Deion Sanders adds NFL heft to coaching staff at Colorado

Head coach Deion Sanders has been making his grand plan clear at Colorado: He wants to build a launching pad to the NFL for his players.

And now he has the coaching staff to show for it.

On Friday, Sanders formally announced the changes he’s made to his football staff for his second season in Boulder, including with his top coaches on offense and defense, both of whom now have significant NFL pedigrees.

Colorado confirmed the hires for the first time Friday, though they were reported previously in the news media. The new employees fill Sanders’ staff of 10 full-time assistant coaches, the most allowed under NCAA rules.

“We have two new coordinators that are wonderful, that combined I believe they have over 35 years of NFL experience, because I wanted pros,” Sanders told USA TODAY Sports this week at the Super Bowl site in Las Vegas. “It’s like a navigational system. You can’t tell me where to go unless you’ve been there.”

Deion Sanders has added several new coaches with NFL experience to his Colorado coaching staff.
Deion Sanders has added several new coaches with NFL experience to his Colorado coaching staff.

Who will run Deion Sanders' defense at Colorado?

Sanders, a Pro Football Hall of Famer, reached into the NFL to hire his new defensive coordinator, Robert Livingston, who recently finished his eighth season as the defensive backs coach of the Cincinnati Bengals. Livingston also previously worked as a Bengals scout and now replaces Charles Kelly, who left in December to become the co-defensive coordinator at Auburn, his alma mater.

Kelly spent one season under Sanders at Colorado, when the Buffaloes finished 4-8 and ranked 127th out of 130 major college teams nationally in total defense (453.3 yards allowed per game). Because he broke his contract before it expired in January 2026, Kelly owed CU $212,500, as confirmed by the university to USA TODAY Sports.

Livingston, a safeties specialist and former safety at William & Mary, will inherit a defense that is stocked with talent in the secondary, including the nation’s No. 1 cornerback recruits for 2022 and 2023 – Travis Hunter and Cormani McClain.

Sanders’ son, Shilo, is returning for his final college year at safety after leading the team with 70 tackles in 2023.

The Buffs also fortified other positions on defense through the transfer portal, where they brought in six defensive linemen, including BJ Green from Arizona State, Quency Wiggins from LSU and Anquin Barnes from Alabama. Colorado’s transfer class of 24 players for 2024 currently ranks No. 2 in the nation, according to

Who will run Colorado's offense?

As expected, former Cleveland Browns and New York Giants head coach Pat Shurmur was named offensive coordinator after being promoted to Sanders’ coaching staff near the end of last season. Shurmur replaces Sean Lewis, who left to become head coach at San Diego State.

Shurmur originally joined Sanders’ program last summer as an analyst making $50,000 per year and then replaced Lewis as the team’s play-caller in their final four games of 2023, all losses.

Who else is new to Deion Sanders’ staff?

Former Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman Phil Loadholt is the new offensive line coach after the previous coach, Bill O’Boyle, left to follow Lewis to San Diego State and then took a similar job at Northwestern. Loadholt previously worked as an analyst behind the scenes at Oklahoma and now takes over a unit that allowed the second-most quarterback sacks in the nation last year (56) but has been fortified with the addition of several new players, including Jordan Seaton, the nation’s No. 1 offensive line recruit, according to 247Sports.

Sanders also hired former NFL receiver Jason Phillips to coach wide receivers after he previously served as an assistant coach at Jackson State, Utah State and several other schools. Phillips fills an opening that had been created when last year’s tight ends coach, Tim Brewster, left to take a job with the Charlotte 49ers. According to his employment agreement with the Buffs, Brewster owes CU $100,000 for breaking his contract early, as confirmed by the university to USA TODAY Sports.

Sanders filled another opening on his defensive staff by promoting Vincent Dancy from defensive analyst to outside linebackers coach. The opening was created when last year’s defensive ends coach, Nick Williams, took an assistant coach job at Syracuse. Last year’s wide receiver coach at Colorado, Brett Bartolone, also is moving over to coach tight ends after the departure of Brewster.

What about Warren Sapp?

Pro Football Hall of Famer Warren Sapp is not on the staff even though Sanders previously said he would be. Sapp this week told online sports site DNVR that he was coming to Boulder in March and would become a graduate assistant at Colorado, though this hasn't been confirmed by the university. Being hired in this role would require him to be enrolled in graduate-level coursework at Colorado and might quiet concerns about hiring him on Sanders' full-time staff of 10 assistants. Sapp, 51, has little coaching experience and a history of incidents that had raised eyebrows among domestic violence survivor organizations.

It’s an entry-level coaching job with historically low compensation and can last no longer than three years for each person hired for it. Teams are allowed four graduate student coaches under NCAA rules.

Spring practice for the Buffaloes starts March 18. Sanders opens his second season in Boulder at home against North Dakota State on Aug. 31.

Follow reporter Brent Schrotenboer @Schrotenboer. Email:

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Deion Sanders adds more NFL heft to Colorado coaching staff