Shedeur Sanders’ status as the Big Man On Campus was assumed from the moment he arrived in Boulder with his dad. But on Saturday at Folsom Field, the quarterback went out and cemented that title heading into the 2023 season.
Playing with confidence and showing off his big arm, Sanders completed 16 of 19 passes for 219 yards and two TDs, and also ran for a seven-yard TD.
It was just the spring game — one in which he was wearing a gold “hands off” jersey — against the Buffs’ second-team defense. But the performance emphasized Sanders’ primary role in the Buffs’ potential turnaround under head coach Deion Sanders. And after a 23-3 record as the Jackson State starter over the past two years, the younger Sanders is ready for the spotlight.
“Now I’ve got a couple years under my belt, so I know how to get the best out of guys,” Sanders said. “I know exactly what I want and I’m able to step up and lead us in the right direction.”
As Sanders addressed the media scrum after the scrimmage, wearing a black long-sleeved shirt partially unzipped so that his oversized No. 2 diamond necklace shimmered, the QB gave credit to the array of playmakers at receiver. Even with Jimmy Horn Jr. not suiting up Saturday, two-way starter and the nation’s top transfer recruit Travis Hunter got the crowd’s attention with three catches on the opening drive, capped by a 14-yard touchdown.
Sanders also got junior Montana Lemonious-Craig involved, as the receiver had a TD catch in both halves, while freshman Kaleb Mathis made an impression with five catches. Mathis looked speedy and dynamic out of the slot.
“I’m proud of the whole receiver corps, stepping up even though we didn’t have Jimmy today,” Sanders said. “And I’m proud of (Mathis) for stepping into the moment as just a freshman. Before the game I gave him the look like, ‘I trust you bro.’”
Coach Prime indicated he was pleased with Sanders’ first performance in black and gold, and the same for Hunter, who gave up just one reception on defense in a shutdown performance at cornerback.
Other aspects of the scrimmage, like the Buffs’ special teams — one extra point was blocked and run back, and another blocked field goal was nearly housed as well — clearly need work.
“I was looking for certain people to do certain things, and the certain people I was looking at did those certain things really well,” Deion Sanders said. “Some things as far as special teams/field goal, that was horrible. That was hot, hot garbage. I didn’t want to see that anymore so I didn’t let them kick in the second half, except for that other block. Two scoop-and-scores, darn-near… that is uncalled for.”
Coach Prime was also quick to point out that Sanders and his unit are still settling into offensive coordinator Sean Lewis’ system. He added that his son is going to need more playmakers beyond Horn, Hunter, Lemonious-Craig and Mathis in order to reach his potential this fall.
“Shedeur alone, this is his third different scheme in three years and that’s alarming, but these young men have picked it up quick,” Deion Sanders said. “We need to find some (more playmakers) who can step up around him and do the things we’re expecting Shedeur to do as well.”
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