BOULDER, Colo. — Deion Sanders isn't getting worked up about his Colorado head coaching debut this weekend. Nor does he share in his detractors' concerns about his players in the trenches.
Sanders went 27-6 in three seasons at Jackson State before he was hired at Colorado, which is coming off a 1-11 season yet is one of the more intriguing teams in college football thanks to Coach Prime's arrival and roster makeover.
He makes his Power Five coaching debut Saturday at No. 17 TCU, the national runner-up a year ago.
“I know it may seem like it, but it’s not about me," Sanders said. “And you talking about a big stage. I think I played in the Super Bowl and the World Series. I’m good. I’m good. I’m straight. This is about the kids, man. I want them to go out there and maximize the moment and take advantage of the exposure in the light that they have. And I feel like they will 100%.”
He's equally convinced his offensive line will hold up for his son and starting quarterback Shedeur Sanders and that his defensive line will sufficiently pressure the passer.
His declarations came after ESPN analyst Tom Luginbill's critical comments about Colorado's talent in the trenches after an offseason in which Sanders used the transfer portal to an unprecedented degree, stockpiling players at skill positions.
“I think we’re going to finally see, for all of the hoopla and all of the hype going into the offseason with Deion Sanders and Colorado, it does not mask the fact that they don’t have any players on that roster,” Luginbill said on The Next Round podcast Monday. “You thought UMass was the worst roster in college football? It may be Colorado’s.”
Luginbill added that while Shedeur Sanders is a good QB and there's some stars at cornerback, "they are so devoid of talent up front on both sides of the ball, I don’t know how they’re going to keep their quarterback upright.”
Sanders clapped back online, "wow Have u been here to see any of the talent live?”
After saying at his weekly news conference Tuesday that he sleeps well thinking about his stable of running backs, Sanders was asked if his O-line keeps him up at night.
He answered by lauding his son's decision-making, the receivers and the running backs. “We got an offense that I’m proud of,” Sanders said. "I’m proud of. I’m not shy by any means. I’m proud of what their potential is.”
And the O-line?
“Yeah, yeah," Sanders added, “I feel good about it.”
He'd feel even better had the NCAA not denied immediate eligibility to offensive lineman Tyler Brown, who transferred from Louisiana to Jackson State last season, then followed Sanders to Boulder. Citing mental health reasons, he sought a waiver from the rule requiring second-time transfers to sit out a year.
Sanders said he feels Brown provided sufficient evidence in a video that there was a mental health issue that led to him transferring, and he criticized the NCAA for denying Brown's immediate eligibility.
“It's like, wow, do you really care, or are you just saying you care?” Sanders asked of the NCAA. “Are you caring when it's convenient? Or when it's profitable?”
Sanders expressed faith in his D-line, too.
“We've got some guys that I feel like they will end up in double digits in sacks, a couple of guys on the outside," Sanders said. "On the inside, I feel like Shane Cokes is a pro. We have a distinct rotation in the inside that will keep them fresh. And I think we have one of the best coaches in college football and just coaching, period, in Sal (Sunseri). And then we just happen to have a Hall of Famer drop in just to deposit some nuggets.”
That would be one Warren Sapp, who dropped by Boulder for a visit recently and while he was there got some treatment for an ailing hip.
Having Hall of Famers drop by is one of the perks of playing for Coach Prime, but Sanders had to admonish some receivers recently when they walked right past Michael Irvin in the cafeteria.
“And I say, ‘Hold on! Hold on! You know who this is?” recounted Sanders. “You don’t walk by a Hall of Famer and you play the position of receiver and just walk by and don't even speak. Like, I don't know what this society or this generation does, but we don't do that. ... So they stopped and gave him his love and respect.”
Sanders spent much of the summer getting around on a scooter with a protective boot covering his left foot after undergoing multiple surgeries to remove blood clots and address issues with his toes. He didn't have his boot on Tuesday, which he hoped was a sign he'll be able to lead his players out onto the field Saturday.