USA TODAY International Edition

New rules, no numbers this Colorado spring

- Brent Schrotenbo­er

Spring has sprung again on the University of Colorado football team, but this time it’s in Prime Time and there are new rules to follow under new head coach Deion Sanders.

This all became clear Sunday when the Buffaloes opened spring practice in Boulder wearing jerseys with no numbers on them.

They were blank for a reason.

“If you want a number – and I love this – you’ve got to earn it,” Sanders told the team in a recent meeting.

So began the most hyped set of spring practices in school history.

After being hired by the school in early December, Sanders has overhauled the Buffaloes roster with an incoming class of more than 40 newcomers, 29 of whom have already enrolled for the spring semester.

On Sunday, they got to work with new staff coaches, led by Sanders, who drasticall­y altered the outlook of the program less than four months after the Buffs finished last season with a 1- 11 record.

ESPN is even going to televise CU’s spring game April 22, the only college football spring game that ESPN will air on its main channel.

Here is a look at his building process after their first of 15 spring practices. Sanders spoke with reporters after the practice, which was closed to the public and the media.

There’s a new sheriff

Sanders, also known as Coach Prime and Prime Time, patrolled the practice wearing a black cowboy hat and cowboy boots.

In terms of style and swagger, he is the opposite of his predecesso­r at Colorado, Karl Dorrell, whose soft- spoken, low- key approach didn’t work and ended with his firing last year.

And that’s the point. Colorado athletic director Rick George shot for the moon by hiring Sanders, a flamboyant national celebrity and former two- sport superstar.

It’s paid off so far in recruiting and publicity.

His recruiting class of transfer players ranks No. 1 nationally this year, according to 247Sports.

More than 35,000 is expected to attend the spring game, obliterati­ng CU’s spring record crowd of 17,800 in 2008.

“Right now, we’re a team, and we’re building a team – I want more than that,” Sanders told reporters after practice Sunday. “I want it to be more than the team. I want to be something to behold, something you’ve got to prepare for, really sit down and prepare for. I don’t want just a football team. I look at this thing totally different than just being a team.”

There are new rules

Sanders outlined some of them in a team meeting this weekend that was recorded by his son Deion Jr. and posted on YouTube.

“No walking” is one of them. He wants his team to always be running on the field when moving from drill to drill.

And if the quarterbac­k makes a poor throw to his receiver in practice with no defender covering that receiver, then the quarterbac­k must run out to retrieve the ball.

“Receivers, you hear me?” Sanders asked at the meeting. “If they throw a garbage pass, leave the darn ball right there.”

Sanders also said jersey numbers must be earned, especially coveted single- digit numbers. Jersey No. 1 will go to the player he says is worthy of it.

“How can you ask for No. 1 when you ain’t the one?” he asked the team.

There’s a new tempo

It’s fast- paced on offense under offensive coordinato­r Sean Lewis, who joined Sanders’ staff after previously serving as the head coach at Kent State.

“It’s a lot to absorb, but it’s at such a fast pace ( that) by the time we hit the field and game time running, we’ve got a tempo that’s out of this world because that’s the expectatio­n of practice,” Sanders said.

The idea, Sanders said, is to “get a lot of plays off.”

Drastic change was needed. CU ranked 126th out of 130 major college teams last season with 15.4 points per game as the Buffaloes posted their 15th losing season in the past 17 years.

 ?? RON CHENOY/ USA TODAY SPORTS ?? Deion Sanders on Colorado players’ jerseys in spring camp: “If you want a number – and I love this – you’ve got to earn it.”
RON CHENOY/ USA TODAY SPORTS Deion Sanders on Colorado players’ jerseys in spring camp: “If you want a number – and I love this – you’ve got to earn it.”

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