In our ongoing tour of 2023’s top college football programs, today we’ll delve into another coaching staff: the University of Colorado, under the guidance of first-season coach Deion Sanders. This is the latest outing in a lineup that’s previously featured Charlotte, Western Michigan, Liberty, and USF.
The key to a successful college football coaching staff isn’t an exact science. A range of factors go into the decision-making process, from past relationships with potential staffers, the ability to recruit top prospects, wealth of experience, learning from respected coaches in the field, and more. And, it is crucial for all these ingredients to cohesively fit within the salary budget.
The Roster Overhaul
Sanders and his Colorado coaching team wasted no time morphing the squad to their image, with more than 70 players leaving the fold in what was decreed by some as controversial. Regardless, the use of the transfer portal ensured those departing were swiftly replaced by enthusiastic new Buffs, primed to buy into Sanders’ vision.
The Coordinator Recap
Several members of Sanders’ Jackson State staff followed him to Boulder, two notable additions being Charles Kelly and Sean Lewis. Kelly, returning to defensive play-calling duties, was the associate defensive coordinator and safeties coach under Nick Saban at Alabama. He also brings coordinating experience from Georgia Tech, Florida State, special teams’ coordination experience in Tallahassee and Tennessee.
Sean Lewis, on the other hand, vacated the head coaching position at Kent State to join Sanders. Lewis managed to turnaround Kent State’s program, leading them to two bowl games and a MAC East title in 2021. Prior to that, he was a crucial part of Dino Babers’ coaching family at Bowling Green and Syracuse.
The Most Significant Hire
Without belittling the significance of Lewis and Kelly’s appointments, Sal Sunseri’s acquisition is just as noteworthy. Sunseri has been a defensive coach at several SEC schools, including Alabama and Florida, and has even coordinated an SEC defense at Tennessee. He too joined from the Alabama staff, where his role was special assistant to the head coach.
The Biggest Challenge Ahead
The forthcoming season the Colorado defense will be under scrutiny, facing off against offensive masterminds like Lincoln Riley and Chip Kelly. This will be an essential test before they migrate to the Big Ten in 2024. To succeed in this arena, Sanders’s defensive panel will need to find ways to win against offensive-minded head coaches and their creative playbooks.
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