The CU Buffaloes will take the field for the first time in the 2023 season this Saturday at 10:00 a.m. against the TCU Horned Frogs.
Romi Bean sat down with new head coach, Deion Sanders, on “Coach Prime’s Playbook,” airing Thursday nights at 6:30 p.m. on CBS News Colorado.
Saturday’s game will be Sanders’ first on the sidelines of a major college football program.
“It’s like a whole new chapter,” Sanders said. “You go from Primetime to Prime to Coach Prime and that’s where I am right now. I’m in like the third quarter of life and I absolutely love it and I love the young men in this locker room.”
CU is nearly a 21-point underdog, according to CBS Sports, but Coach Prime and his players are tuning that out.
“They don’t care about that because most of them weren’t here,” Sanders said. “They don’t identify themselves with that. They came here for the lights, they came here for the action, they came here for the height, and they came here to be groomed to get ready for the NFL and for life and to be men. These guys want it and I love every bit of it.”
Shedeur Sanders, the coach’s son, will start under center for the Buffs this season. While at quarterback for Jackson State the last two seasons, he racked up 6,963 yards, 70 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions while leading the Tigers to an appearance in the Cricket Celebration Bowl.
“He’s rock steady,” Sanders said of his son and starting quarterback. “He’s always been mature, he’s always been a grown man ever since he was a young lad. He knows what he wants, he knows the personnel he wants, he knows the the defense that they’re going to present at him, and he doesn’t make a lot of mental mistakes. He’s not going to allow routes one step too long or ball placement in the wrong place. He’s going to do what he needs to do to get us to the next level.”
As a coach, having a quarterback you know on that level can take the relationship to the next level.
“It’s good to have a quarterback where you know his strengths and you know what he likes to do. And it’s great that that happens to be your son. And you know what buttons to push, too.”
TCU made an appearance in the College Football Playoff national championship game last season. They upset Michigan in the semifinal to reach the championship game, before ultimately losing 65-7 to Georgia. Coach Sanders says he has the utmost respect for TCU head coach Sonny Dykes.
“He’s really not just a good good guy on camera and a fool off camera,” Sanders said. “That guy is authentic and I love who he is, I love what he stands for, what he did for the SMU program. I was coaching high school and we had a lot of guys being looked at for SMU and what he did with that program, and to go to TCU, coach of the year, and to take that school to another level, is unbelievable. So I have a lot of respect for that man and he will have that team ready.”
TCU has lost a lot of starters from that College Football Playoff team, but Coach Prime says that experience on that team still reigns supreme.
“These guys shocked the world,” Sanders said. “They shook everything up. They came from behind a plethora of times last year and what they did was unthinkable, unfathomable, and these guys remember that so they have a locked room immerse with winners, and I like that. I like that challenge.”
Temperatures in Fort Worth, where CU will meet TCU, are forecast to reach nearly 100 degrees. Hydration will be key, and that’s not something lost on Coach Prime, who spent many years of his NFL career playing in the Texas heat.
“We started to hydrate them last week,” Sanders said. “I put signs on everything in the cafeteria, water and gatorade only. You can’t wait until a couple of days before the game. The team that’s always losing is the team that’s always tired. The team that’s winning, they never tire. You never see guys cramping up on the team that’s winning. We hope to be the team on the upside.”
Sanders brings energy wherever he goes, and the football field is no different. He says the key to victory is the speed of the game.
“You’ve got two offenses that pride themselves on tempo, tempo, tempo,” Sanders said. “So we’ve been practicing tempo. The things about it is that they inherited a lot of players from the SEC or Power Fives, as well as we did.”
Sanders and his staff have welcomed in NFL veterans and Hall of Fame members such as Terrell Owens, Warren Sapp, and Michael Irvin to mentor the team. Sanders says the whole point of getting the team access to legendary players is to set the players up for success in all aspects of life.
“First of all, you have to introduce these young men to success,” Sanders said. ” Sometimes they’ve never seen success up close. They could catch them in the cafeteria, the training room, the weight room, and then ask them personal questions about how do you do this, how do you overcome this adversity, how did you do this? And these guys are 100% honest, and they have so much inside of them. Like, Warren Sapp has so much inside of him but rarely does he come across defensive lineman that he could just give all this information to.”
The mentoring by former players is something Sanders says he wishes he had access to as a young player.
“I wish I could have had someone that could say, ‘okay, I gotta be that,'” Sanders said. “So I took bits and pieces of people that I never touched, I never saw. I never saw Lee, I never saw Hank Aaron, or Dr. J. I never saw these young men that I wanted to emulate or imitate. I never saw them, met them until I was deep into retirement. But just to have these guys on board, it’s unbelievable hearing the conversations from these young men. It’s not all about football. The majority of it is about life.
Off the field, Sanders says he likes to stay active in retirement. In particular, he’s developed a love of bass fishing.
“I have a couple lakes on my property, and I love bass fishing. The peace and serenity, and the challenge. I’m an athlete, I’ve got to have a challenge, you know that. So I can’t just meander off into the sunset, I’ve got to have some type of challenge and bass fishing is a tremendous challenge.”
He says the similarities between bass fishing and football are something he could use with the team.
“It’s a great metaphor,” Sanders said. “Especially with choosing the correct bait to lure the bass to catch and the water temperature and the height and it’s so many things I could translate into.”
CU takes on TCU in the season opener for both teams Saturday at 10 a.m. Romi Bean and CBS Sports Colorado will be live from Fort Worth covering the game. You can watch Coach Prime’s Playbook every Thursday at 6:30 p.m. on CBS News Colorado.