Travis Gray thought it was Sunday. The day after the nationally televised snowy spring football game in Colorado, the offensive lineman was having lunch at Olive Garden. He had a meeting with coach Deion Sanders scheduled for 3 p.m. Monday — until his phone rang with a text from offensive line coach Bill O’Boyle.
This meeting has been adjourned. It started in 30 minutes. An apologetic O’Boyle was waiting in the lobby of the team facility. As they were making their way toward Sanders’ office, O’Boyle told him what was going on.
“He walks up to me and says, ‘Hey buddy, you’re going to get circumcised today.'” I’m sorry to tell you this. I didn’t want you to hear it from Coach Prime. I wanted you to hear it from my mouth. I didn’t want to cut you down, but we had to cut off five chasing guys, and I was the last one,” said Gray the athlete Tuesday evening.
When Gray walked into Sanders’ office, his head was lowered. Then he looked.
“I was like, ‘Oh, my God.'” “I saw the mean mug in his face,” said Gray. “You’re 6-foot-8 and 320 pounds. I know in my heart that the school will pick you up at the gate when you come in. Make your weaknesses your strengths and keep moving forward. I hope you have a great future.” It won’t be here at the University of Colorado.”
Gray was disappointed. Aurora, Colorado’s father, Lamar Gray, was an outside linebacker on the 1990 Colorado National Championship team. His dream of following in his father’s footsteps ended after only one year on campus.
Most of the 23 Colorado players who entered the transfer portal or announced their plans on Monday and Tuesday have been told to do so, the players said.
Defensive coordinator Charles Kelly called safety Jeremy Mack Jr., who made 48 tackles last year and worked with the first-team defense most of the spring, for a meeting with Sanders as well.
Coach Prime just told me, ‘We have plans to go another route. I competed. “I did everything we wanted for you this spring,” said Mack, “and you made a fight the athlete on monday. “It was my first meeting with Coach Prime since I’ve been here.”
Since arriving in Colorado in December from Jackson State amid fanfare and intrigue, Sanders has warned that a roster change was coming for a program that went 1-11 last season.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame gushed over his team at their first meeting, referring to the luxury brand Louis Vuitton as a way of announcing that better players were joining the program: “I carry my stuff with me, and it’s Louis.” “I want you all to get ready to go ahead and jump that gate.… The higher you jump, the more space you make.”
In the era of the transfer gate, firing players has never been easier or more common, but no one has done it on such a massive scale as Sanders. Buffalo has entered a total of 51 games or said they plan to since the gate first opened in December — 46 since Sanders took over on Dec. 2. No other program has lost more than 29 players.
The staggering numbers behind Colorado’s Deion slate purge
As with any coaching change, there is no single reason why players should leave. Some do it of their own free will, others less so.
Montana Lemonius-Craig starred in the spring game on Saturday, but went into the gate on Monday. Lemonious-Craig’s special coach Malik James, who did not explain the receiver’s decision to hit the gate, said he was “one of the few kids who wasn’t taken out” from the program. “He loves Coach Prime and the program.”
Over the weekend, Sanders reiterated that Colorado would make room for the upcoming transfers Sanders had been chasing.
“You all know we’re going to transition from some of the team, we’re going to reload and get some kids that we really empathize with,” Sanders said after Saturday’s spring game. “So this process is going to be quick, it’s going to be fast, but we’re going to get it done.”
“We have to make some decisions,” Sanders continued. “That will be on me now.”
the athlete I reached out to dozens of Colorado transfers and spoke with five players who left the program — three who left before Saturday and two who were cut on Sunday — to get a clearer picture of how the roster rotates within the Buffaloes program.
Mac might have been surprised, but to the other players, it was obvious where Sanders and his crew were investing their efforts. Players said there was a line between returning players and newcomers.
“None of the new coaches will talk to the old players and treat us like the people who brought them in,” said Zach Courtney, who entered the transfer portal on April 19. a lot in the movie. The coaches will tell them to do better, but if it’s an old player, they’ll keep talking about the mistake you made and keep yelling about it.”
Eight Jackson State transfers were on Colorado’s spring roster. One is Sanders’ son, Chador Sanders, whom Sanders introduced as the starting quarterback at his introductory press conference. Another is Travis Hunter, the highest-ranked recruit in the country in the Class of 2022.
This duo helped Sanders, in his first college coaching job, post a 27-6 record in three seasons at the historic Black College and University, highlighted by a 23-3 record in his final two seasons. Sanders’ success on the field and his faltering recruiting prowess in prospects like Hunter and a host of Power 5 transfers have made him a desirable candidate on the coaching circuit.
To date, the Buffaloes have accepted 29 incoming transfers, some of them March this spring, with more expected to arrive this summer. College football recently eliminated the 25-position limit in one class, allowing new coaches to turn the roster around faster than ever before.
Players have until April 30 to enter the transfer portal, but teams can continue to add players to their roster after the deadline.
The five players the athlete I spoke with one constant fact for the players Worth Sanders: He spent little time training or speaking with them.
“I felt like he was more of a motivational speaker. He gives good advice, but he never really spoke to me once,” Courtney said. “I never really got to experience his coaching.”
“It’s absolutely nothing to do with him. I said what’s up to him several times,” said Gray, who trained with the second team before an injury during a brawl forced him to miss spring training for two days. “I’m not sure he knows the names of half the kids he got rid of. He was worried about who brought him in. If I was on Team 1-11, it seemed like he wasn’t interested in us at all. He already said he was going to get rid of 25-30 of us, and that’s exactly what he did.”
Defensive back Simeon Harris, who entered the transfer portal on April 17 after making 21 tackles as a true freshman in 2022, said he has accepted the new coach’s style of play.
He’s old-school and down-to-earth, and he’ll be honest with you,” Harris said. “I didn’t really talk to him much, but you say what happens in the elevator, say good morning, things like that.”
Two players said they experienced what they perceived as favoritism towards newcomers and noted that while many of the new players who moved fit in well with the team, most of those who arrived from Jackson State kept to themselves.
Sanders chose to have players earn their jersey numbers in spring training, with newcomer Hunter being the first player to earn his number.
“Everything you do here will earn. We give you nothing,” Sanders told the team, according to a video posted to YouTube this spring. “So you have to go get it, and you have to take it.”
Cameras are common at the facility during practice, documenting the program for an upcoming reality show and a variety of YouTube channels covering the program and the players within.
Added one player who is converting and asked to remain anonymous so he has no problem finding a new school: “Wherever the camera is, that’s where Deion is.”
Both Harris and Mack indicated they loved playing with Kelly, the Sanders defensive coordinator who came to Colorado after four seasons working under Nick Saban at Alabama.
Sanders, for his part, continued to speak out about the expected roster overhaul during spring training this month.
“What you see is not what you will see,” he said on April 15 of the spring game.
As he noted: “We are not upset that someone jumped in the gate and left. We are happy about the young people we have come to because they are the difference-makers. They really are the difference-makers.”
Did players like Mac have the option to stay and not move?
“I don’t think so,” said Mac. “At the end of the day, I knew I did everything I could to play the ball. I understood how I had to take it. It was just beyond my control.”
A recent NCAA rule change allows first-year coaches to cut players from the roster as long as they also honor their scholarships even though they are no longer part of the football program. Asked about the rule, a Colorado spokesperson said the university plans to honor all NCAA rules and regulations.
Gray said he was offered the chance to keep his scholarship and not play football and had not heard from any of his teammates who did not receive that offer.
“All the players who are in the transfer window, we want to play football,” said Gray.
Last year, USC head coach Lincoln Riley used the rule to drop 10 scholarship players from the roster while trying to quickly reformulate the program.
The 46 transfers since Sanders’ arrival is a mixture of players who have contributed at different levels. Some played little or nothing at all in their time in Boulder.
Others like running back Deion Smith and receiver Jordyn Tyson, both of whom hit the gate on Monday, lead the team in rushing and receiving in 2022, respectively.
Lemonious-Craig caught a 98-yard touchdown in the spring game and led the team in receptions with 23 last year, totaling 239 yards and three scores. Pre-season MVP Nico Reed left the team and walked into the gate last week.
Casey Roddick, one of the team’s captains last season and best offensive lineman, landed at Florida State and joined the Seminoles before the spring after starting 30 games and playing in 42 for the Buffaloes. Cornerback Kaylin Moore started 14 games and committed to Cal after entering the transfer gate.
Other Buffaloes have landed in Boise State (WR Chase Perry), Charlotte (Austin Johnson) and Southern Illinois (Ol Noah Vinsky). Three quarterbacks – JT Shrout, Owen McCown, and Maddox Kopp – ended up signing with Arkansas State, UTSA and Miami (Ohio), respectively.
But the majority of those who left Colorado have yet to find new homes. Some may search for a while. Others, like Lemonious-Craig, received offers from top schools like Auburn, Penn State, and Arkansas almost immediately.
The transfer portal has given players more freedom of movement than ever before, and players who leave Colorado will have immediate eligibility.
“He was a businessman,” Mack said of Sanders.
And changes to the rules benefiting first-year coaches mean the cold reality is that college football is a business that’s coming home to more players more quickly than ever before.
“For the new players, this spring has been very exciting,” Courtney said. “But for the older guys, people didn’t really feel like we were wanted there. It was hanging down. Sad.”
Said Gray: “We had faith in him and his methods and even though he told us he was bringing Lewis with him and suggested we all take him on, we still stuck with him until we all cut short on Sunday. He’s trying to do his own thing and make his own team. It’s going to be a whole new team I hope he has what he’s looking for.”
(Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
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