind of talent if he wants his team to fight its way into bowl eligibility in 2024.
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