USA TODAY International Edition
New rules, no numbers this Colorado spring
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 Buffaloes 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 Buffaloes 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 Buffs finished 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 first 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 firing last year.
And that’s the point. Colorado athletic director Rick George shot for the moon by hiring Sanders, a flamboyant 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 different 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 field 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 offense 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 field 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 Buffaloes posted their 15th losing season in the past 17 years.