Deion Sanders [600x400]
Deion Sanders [600x400] (Credit: AP)

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LAS VEGAS -- After finishing 4-8 and in last place in the Pac-12 in his debut season last year at Colorado, coach Deion Sanders made it clear during the conference's media day Wednesday what must change for the Buffaloes to compete in the Big 12.

"We got to protect that quarterback," Sanders said. "That's No. 1."

Last year, his son Shedeur Sanders was the most sacked quarterback in the country (52), which led Deion Sanders to completely overhaul the offensive line, including hiring a new line coach, former NFL offensive lineman Phil Loadholt.

After a complete overhaul last offseason, too, Sanders said it was easier this time around.

"What makes it easy to connect with offensive line? Having the best darn quarterback in college football," Sanders said. "Who don't want to come and block for the best quarterback in college football? You got to be a fool if you say, 'I don't want to be seen.'"

"The television numbers are crazy. They're on every darn week. So, I get exposure and I think 32 NFL scouts are going to be at every practice seeing these two guys [Shedeur and Travis Hunter] practice. So, I get to be seen. That's an easy -- and it's not a sale. That's common sense for any lineman to want to be a part of."

Colorado added six offensive linemen in the early transfer window, including two with Power 5 experience and the nation's top-ranked offensive lineman recruit, Jordan Seaton.

Despite another offseason of change, the Buffs were predicted to finish 11th in the conference in the conference's official preseason poll. Sanders laid out a different set of expectations.

"I'd be an idiot to sit over here and not tell you we plan on winning," he said. "I don't know who sits down and says they don't plan on winning. You got to be an idiot to say that. We definitely plan on winning, and first and foremost, it starts with the staff. I think we have over 140 years of NFL experience on the staff.

"Certainly, we have two guys that are positioned to go in the top five in the draft [Sanders and Hunter], but I think we're going to have two more that's going to sneak in that first round. Let me give you B.J. Green. I'm not going to tell you the fourth."

Colorado opens the season Aug. 29 at home against North Dakota State, an FCS opponent that Sanders said has the Buffaloes' respect.

"They're really darn good, and I'm mad at [CU athletic director Rick George] right now for putting them on the schedule to open up with them," Sanders said. "Can you give me a layup or something? Those guys are wonderful. Their staff has always been amongst the best. Many people have matriculated from that staff to go to higher levels. Those kids play their butts off. They're tough. They don't make many mistakes. They're accustomed to winning."