BOULDER — When asked by reporters for a fair quarterback comp for incoming CU quarterback Shedeur Sanders, the new QB1 and son of first-year coach Deion Sanders, Buffs wide receivers coach Brett Bartolone went long. And Strong.
As in, former Nevada great Carson Strong.
“As far as arm talent goes (the younger Sanders) is as good as I’ve seen at this level,” Bartolone said during a meet-the-assistants news conference for Coach Prime’s new hires this past Thursday, the staff’s first engagement with Colorado media. “I’ve been around guys (such as) Carson Strong, who was a two-time (first-team) Mountain West player at Nevada. And I mean, (Strong) could touch anywhere on the field (with a ball) …
“(Sanders) understands what defenses are trying to do to him. You know, as a quarterback, he has a very, very high IQ level, he really does.”
With Sanders, Buffs fans would happily take the second coming of Cam Ward, especially as their backstories share more than a few parallels.
Like the younger Sanders, Ward is a talented Texan who transferred from an FCS power (Incarnate Word) to the Pac-12 (Washington State), only his move was between the 2021 and ’22 seasons. And like Sanders now, there were questions as to whether the latter would have the same success at Wazzu as he did against lower-level competition.
The short version? Ward delivered.
After throwing for 47 scores and 4,678 yards at the FCS level in 2021, the young quarterback had 3,231 yards through the air with 23 TD passes during his first season with the Cougars last fall, helping steer Wazzu to a win at Wisconsin, a 7-6 record and a berth in the Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl.
Coming off a 1-11 season, Buffs fans would savor seven wins and a postseason berth this fall.
“Shedeur is good. He’s been very good,” Brandon Huffman, 247Sports.com national recruiting analyst, told The Post recently. “Sure, it will be a jump, like Cam Ward’s was from Incarnate Word to Washington State.
“The difference (between Sanders and former Michigan and UNC Bears QB Dylan McCaffrey is that) McCaffrey was pretty average in college and didn’t ‘wow’ you, even in high school — at major events, he struggled and saw his stock plunge. Sanders is much better and (was) far more successful in college.”
The 6-foot-2 Sanders dominated at Jackson State last fall the way Ward did at Incarnate Word two years ago, completing 70.6% of his throws for 3,732 yards and 40 touchdowns with only six picks.
And when a coach is comparing your arm to the one Strong flashed in Reno, it’s a compliment.
Bartolone worked with Strong as part of then-Wolf Pack coach and current CSU Rams boss Jay Norvell’s staff before joining Deion Sanders and Jackson State in January 2022. From 2018-’21, Strong threw for a whopping 9,379 yards in 32 games with the Pack, putting up 74 touchdowns against just 19 interceptions. Rams fans will recall his final regular-season appearance as a collegian well, as he torched CSU at Canvas Stadium for four passing touchdowns during a 52-10 rout that proved to be the final nail in the coffin for the Steve Addazio Era.
Over two seasons at the FCS level, Sanders faced an FBS defense just once, however. That came in a visit to Louisiana Monroe, coached by Terry Bowden — son of Deion Sanders’ old college coach, Bobby Bowden — as a freshman in September 2021. The younger Sanders completed 28 of 41 throws for 259 yards with a touchdown and a pick and was sacked three times in a 12-7 defeat.
Not exactly Cam Ward numbers, granted. But not all that far off the mark, either.
“He’s still developing, he’s still young,” Bartolone said of Shedeur Sanders.
“He’s going into his junior year, and this is a big offseason for him, But he has the coaching … he has the coaches around him, he has the offensive line, he’s got receivers around him, he’s got a system around him. It’s just a matter of making sure everyone’s on the same page, and he’s going to do big things this year. There’s no doubt about it.”
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