Have you ever heard of a controlled burning?
Fire experts, oftentimes in the Northwest, purposely set fire to a forest or piece of land, ridding the area of dead trees, invasive plants, weeds and debris to prevent an actual wildfire. The objective is to give the soil a fresh start and maintain the natural health of the area.
But even controlled fires come with consequences.
A burning can kill unintended plants, trees and animal habitats. It leads to erosion and sedimentation. The air becomes toxic. There’s the potential the burning gets out of control, and a wildfire happens anyways.
How is any of this relevant to college football?
The roster reckoning happening in Boulder is unlike anything we’ve ever seen in college football. Sanders is attempting the most aggressive Year 1 roster flip ever. He’s making Lincoln Riley’s roster purge at USC last season look downright tame in comparison.
On Monday, a whopping 18 Colorado players entered the transfer portal. Another submitted his name Tuesday. Last week, 13 other players left the program, too. For those counting, the Buffs have seen 42 scholarship players enter the portal since Sanders took over the team. The number of departures from the 2022 team stands at 46 in total — 17 more than any other program in the country over the last year.
Since the moment he arrived in Boulder, Deion Sanders warned this would happen.
“Those of you that we don’t run off, we’re going to try to make you quit,” Sanders said in his awkward but riveting introductory team meeting back in early December.
“That’s what the offseason gone look like. I want ones that don’t want to quit. That want to work. That want to win. A heckuva lot of work. I want to get you to that breaking point. So I know what I got. I don’t want to get in a game and find out I got Jane when all offseason I had Tarzan. I got to figure it out now.”
During spring practice, what Sanders “figured out” was the majority of players on Colorado’s 1-11 team in 2022 did not suffice his expectations or vision. Whether they “walked out” or were later “kicked out,” over 30 players have left the program since the second transfer window opened on April 15.
“The team that we’re playing with now is not the team that we’re going to play with in Texas the first game (at TCU in Week 1),” Sanders announced last week in advance of Colorado’s spring game where he said “hope is in the house.”
“Do I need to say any more? It’s gonna be a lot of new faces, a lot of new attitudes, a lot of new understandings and a lot of new wants and desires and you’ve got to have it.”
But Colorado’s controlled burning has come with some potential consequences, too.
Sanders has culled a roster that certainly had plenty of players who did not project to ever be true Power 5 contributors. Those are the weeds getting burned.
But Colorado — a team mostly bereft of talent outside of the transfers Sanders has brought to Boulder — has also seen some quality pieces leave the program in recent days, too.
Receivers Jordyn Tyson and Montana Lemonious-Craig, who led CU in receptions and yards, respectively in 2022, likely would’ve helped Buffs this fall. Lemonious-Craig was one of the stars of the spring game, catching a 98-yard touchdown and finishing the chilly afternoon with 168 yards and two scores.
The losses at receiver, while not ideal, can be replaced via the portal. The question is if Sanders & Co., can sign enough quality offensive and defensive linemen — which are two premium positions with limited options in the portal — to replace 16 departures from those two units in the last five months. Aside from Shedeur Sanders looking strong in CU’s spring game, one of the glaring takeaways was how small Colorado looked on the offensive and defensive lines.
“You all know that we’re going to move on from some of the team members and we’re going to reload and get some kids that we really identify with,” Sanders said after Saturday’s spring game.
“This process is going to be quick, it’s going to be fast, but we’re going to get it done.”
Sanders has five days to add as many as 20 newcomers to Colorado’s roster for the 2023 season. The Buffs could have close to 65 new faces — transfers and freshmen signees — on their 85-man roster in the fall — that’s over 75% of team.
Deion Sanders came all right, and he “ain’t hard to find” became he came to Boulder armed with a blowtorch. He calls himself a “change agent,” but with the ashes still simmering at CU, a fireman seems more appropriate.
The post The controlled burning at Colorado: Deion Sanders has become college football’s Fireman appeared first on On3.