Colorado Buffaloes Coaching Staff 2023

Much like their roster, the Colorado Buffaloes coaching staff has undergone a dramatic turnaround under first-year head coach Deion Sanders.

Deion Sanders sent out his version of a threatening stampede that began in Boulder, Colorado, and later reverberated both inside the walls of his first meeting with the team. He then stretched across the college football landscape: “I’m Coming.”

The newest Colorado Buffaloes head coach let it be known that change is coming, which even came at the expense of players leaving the program and Sanders revamping the Colorado coaching staff.

Colorado Buffaloes Coaching Staff

Sanders is out to awaken a giant from hibernation with a program that’s only seen one double-digit winning season since 2002 – far different from the three 10+ winning seasons CU had between 1994 to 1996. But along with Sanders, who else is coming to resurrect Buffaloes football? Here’s a deep dive at this 2023 coaching staff.

Head Coach, Deion Sanders

Again, “Coach Prime” is at the forefront of this reclamation project in the Rocky Mountains. And while he’s bringing Louis Vuitton luggage with him to Boulder, he’s bringing the kind of resume that has long-suffering Buffs fans convinced he can bring CU back to national prominence in due time.

Sanders, 55, never had a losing season at Jackson State. And that includes the truncated 2020 season at 4-3. But he left JSU posting a combined 23-3 record in the final two seasons.

Along with producing wins on the field, Sanders added W’s on the recruiting trail as well – notably flipping five-star prospect Travis Hunter to JSU during December 2021. Now at CU, Sanders lured in five-star cornerback Cormani McClain for his first Buffaloes class, who became Colorado’s first five-star signing since Darrell Scott in 2008.

Sanders will have some familiarity with his Buffs staff as it features guys he’s worked with. However, he did lure in a two-time national champion to run his first defense.

Defensive Coordinator, Charles Kelly

Kelly comes to Boulder via the University of Alabama, where he won the 2020 national title alongside Nick Saban. Seven years earlier, he won the title at Sanders’ alma mater, Florida State, as linebackers and special teams coach.

But for Kelly, he gets the “associate coordinator” label off him as he gets full reins of the defense for the first time since the 2017 season with FSU, while also coaching the Buffalo safeties. He was an associate DC and safeties coach last season in Tuscaloosa.

Kelly, 55, is looking to resuscitate a defense that was the nation’s worst in 2022. While early signs point to Kelly installing an odd-man scheme that mimics what the Crimson Tide has done, Kelly told reporters on March 2 that the first CU defense will be built off competitiveness.

With the Tide, Kelly helped coach his share of NFL prospects in Jordan Battle and Brian Branch, who became Day 2 picks for the ’23 draft. Kelly, though, helped turn Jalen Ramsey and Derwin James into CFB stars at FSU before becoming NFL Pro Bowlers.

Offensive Coordinator, Sean Lewis

Lewis gives Sanders a former head coach on the offensive side.

The 37-year-old was most recently guiding Kent State in the MAC. Lewis went 24-31 overall but produced two bowl appearances and made history for the Golden Flashes by producing the program’s first bowl win in 2019.

Known as an offensive whiz, Lewis’s Kent State 2022 offense ranked fifth in the conference by averaging 417.9 yards per game and averaged 28.42 points per contest. Buffalo fans should expect a high dosage of pre-snap motions, misdirection plays, and anything attached to the RPO (run-pass option) side with this offense.

Assistant Head Coach & Running Backs Coach, Gary Harrell

“The Flea” continues the theme of former head coaches on the offensive side of the ball for Sanders’ first CU staff.

Harrell, though, shares one thing in common with “Coach Prime”: He’s a former Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) head coach, as he spent five seasons at Howard University.

Harrell only produced one season above .500 in 2012 (a 7-4 mark) and never attained the success Sanders had, as Harrell went 20-36 overall. Harrell, 51, is one notable JSU assistant crossing over to Boulder. Colorado will also become his first Power 5 coaching opportunity.

Wide Receivers Coach, Brett Bartolone

Bartolone is another member of Sanders’ JSU staff making the journey to the Mountain Time Zone. Bartolone, though, will have a different role under the Sanders regime to start, as he’s transitioning from JSU offensive coordinator to handling the receivers. Bartolone ran an Air Raid-style offense for Sanders and played for the late legendary head coach Mike Leach at Washington State, joining Leach’s first recruiting class for Wazzu in 2012.

Tight Ends Coach, Tim Brewster

Brewster rounds out the former JSU Sanders assistants comprising the offense. Brewster, 62, spent one season in Jackson, Mississippi, as he came via Florida. He’s had previous Power 5 stops with Texas A&M, Florida State (worked with Kelly and was on the national title staff there), and was the head coach at Minnesota from 2007 to 2010, where he produced two bowl appearances but a 15-30 overall record.

Offensive Line Coach, Bill O’Boyle

O’Boyle comes in with Kent State ties to the new Colorado OC, as O’Boyle served as the Golden Flashes’ OL coach from 2018 to 2022. He’ll be seeking athletic trenchmen who can move right away after the snap in this RPO-style offense.

O’Boyle, though, was also a previous college head coach, going 57-21 overall from 2005 to 2011 at Chadron State, which included three straight undefeated seasons in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC) from 2006 to 2008. He’ll aim for new success in his return to The Centennial State.

Defensive Tackles Coach, Sal Sunseri

Sunseri was Sanders’ final coaching hire to Colorado as he joined the staff officially on March 9. He’s also following DC Kelly as Sunseri was the senior special assistant to Saban while also helping coach the outside linebackers. He’s also a past national title winner from the ’13 Florida State team. Lastly, Sunseri has NFL experience via coaching stints with the Carolina Panthers (2002-2008) and Oakland Raiders (2015-2017).

Defensive Ends Coach, Nick Williams

Williams is one of the younger defensive coaches on staff as he last played collegiately in 2012. But he’s worked with past championship coaches Jimbo Fisher (at Texas A&M) and Kirby Smart of Georgia. And Williams is making his mark on the recruiting trail, earning a No. 3 ranking among the best Pac-12 recruiters by 247Sports, which includes getting four-star Omar White of Valdosta High in Leesburg, Georgia, to verbally commit to the 2024 class.

Linebackers Coach, Andre Hart

Hart served as the leader of the linebacker unit under Sanders at JSU. He now gets the same position at CU. While with the Tigers, Hart’s LBs helped get the defense to surrender a SWAC (Southwestern Athletic Conference) low of 2.8 yards per rushing carry. And one of his standouts? Miami Dolphins rookie Aubrey Miller, who led the conference with 109 tackles and added 11.5 tackles for loss with 6.5 sacks.

Cornerbacks Coach, Kevin Mathis

Mathis will be in his third stop alongside Sanders. He not only coached alongside “Coach Prime” in the HBCU ranks but was also with him when Sanders was the head coach of Trinity Christian High School in Texas. Mathis was previously a nine-year NFL veteran and was briefly teammates with Sanders on the Dallas Cowboys.

Special Teams Coordinator, Trevor Reilly

Reilly is entering his fifth coaching season, which began with him as a student-assistant for his alma mater, Utah, in 2018. The former NFL linebacker for the Dolphins, New York Jets, and New England Patriots was a graduate assistant under Sanders at JSU. He now gets his first prominent CFB coaching role in the Pac-12.

Director of Quality Control, Dennis Thurman

Thurman helps complete the first CU staff for “Coach Prime.” The longtime coaching mind was JSU’s defensive coordinator from 2020 to 2022. But prior to coaching collegiately, Thurman, 67, held DC roles in order with the Jets, Buffalo Bills, and Memphis Express of the defunct Alliance of American Football (AAF) between 2013 and 2019.