Five keys to the CU Buffs’ success in Year 1 under head coach Deion Sanders. CU opens the season Saturday at TCU (10 a.m., Amon G. Carter Stadium).
1. Protect Shedeur Sanders. The Buffs are loaded with speed and off-the-charts potential at the skill positions and in the secondary. Around the line of scrimmage, near the so-called box? Not so much. CU’s fortunes could well go as the offensive line goes. Even with a scheme under new coordinator Sean Lewis that’s designed to get the ball out quickly, neutral observers — and even longtime Buffs fans — have been conditioned to expect the worst when it comes to pocket protection in Boulder. And with TCU, Nebraska, Oregon and USC looming in the first month alone, that mettle will be tested pretty much immediately.
2. Beat Nebraska (duh) and CSU (double duh). There are two types of Buffs fans on social media now: OGs, those who’ve always bled CU black and gold … and Deion Sanders supporters. If Coach Prime can’t close the deal against either a.) the fan base’s most hated rival or b.) the state’s “little brother” program, those two factions of a growing fan base could start to turn on one another. Quickly.
3. Tackle better. Be physical. Please? Since Week 1 of the 2021 season, a span of 24 games, the Buffs have held an opponent to 100 or fewer team rushing yards (checks notes) three times. That’s it. CU went 3-0 in those contests. The Buffs went 2-19 when giving up 101 or more on the ground.
4. Get out of September with at least two wins. Coach Prime hates quitters. He also happens to love other people’s quitters, as long as they join him via the transfer portal. How many current Buffs will still be willing to stick it out with the cameras, the scrutiny and Sanders’ win-now demands if CU stumbles out of the gate with a record of 1-4 or 1-5?
5. Make Travis Hunter remind people of Laviska Shenault. When you’ve got the former No. 1 overall recruit in the country, you don’t get shy when it comes to showing him off. If Hunter wants to take direct snaps out of the Wildcat, find a way. If he wants to run at least one jet sweep per series, find a way. Hey, everybody and their uncle knew Shenault was getting the ball, too. And they still couldn’t stop him half the time. Now Hunter and ‘Viska have different games and different frames — the former is lithe and a leaper; the latter was cut like a bruising linebacker — but the principle should be the same.
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