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CFF Targets - Colorado's new OC and QB are a perfect marriage in 2023
Shedeur Sanders is giving major VOLUME PIG vibes headed into next season
You don't go from a Yugo to a Benz, back to a Yugo
- Deion Sanders, Football icon
It may be surprising to some, but the Colorado Buffaloes have a rich football history. It’s easy to forget, as their place in the college football (CFB) landscape since joining the PAC-12 has been that of an also-ran. However, not that long ago (1990), the Colorado Buffaloes, coached by Bill McCartney, won the AP national championship after finishing the season with a record of 11-1-1. They defeated a decorated Notre Dame team in the Orange Bowl to secure the championship. The team was led by quarterback Darian Hagan and running back Eric Bieniemy (recognize that name?), who were both named first-team All-Americans that season.
Joel Klatt, a prominent personality in college football today, is also an alumnus of the University of Colorado. Despite some lighting issues in his podcast room, Klatt's weekly appearances on Colin Cowherd's show during the fall season are a highlight for many fans, as he consistently outperforms Cowherd in their debates.
Coming back to the topic at hand, the Buffaloes administration took a massive swing this offseason and hired Deion “I brought my luggage with me, and it’s Louie” Sanders as its newest head coach. Deion has rejuvenated this program in an unprecedented way since his arrival. It has already been announced that the Buffs have sold out the 2023 season tickets for the first time in 27 years, and also sold out the spring game.
Upon arrival, Deion wasted no time in purging the roster of any slackers (which of course was caught on video).
What followed in the months to come was a period of immense roster turnover; Coach Prime’s first move was to bring over his eldest son — QB Shedeur Sanders from Jackson State. And, while we’re here, I’ll add that there may be some other CFF transfer gems to keep in mind at Colorado this year.
The Buffaloes brought in G5 standout TE Seydou Traore from Arkansas State, who caught 50 passes for 655 yards and 4 TDs in 2022 (see article on him here), and USF WRs Xavier Weaver (53-718-6) and son of NFL legend, Jimmy Horn Jr., who caught 37 passes for 551 yards and 3 TDs in 2022.
The highest rated transfer player in this past cycle, dual position standout Travis Hunter, also followed Coach Prime to Boulder; he will likely play many of his snaps at DB, but he’ll offer another weapon for Sanders at WR too.
The leading receiver from the Buffalos last year, Jordyn Tyson, also returns. Tyson posted a 22-470-4 stat line in 2022.
Safe to say, things are going to look a little different in Boulder while Deion’s regime is in town, and I’m all here for it.
He will have his work cut out for him in 2023, though. Colorado was 1-11 last year, and although they have turned over the roster in a drastic way already, this team has the potential to be very poor once again this season. While I don’t expect them to compete for the PAC-12 in year one, I don’t expect that they will be dominated to the point that the entire roster is relegated to CFF irrelevancy. I think they will resemble the Arizona Wildcats from 2022. This team will be a lot of fun, and yes, probably will lose most of their games; but will be playing in shootouts nonetheless. That could benefit QB Shedeur Sanders, however, as the fact that they might be trailing most of their games means they’ll be attempting more passes.
As usual, we’ll begin the analysis by taking a look at the system in place at Colorado.
Coaching & System
There is a lot to like about the system Shedeur Sanders will play in this season. For starters, the Buffalos are going to throw the ball a lot. In the last two seasons under coach Prime, Sanders attempted 413 and 483 passes — an average of 40 pass attempts per game in 2022.
Additionally, new OC Sean Lewis was the head coach of a strong CFF offence in Kent State (2018 - 2022), and has a history of strong utilization of dual threat QBs. Dustin Crum, Kent State QB in 2021, attempted 382 passes, accounting for 3283 yards and 20 passing TDs to 6 INTs, and, ran 161 times for 703 yards and 12 rushing TDs (~24 FPG).
In 2020, Crum passed for 1181 yards, 12 TDs to 2 INTs and ran for 240 yards and 4 TDs in only four games (34.8 FPG).
Colin Schlee, who QB’d the Kent State offence in 2022, attempted 266 passes, accounting for 2109 yards and 13 TDs to 5 INTs, as well as rushing 98 times for 492 yards and 4 TDs (19.8 FPG).
Before HC’ing Kent State, Lewis was the co-OC at Syracuse in the 2016 and 2017 seasons. His QB Eric Dungey, ran the football 143 and 162 times in 2017 and 2016, respectively. He totalled 595 and 566 yards, and 9 and 4 TDs rushing in those two seasons.
It seems like Lewis has no problem with unleashing his QB on the ground and through the air, with his best QB producing a 34.8 FPG average in 2020, albeit in only four games. And, as fate would have it, he now has another dual threat QB at his disposal in Boulder for 2023.
QB Shedeur Sanders - 6’2, 215
QB Shedeur Sanders (6’2, 215) began his career playing his first two seasons under his father at Jackson State. Sanders was a highly recruited prospect coming out of Dallas metro powerhouse Cedar Hill high school, receiving offers from the likes of Georgia, Alabama, and Michigan. Sanders put up prolific numbers at the FCS level, throwing for 3732 and 3231 yards and accounting for 40-6 and 30-8 TD-INT ratios in 2022 and 2021, respectively. Sanders also demonstrated dual threat ability at JSU, rushing 85 times for 173 yards and 6 TDs in 2022.
He will likely occupy the starting QB position for the Buffaloes in 2023. This is also a unique situation for CFF. In fantasy, you want to find coaches who believe in force-feeding the ball to certain players. In this case, it’s reasonable to assume there will be an interest for coach Prime as the father of Shedeur to feature his son and make him look good. We can probably assume that Shedeur will be the starter this year and the leash will be very long. In fact, the lack of other viable options at QB likely means the Buffs are stuck with Sanders no matter what.
As mentioned above, I like Shedeur’s chances at seeing some major pass and rush volume due to the track records of the staff in place. The question will really be whether the offence as a whole is effective enough to sustain an elite CFF asset at QB.
There is a lot of turnover from the roster last year. Between the new system, the several moving pieces, and the jump up in competition, there are enough reasons to be cautious about forecasting major production out of Sanders and his offence in 2023. I feel optimistic, but it is not exactly a plug and play situation in my opinion. We saw a similar case study of this last season with Cameron Ward, who made the jump from FCS Incarnate Word to Washington State with his old coach. For the most part, Ward disappointed in CFF circles last season.
I don’t know where Sanders will be drafted in CFF re-drafts at this point; I wouldn’t want to pay a steep price to acquire him though, given what I saw with Ward last season. Because of the bullet above, this is a player who is most valuable as a late round pick.
Given the lack of depth at the QB position, it is possible that the staff decides to use Sanders carefully, which could mean less rushing utilization. The rushing upside is a key component of Sanders’ CFF upside, so this could be impactful.
The Buffs have somewhat of a tough schedule this season. Their out-of-conference (OOC) opponents are Nebraska, TCU, and their cross-state rival Colorado State. They also play USC, Oregon and Utah in conference. This could be a good or bad thing, however, as it may mean Sanders is throwing the ball a lot, and the Buffs will have pressure to score fast.
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