Even when Shedeur Sanders still was in high school, his coach/father, Deion Sanders, had a firm grasp of the sort of attack his son should run at the next level.
Call it the run-and-shoot. Call it the Air Raid. Call it what you will, but Coach Prime had a vision. He wanted Shedeur to have an array of weapons at his disposal, and he wanted him to throw quickly and often.
That pursuit led to a few exchanges between Sanders, now the head coach at Colorado, and his counterpart on Saturday night at Folsom Field, Colorado State head coach Jay Norvell.
When coach Sanders was beginning his collegiate coaching career at Jackson State, with his son following him there, he reached out to Norvell in large part to get connected with Brett Bartolone, then an analyst and assistant quarterbacks coach for Norvell at Nevada.
Bartolone eventually joined Coach Prime at Jackson State and mentored the younger Sanders last year as JSU’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Bartolone, who then followed coach Sanders to Boulder as CU’s receivers coach, will be reunited with Norvell on Saturday when their teams square off at Folsom Field (8 p.m., ESPN).
“Brett’s great. Brett’s one of our guys,” Norvell said. “Great coach and a great guy. He’s like family to us. Deion texted me and he talked to (Mike) Leach and he wanted to run the Air Raid when he was at Jackson State. He wanted his son to throw for 4,000 yards. He wanted to find a way to get that done.
“Brett is a great friend and he’s a really great coach. He’s doing a great job with those receivers. I’m glad he’s gotten the opportunity and I’m glad Deion’s taking care of him.”
While the personal communication likely has slowed during game week, Norvell said he still texts frequently with Bartolone. Any recent exchanges might include raves about just how well Bartolone’s receivers have started the season for CU.
In the opener against then-No. 17 TCU, a Colorado program that had never produced three 100-yard receivers in a game enjoyed four in the upset of the Horned Frogs — running back Dylan Edwards (135 yards), plus three receivers playing their first game for the Buffs and Bartolone in Travis Hunter (119), Xavier Weaver (118) and Jimmy Horn Jr. (117). The Buffs’ top four receivers in the win against Nebraska — the aforementioned trio, plus Tar’Varish Dawson — combined to record 24 receptions for 348 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Much of that damage against the Cornhuskers was done by Weaver, who became the first CU receiver to top 100 yards in his first two games with the Buffs. His 170 yards against Nebraska ranks 18th among CU’s all-time single-game leaders.
Bartolone has spent his football life around some of the top offensive minds in the game, including as a player at Washington State under Leach, the architect of the Air Raid. He spent two seasons at Nevada working for Norvell, who has worked in various offensive coordinator roles at several stops in college (Nebraska, UCLA, Oklahoma, Arizona State) and also has been an offensive assistant in the NFL with Indianapolis and the Raiders.
“Jay Norvell is one of my favorite coaches and honestly, person in the world,” Bartolone said earlier this year. “He was incredible to me. He’s an incredible coach. He’s an incredible leader. Comparing him to coach Prime, there’s no comparison you can make to someone like Coach Prime. You can’t really make that comparison with anybody. It’s completely different. I got a relationship with a bunch of those guys up there in Fort Collins, but we look forward to playing them week three.
“I love Jay Norvell. We’re friendly off the field but week three we’re coming after them.”
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