Colorado coach Deion Sanders in market for 'portal QBs, plural' as transfer portal opens

Colorado football coach Deion Sanders is in the market for “older quarterbacks” in the transfer portal this month after a recent series of developments at that position for the Buffaloes, including a back injury suffered by his starting quarterback son Shedeur.

Sanders said in an interview with USA TODAY Sports Monday that Shedeur was on pace to heal from a fracture in his back by the spring and will return to Boulder for his final season of college eligibility as a senior in 2024, along with his brother Shilo, a safety for Colorado. Their father still wants insurance for the most important position in football and downplayed the recent decision by two high school quarterback recruits to change their minds about joining Colorado in 2024 and 2025.

Sanders discussed these topics and more during an interview about Season 2 of his documentary series “Coach Prime” on Amazon Prime Video, which debuts Thursday.

“Right now, we’re looking for older quarterbacks, because we plan on winning,” Deion Sanders said. “So if something were to happen to Shedeur, they could step right in and make it happen. That’s what we’re looking for. We’ve already mapped out what we need in each position way before the season concluded. So we already knew and know what we’re looking for. So we’re right on pace to go find what we’re looking for, and we know where it is.”

Colorado coach Deion Sanders said QB Shedeur Sanders is healing from his fractured back and will return to Boulder for the 2024 season.
Colorado coach Deion Sanders said QB Shedeur Sanders is healing from his fractured back and will return to Boulder for the 2024 season.

What does Deion Sanders have in mind?

Does that mean he’s looking for a quarterback in the transfer portal, which opened for business Monday?

“Portal QBs, plural,” Sanders said.

It works to his advantage that Season 2 of “Coach Prime” on Amazon starts Thursday, the same week the portal opens, helping serve as a high-profile recruiting advertisement for the Colorado football program with its behind-the-scenes look at Sanders’ first season at Boulder in 2023. Sanders and his agents have editorial control over the project. That’s the goal of it.

“It’s going to instill hope in a multitude of people,” Sanders said via Zoom. “I love everything about it. It helps us recruit. It helps us establish who these young men are.”

TRANSFER PORTAL: Tracking top players in the college football transfer portal

Will Shedeur Sanders definitely return to Colorado in 2024?

Despite setting a school record for most passing yards in a season, Shedeur Sanders was the most-sacked quarterback in major college football in 2023 with 52 sacks. He missed the last game and a half after suffering an arm injury, an ankle injury and a fracture in his back.

He only has one season of college eligibility remaining and could enter the NFL draft next year if he wanted to, especially to cash in on his football value instead of risking further injury in college. So could his brother Shilo.  But both have been expected to return to Colorado in 2024 after the team finished 4-8 in 2023. Sanders reaffirmed that notion when asked if they are definitely returning to Boulder.

“I would think so,” he said with a laugh. “They’re my sons. I would pray so.”

But it's ultimately up to them, right?

“It’s up to us,” Sanders said. “We do things as a family, and my sons respect the heck out of me and my decision-making and getting them to where they desire to go. … It’s always been our dream that they’re going into the draft together, and we didn’t know how that would manifest itself with (the COVID-19 pandemic) and everything. It just so happened properly that they’re going in the same draft at the conclusion of next season.”

What is Shedeur Sanders' health status?

A back injury can be a serious thing. Will he be able to throw again at spring practice?

“He’s OK,” his father said. “Shedeur is on some island right now having a good time enjoying the fruits of his labor. So he’s gonna be OK. Shedeur’s a trouper. He’s a fighter. He’s strong-willed. He does what he needs to do to heal to get the process started. He just needs rest. He took a lot of shots. He took more shots than probably any other quarterback in the country, and that’s our fault, because we’ve got to shore up that offensive line. That’s what we’re doing in the portal today − trying to shore up that offensive line to make sure we have protection for him, because he can flat-out play this game.”

What about quarterbacks after Shedeur Sanders?

Colorado recently lost two starting offensive linemen who said they plan to enter the portal and leave the team. The Buffs also recently had two high school quarterback recruits renege on their commitments to join the team in 2024 and 2025. Sanders didn’t talk about those recruits by name but noted one of them was a recruit closely tied to former Colorado offensive coordinator Sean Lewis, who recently left to become head coach at San Diego State. The other quarterback, Antwann Hill, was set to join the team in 2025.

“That’s a long way away to stay in love,” Sanders said of 2025.

Sanders then noted that freshman quarterback Ryan Staub performed well in Shedeur’s absence in Colorado’s last game, a 23-17 loss at Utah.

“You’ve got to understand our backup quarterback did a great job in the last game,” Sanders said. “Now that discouraged some people as well. He played a great game against Utah, so that was discouraging to some recruits as well.”

Will Pat Shurmur be the offensive coordinator in 2024?

“Yeah, most likely,” Sanders said.

Shurmur, a former NFL head coach, took over play-calling duties for the final four games of the season after Lewis called plays for the first eight. The team’s offensive production went down under Shurmur, but that also could be attributed to the demise of Shedeur’s health and a beaten-down offensive line.

What did Deion Sanders say about Sean Lewis leaving?

Sanders was seen expressing displeasure at Lewis after a sack of Shedeur in a loss to UCLA. Lewis’ subsequent demotion from play-calling duties increased speculation of friction between Lewis and Sanders. But Sanders boasted of Lewis’ elevation to head coach at San Diego State as a badge of honor for his program.

“I get my wisdom from (Alabama) coach (Nick) Saban,” Sanders said. “Man, there’s not a year goes by that Coach Saban don’t lose how many coaches? Because they elevate. That's part of the game, and I want them to elevate. … Coach Lewis came with the intention of having a great year and leaving. That’s what it was … That's what the plan was, and the plan was executed. Nothing has transpired that has caught us off guard. Not one thing.”

Will there be a Season 3 of 'Coach Prime' on Amazon?

“I would welcome it, because this stuff is good,” Sanders said.

Season 2 debuts Thursday and picks up after Season 1, which focused on Sanders’ final season as coach at Jackson State, right up to when he was announced as Colorado’s head coach on Dec. 4, 2022, one year ago Monday.

Sanders noted a storyline in the new season which delves into the relationship between Colorado receiver Jimmy Horn Jr. and his incarcerated father.

“The promise I made to his father was I was going to look out for him and take care of him,” Sanders said of Horn Jr. “And some of the things we talk about throughout the game, like, 'Hey man, Pop is watching you. Let’s go!' And then he goes out and makes (a big play). It’s phenomenal. I mean, this stuff is made for television, and you get a chance to see behind the curtains.”

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Deion Sanders wants 'older quarterbacks,' linemen in transfer portal