Three-Point Stance: Impact freshmen, Deion Sanders, coach health
Rivals national recruiting analyst Clint Cosgrove revisits a preseason prediction about impact freshmen, examines Deion Sanders' early success at Colorado and discusses some changes the NCAA could make to protect the health of football coaches in today's Three-Point Stance.
MORE THREE-POINT STANCE: Deion Sanders, Colorado recruiting, new coaches
CLASS OF 2025 RANKINGS: Rivals100
1. REVISITING A PRESEASON PREDICTION
Prior to the season I projected that these five freshmen from the Midwest would make an early impact this season. Now that the regular season is over, let's check in to see how my impact freshman performed.
1. Xavier Nwankpa - We knew that Iowa had a talented secondary despite losing some key starters from the previous years defense, so it was likely that Nwankpa would have his best chance at making an early impact on special teams while providing depth on defense and that turned out to be the case. Nwankpa appeared in 11 games recording four tackles and showing signs of becoming a future star in the Hawkeyes defense. With multiple starters in Iowa's secondary graduating at the year's end, look for Nwankpa to make a major impact in the defense for years to come.
2. Luther Burden - The nation's top receiver in the 2022 class started his career at Missouri with a bang by scoring two touchdowns in the Tigers' first game of the year. Burden battled some injuries throughout the year but still managed to finish the season as one of the nation's best freshman receivers, catching 38 passes for 329 yards and six touchdowns, rushing for 91 yards and two touchdowns on 17 attempts while returning 17 punts for 151 yards, including a 78-yard touchdown. Burden lived up to the hype and is a star in the making.
3. Dasan McCullough - McCullough was nothing short of spectacular during his true freshman season on his way to earning Freshman All-American honors. The outside linebacker wasted little time in making his presence felt by recording six tackles and 0.5 tackles for loss during the Hoosiers' Week 1 win over Illinois. McCullough proved to be one of Indiana's best defenders on the year and finished the season with 49 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and four sacks.
McCullough opted to enter the transfer portal and announced his commitment to Oklahoma on Monday.
4. Barion Brown - I stated that Brown's ability to hit the home run due to his blazing speed would be his path to making an immediate impact and that certainly proved to be the case during his record-setting freshman campaign. Brown earned Freshman All-American honors, was three-time SEC Special Teams Player of the Week and led the Wildcats in receiving with 45 receptions for 604 yards and four touchdowns. Brown's impact on special teams was special indeed while posting 424 yards and a touchdown on 15 kick returns. Brown is a player you will be watching on Sundays in a few short years.
5. Ernest Hausmann - Hausman was my sleeper pick after having a strong fall camp that turned into even a stronger freshman season for the Cornhuskers. The former three-star recruit from Nebraska started seven games and played in every game during the season while recording 54 tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack and one fumble recovery. Hausman certainly outplayed his 5.6 three-star ranking coming out of high school.
Like McCullough, Hausman has also opted to enter the transfer portal and is currently ranked as the No. 26 overall player in the Rivals Transfer Portal rankings with a 5.8 four-star rating.
2. SANDERS ASSEMBLING AN ALL-STAR STAFF
Deion Sanders may only have a couple of years experience coaching at the college level, but those years have been nothing short of spectacular in terms of wins and recruiting results. While his ability to win at the Power Five level has yet to be determined, his ability to recruit at the highest level and hire a star-studded staff with Power Five experience has already been established.
While I cannot confirm that Tim Brewster was Prime's first hire at Colorado, the longtime NFL and college coach who was once the head coach at Minnesota has already made a serious impact on the Buffaloes' recruiting efforts.
Colorado's new offensive coordinator, Sean Lewis, left his post as Kent State's head coach to join Sanders' staff further proving the pull that Prime has for recruits and elite college coaches alike. Lewis is an offensive guru with a proven track record as a Power Five offensive coordinator in addition to leading Kent State to multiple bowl games - including the program's first ever bowl win.
Sanders hit another home run with his defensive coordinator in Charles Kelly, who spent the past four seasons as Nick Saban's associate defensive coordinator and safeties coach at Alabama. Kelly's success is well documented as both a recruiter and coach while signing numerous national recruits and winning two national championships as an assistant coach.
Although he is not a position coach, Sanders' choice of Corey Phillips to fill the role as Colorado's director of player personnel is to be applauded. Phillips comes from Brian Kelly's staff at LSU where the Tigers are known for recruiting at the highest level in college football. Phillips' previous stops include working in the personnel departments at Vanderbilt and LSU as well as being a standout high school coach. Phillips was a guest on our Coach's Corner podcast earlier this year and, needless to say, I was extremely impressed with what he had to say.
Sanders is still in the process of finalizing his staff, but it is safe to say that the hires he has made are likely to pay dividends when it comes to making Colorado football relevant on the football field again.
3. NCAA NEEDS TO PRIORITIZE THE HEALTH OF COLLEGE COACHES
Having grown up the son of a coach and spending a number of years as a college coach myself, the news of beloved Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach's passing really hit home for me. Every coach knows what they are getting into when they sign up for the job, but the toll these jobs take on both the mental and physical wellness of those in the coaching profession seems to only be getting worse as the college football stage gets bigger.
This isn't only about the biggest name coaches either. Coaches at the high school level and lowest levels of college football are putting in insane hours and dedicating their lives to making the school they represent the best it can possibly be. Coaches spend more time in the office than they do at home, they forgo spending time with spouses and children for much of the year, they rarely make it to weddings or big events of loved ones and go months at a time without a day off. While the job is extremely demanding and coaches often put in more hours than necessary due to their competitive nature and fear of failure or losing their jobs, there still has to be a way to balance personal wellness while also being a successful coach at the same time.
Like all things in the college football world, this needs to start at the top with the NCAA. I don't have all of the answers, but those who are in power need to make coaches' health a priority moving forward. This should start with the recruiting calendar because right now it is out of hand and is only getting worse. I suggest the NCAA make dead periods actually dead, meaning no contact with recruits whatsoever. These should actually be considered vacation periods that coincide with periods of time where coaches are not allowed to come into the office and are actually forced to take breaks in order for their body to rest and repair. I also propose mandatory health screenings by the NCAA where a third party comes in to screen the health of all coaches on staff and then come up with a regimented wellness plan to help those who are at risk. These proposals should be the bare minimum as there is plenty more that the NCAA can do to improve the wellbeing of coaches.
I am tired of losing good men because they have dedicated their lives to bettering their players and schools they work for alike.