Deion says Colorado builds roster like NFL free agency, portal makes it hard to develop players

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Deion says Colorado builds roster like NFL free agency, portal makes it hard to develop players

Deion Sanders has always been transparent about how he believes he can build Colorado football into a winner. As the days dwindle during this open window of the NCAA transfer portal, the Buffaloes coach once again doubled down on the program’s approach to roster construction.

During an interview on “Thee Pregame Show” YouTube channel Tuesday evening, Sanders nodded along when he was informed that no program gets more attention — good or bad — from the outside than Colorado during the portal windows.

“Because that’s how we build it,” he said. “We’re different from a multitude of different teams and you can’t say what’s good or what’s bad. I know what works for us and what has worked for us tremendously. We’ve patterned this thing like the NFL. The NFL only has several choices and a 53-man roster. We go about it from a free-agency standpoint.”

On the heels of departures like five-star cornerback Cormani McClain and starting left tackle Savion Washington during the first week of the spring portal, more contributors from last year’s 4-8 team have entered the portal. So far, 31 scholarship players have entered the portal since the end of last season, including 20 in April.

That includes the departure of running back Sy’Veon Wilkerson who came to Boulder with Sanders from his previous stop as Jackson State’s coach. Wilkerson rushed for 1,167 yards and nine touchdowns his last year at Jackson State, but in his first year at Colorado, he only rushed for 190 yards and three touchdowns.

It’s expected that former starting running back Dylan Edwards will enter the portal, although he has yet to appear on the list. Edwards finished with 321 rushing yards and 299 receiving yards in 2023 including five total touchdowns.

In his interview, Sanders peeled back their approach to recruiting high school players, saying that in this age of the portal, the staff aims to sign anywhere from seven to 10 high schoolers a cycle. They often fall short of that, because, as Sanders put it: “We need guys who can do it right now.”

“We don’t have time to develop right now,” Sanders continued. “We do — we don’t mind developing players — but you’ll be fired by the time you develop 30 freshmen coming in, inheriting a 1-11 team. You’d be gone.”



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Colorado has picked up sought-after talent through this portal window. Just this week the Buffaloes received a commitment from former Ohio State running back Dallan Hayden who had a breakout season his freshman year in Columbus with 553 rushing yards and five touchdowns before injuries derailed his push to become the full-time starter. The Buffaloes also upgraded personnel in the trenches by picking up commits from former Pitt DE Dayon Hayes, Ohio defensive lineman Rayyan Buell and Texas offensive tackle Payton Kirkland.

Sanders said Colorado’s focus on “right now guys” adds pressure to ensure you make the right additions in the wake of numerous departures.

“You’ve got to make sure and do your homework and your research and due diligence that that guy fits you,” Sanders said. “Sometimes you miss that. Sometimes you don’t do that effectively and you miss. And you’ve got to admit, ‘I missed.’ But more so than others, you’ve got to make sure you’re getting a guy that fits you and fits what you’re doing.”

Required reading

(Photo: Jerome Miron / USA Today)