Colorado’s Deion Sanders sees mass player exodus, but it was expected

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Deion Sanders issued several warnings about his roster strategy after his hiring at Colorado in early December.

The Buffaloes’ new football coach has told his inherited players that “we’re going to try to make you quit,” that “we’re gonna move on” from some players and that he wanted them to “get ready to go ahead and jump” in the transfer portal to leave.

On Saturday after his first spring game in Boulder, the threat grew more imminent:

“We’ve got to make some decisions,” he said. “That’s gonna be on me now.”

Then came Sunday and Monday, when at least 18 Colorado players said they were headed for the exits, as of Monday afternoon.

It’s not clear how many were nudged out the door by Sanders and his staff or how many decided to leave on their own, because there were some individual surprises. Receiver Montana Lemonious-Craig, who had a big spring game on Saturday, was among those saying they were entering the transfer portal, which remains open until April 30.

“You all know we’re gonna move on from some of the team members, and we gonna reload,” Sanders said Saturday after he concluded his spring practice season. “We’ve got to get some kids we really identify with, so this process is going to be quick. It’s going to be fast, but we gonna get it done.”

This is not an alarming or unexpected exodus. It is instead part of an unprecedented roster overhaul in which Sanders is bringing in dozens of transfer players to win now and revamp a program that finished 1-11 last season. To make room for the newcomers under the 85-scholarship roster limit, he needs a number of his inherited players to leave the team, one way or another.

Sanders talked about this in his first team meeting at Colorado in December, when he told his inherited players, ‘I want you all to get ready to go ahead and jump in that portal.’

Sanders started the spring with 51 scholarship players who were on last year’s team, but 31 of them already have opted to leave.

All of the players leaving were part of a program that has had only two winning seasons in the past 17 years. That includes two talented players who led the team in catches last year: Lemonious-Craig (23 catches for 359 yards) and Jordyn Tyson, who had 22 receptions for 470 yards before suffering a season-ending knee injury in November.

“This was not an easy decision, but one that I have thought long and hard about,” Tyson said in a message posted on Twitter Monday.

Running back Deion Smith was Colorado’s leading rusher last year but also said Monday he was entering the portal. He rushed 83 times last year for 393 yards.

“I will be entering the portal as a graduate transfer,” Smith said on Twitter. “God makes no mistakes.”

While those players are leaving, many others are already coming. In February, Sanders announced a class of 42 newcomers, including 21 players from other four-year colleges who already transferred in for the spring semester. More are expected to commit before the start of fall practice.

The Buffaloes’ recruiting class of 29 transfers for 2023 ranks No. 1 nationally, largely by virtue of its size as the biggest in the nation, according to 247Sports. By the fall, more than 60 of Sanders’ 85 scholarship players could be newcomers. 

“The team that we’re playing with now is not the team that we’re going to play with in Texas the first game,” Sanders said April 8.

Colorado opens the season at TCU Sept. 2.

Follow reporter Brent Schrotenboer @Schrotenboer. E-mail:

This post appeared first on USA TODAY