Colorado Transport Gate Exodus: The numbers behind the extreme purge of Deion Sanders’ slate

In Colorado, Monday morning began with second-year player Shacon Bowser hitting the NCAA conversion gate at 8:14 a.m. local time.

Wide receiver Montana Lemonious-Craig, one of the rising stars of the Buffaloes’ spring game on Saturday, entered after a few minutes. Backup offensive lineman Jackson Anderson was next. Then safety Terene Taylor, a 10-game start last year.

At noon, it’s time to purge the roster: 11 scholarship players became available on the transfer portal in less than an hour.

By the end of the day, Colorado had sent 18 players to the gate.

Deion Sanders is pursuing the most dramatic change to a first-year roster we’ve seen in the transfer gate era, and he made that very clear on Monday. Since his December appointment, Sanders has never shy away from his plans to radically overhaul his roster. After a 1-11 season, the program needs all the help it can get. The new staff has imported more than 40 newcomers from Jackson State and all over the country, and they’re far from done.

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“You all know we’re going to go from some of the team and we’re going to reload and get some kids that we really empathize with,” Sanders said after the spring game. “So this process is going to be quick, it’s going to be fast, but we’re going to get it done.”

The cost of those efforts: No school has put more players in the gate than Colorado. After Monday’s departure, Colorado State has now seen 46 scholarship players enter the transfer portal in 2022-23, 41 of whom have exited since Sanders took over. No other Power 5 has lost more than 29 in this course.

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Colorado had 83 players on scholarship at the start of the 2022 season. Only 20 are still on the roster as of Monday night.

Newly recruited coaches try to quickly flip their rosters to load hand-picked recruits. This is standard operating procedure in college football, and it is common to see this significant attrition occur over the first 12-24 months of the period. What is not normal is so many players escaping in the first six months.

Sanders was appointed Dec. 3. Four scholarship players had already entered the gate during the season. A total of 18 players were graduating or having exhausted their eligibility, including 15 players with starting experience.

After Sanders took over, 10 players went to the gate or left the program in the winter. That left Colorado with 51 returning scholarship players this spring. Since college football’s spring transfer portal window opened on April 15, the Buffaloes have had 31 other scholarship players enter the gate.

Thirteen of those players transferred before Colorado finished spring training. “I didn’t fire them,” Sanders said Saturday. But he followed that up by making it clear he plans to make more roster changes after the spring game.

“We have to make some decisions,” Sanders said. “That would be on me now. That was on them. Now that would be on me.”

Departures and roster cuts wiped out several years of recruiting classes for the Buffaloes. The former Colorado employees brought in 32 new scholarship players for 2022. There are only seven left. Eighteen of the 23 freshmen are now in the gate. The program is down to four scholarship players still on the team from the class of 2021, four from 2020 and another four from 2019.

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What they have left are 10 of the 41 players who started last season. Of the players who walked out through the gate, 21 players had starting experience. Defensive lineman Jalen Sammy and offensive lineman Jake Wiley are the only running backs to have recorded more than 10 starts in the program.

In many positions—quarterback, running back, cornerback and safety—it’s up to one returning bonus player. Lemonious-Craig, Jordyn Tyson, Ty Robinson, Grant Page, and Chase Sowell entering the gate on Monday means all 10 scholarship recipients from last year’s team have either graduated or are transferring.

POS players Lost back

QB

5

4

1

RB

5

4

1

WR

10

10

T.E

6

3

3

O.L

14

8

6

DL

9

8

1

OLB

7

5

2

ILB

8

4

4

Cb

8

7

1

s

9

8

1

palm

2

2

the total

83

63

20

All of this attrition has been facilitated by several recent rule changes that are helping first-year coaches rebuild the 85-man scholarship roster in the gate era. USC played for a Pac-12 title in Lincoln Riley’s senior season after losing 21 scholarships and reloads. The freshman coaching staff of Arizona State, USF, Cincinnati and Liberty have lost more than 20 transfers in this gate cycle. After Monday, none of them came close to matching Colorado’s cleanup.

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Sanders now has room to bring in over 60 newcomers ahead of his first season in Boulder. The Two Deeps will be full of players he and his crew have landed who bring the starting experience from their previous stops and fit into his vision.

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And whether they want to leave or not, the more than 30 former Colorado players now need to find a new home.

“I am a change agent,” Sanders said Saturday. “And I shall be confused, anything I touch, has no other possibilities than to change. Because that is what we do.”

(Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

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