It took two days for Deion Sanders to start putting together a better coaching staff than the peanut gallery pushing the buttons at Dove Valley. Two. Stinking. Days.
Ralphie 1, Thunder 0. While CU athletic director Rick George is spending money he openly admits the Buffs don’t have in a what-the-heck Hail Mary to be fun and relevant, Broncos CEO Greg Penner, who has more cash at his disposal than any other ownership group in the NFL, keeps sitting on his wallet.
While Nathaniel Hackett is driving Broncos Country into the nearest ditch, Coach Prime has former Florida State coach Willie Taggart on speed dial. While Russell Wilson has more bathrooms in his home (12) than passing touchdowns on the season (eight), Sanders just locked down one of the most fearless offensive play-callers in college football.
And more are on the way. Another former collegiate head coach, ex-Broncos assistant Tim Brewster, sources say, is also expected to join the party in Boulder. And birdies are chirping that there’s an offer out from Prime to Mike Zimmer, Sanders’ old pal and the former Minnesota Vikings head coach, to run the CU defense.
We’re barely 72 hours into The Prime Era in Boulder, and it’s already painfully obvious that Sanders gets what Hackett didn’t: Coordinators matter. Game-day management matters. Experience matters.
Several reports indicate Coach Prime recently landed his play-caller: former Kent State coach Sean Lewis, who’s leaving a head-coaching gig with the Golden Flashes — where he was 22-21 over the last four seasons and won a MAC East division title in 2021 — to take up the offensive coordinator post in Boulder.
Like CU and the Pac-12, Kent State is one of the MAC’s tougher gigs relative to league peers. Yet in five seasons with the Flashes, Lewis took KSU to as many bowl games (two) as the program had seen over the 46 years prior.
A proponent of no-huddle, up-tempo attacks, Lewis had the Flashes jumping from 12.8 points per game the season before he arrived to 23.9 in Year 1. Year 2: 29.2. Year 3: 49.8. Year 4: 33.0. Year 5: 28.4. Former CU interim coach Mike Sanford is as good a soul as you’ll find among a cutthroat coaching community. But schematically, it’s an upgrade.
Georgia this fall gave up 21 points or more to only three teams: LSU in the SEC championship (30); Missouri back on Oct. 1. (22); and to Lewis on Sept. 24 (22). According to 247Sports’ Roster rankings, the Bulldogs trotted out the second-most talented squad in the country. Lewis turned up between the hedges with a team ranked No. 120th. Yet he trailed by just six points, 19-13, with two minutes to go until halftime.
If landing Deion Sanders gives Buffs football a face again, hiring Lewis gives them something else, something that’s been elusive in Boulder for years: A distinct offensive style.
Once Ralphie’s done running, CU is probably going to try match her pace. Lewis’ offenses — dubbed the “Flash Fast” system at KSU — prided themselves on pushing the pedal to the floor. The Golden Flashes averaged 75.1 offensive plays last fall in FBS-on-FBS matchups, tied for 24th in the country, after finishing 13th in ’21 and second in ’20. They weren’t always clean. They weren’t always efficient. But brother, they were fun.
Now imagine that tempo run with better athletes. And with better athletes at altitude. Sanders wasn’t kidding about the importance of conditioning in the spring and summer. The Buffs are going to try to gas the other team until they drop, to use Boulder’s elevation — 5,318 feet above sea level — as a weapon instead of an excuse.
And look — big picture, I have no idea how the heck CU is going to afford this, either. As my better half put it Tuesday morning, “It’s like (they said), ‘(Expletive) it, I’m getting a Lamborghini, I’m going for cool, I’ll worry about the bill later.’”
Prime is the Lambo. So is everything Prime brings with him, from the recruits to the staffers to the swag. If you’re diving headfirst into a mid-life crisis, why not look good doing it?
This isn’t designed to be a sensible marriage. This is not the coaching hire you bring home to meet the parents first.
Heck, no. This is the “fun” spouse. It’s going to be wild, passionate, electric, different, and all kinds of weird. Won’t be cheap. Won’t be boring, either. Given a choice, whose body of work would you rather pay to watch right now: Lewis, or Justin Outten?
The Buffs are coming, baby. With Lewis on board, they’re coming fast. They’re daring you to look away.
The Broncos, meanwhile, keep daring you to ignore them. And if things keep up, it won’t be long until tens of thousands finally, happily, oblige.
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