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Fracture in back healed, Colorado quarterback Shedeur Sanders takes the field for spring practice

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — Deion Sanders estimated that his quarterback son, Shedeur, feels about eight times better since missing the season finale with a fracture in his back.

That wasn’t a random figure that the second-year Colorado coach happened to use. It’s a reference to the amount of new offensive linemen — Sanders even double-checked — the Buffaloes brought in to fortify the protection around Shedeur Sanders after he was sacked 52 times last season. He missed the Utah game because of the pain in his back, healed all winter and returned in time for spring football.

“He’s recovered immensely,” Deion Sanders said Wednesday. “He’s eight times better, I’m serious, his back, than it was last year, the way he's feeling.”

Shedeur Sanders is coming off a season in which he threw for a school-record 3,230 yards. He also finished with 27 touchdown passes, just one shy of the program mark for a season, while completing 69.3% of his passes.

He knows there can be more, too, if given time and if Colorado can establish a run game, which struggled a season ago. That’s why the Buffaloes upgraded the line, adding several transfers along with a prized recruit in Jordan Seaton.

It’s why Deion Sanders feels confident Colorado can improve on a 4-8 season as the team heads from the Pac-12 into the Big 12 this fall.

“The amount of games that we plan on playing this year, it’s not going to be just 12,” Deion Sanders said, a reference to the Buffaloes making a postseason game.

It all starts with protecting Shedeur Sanders, who played through bumps and bruises late in the season before suffering a fracture in his back that shut him down.

“It took a long time for me to get back 100%," the senior QB said. “The weight room program that I’m doing right now slowly built me up ... to where I know I can go out there very confident and do anything, make any throw, make any run. I just feel great now."

He's developed a rapport with offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, who took over play-calling duties from Sean Lewis (now the head coach at San Diego State) late last season.

“He understands me as a person,” Sanders said. "He accepts me for who I am.”

Shedeur Sanders and the Buffaloes are gearing up for the spring game at Folsom Field on April 27, a weekend that just so happens to coincide with the NFL draft. He could’ve left after last season and may have been a high pick.

But it just didn’t feel right, he said. He saw too much potential in a team that includes dual threat Travis Hunter.

“I couldn’t leave on that note,” said Sanders, whose team started 3-0 before dropping eight of nine. “It didn’t feel right.”

Sanders doesn't mind the pressure of knowing he could be a top selection in next year’s draft. In fact, he thrives on it.

“I’m trying," he said, “to be the first quarterback off the board.”

A year ago, Deion Sanders was just getting to know his team, which wouldn't last long as the roster turned over again after the spring game.

This time around, he has a good feel for this squad. He believes he's brought in players ready for the spotlight.

“Everybody’s not built for that stage. That stage comes with tremendous responsibility,” he said. “You’ve got to get young men that are used to that and committed to that and want it and relish that opportunity to be on that stage.”

That includes players like Seaton, a 6-foot-5, 285-pound five-star lineman out of IMG Academy in Florida. He's the third highest-ranked player to sign with the Buffaloes since 2000, according to 247Sports.

Now, Seaton is blocking for a quarterback who could be the No. 1 pick in the draft next year.

“He will be,” Seaton predicted. “He’s so calm, he feels the pocket so well, that he ultimately makes my job easy.”

Note: Deion Sanders took exception to a recent report that he doesn't visit recruits at their home. Said Sanders: “I really truly in all my heart believe that parents don’t want me at their house. They want to come see my house. They want to see how I live, how I get down. They want to see what I got going on.”

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AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-football