Spring practice is officially underway for the CU Buffs and the newly hired Coach Prime, and it’s hard to not be excited by what we’ve already seen.

What have we observed in this first week of practice that continues to fuel the optimism surrounding the program, and what were the most important things we learned from the coaches and players on the team? Let’s take a look.

1. Travis Hunter, Shedeur Sanders shining early

The CU Buffs added some serious talent this offseason, thanks to the hiring of Coach Prime, and fortunately, those star-level figures have already begun to make major contributions, in just the first week of practice.

Both the offensive and defensive coordinators for the Buffaloes couldn’t help themselves but gush over the two marquee additions, as both have adapted to the speed of the Power 5 game in a hurry.

“I thought Travis Hunter was as good a player coming out of high school as there was in this country,” Coach Charles Kelly said. “He was as highly recruited as anybody we recruited. We tried to recruit him at Alabama. They tried to recruit him all over. So, he definitely has the ability. I think Travis [Hunter] would probably tell you, when you move to the next level . . . you get used to the speed of the game, and that happens. When guys leave here and go to the NFL, that’s what happens, but good players are good players no matter what, no matter where you put them. I’ve always thought Travis was an elite talent, and [from] everything I’ve seen so far, he’s working extremely hard.”

Coach Kelly even went a step further, as he refused to put any limitations on what Hunter will bring to the CU Buffs.

“I wouldn’t say there’s anything he can’t do,” Kelly added.

Offensive coordinator Sean Lewis was also optimistic about Travis Hunter impacting all phases of the game for Colorado, though he did say Hunter needs to build his technical skills up, in order to reach his true potential.

“Yeah, he’s gonna be able to help us on both sides of the ball,” Coach Lewis said. “He has a very unique skillset that’s going to help the team in a lot of different phases. Offensively, he needs to do a great job just refining his route running, because he’s one of the freakiest athletes on any field he’s ever stepped on. Now, we’re going to get on the field in a very competitive league with really elite DBs, and when he comes across a DB, as a wide receiver particularly, where talent’s equal, well how are you gonna win? That’s where it comes down to techniques, and fundamentals in your approach, and your work that you do. So, as he continues to trend the right way, I think he’s gonna be able to add some value in all phases of the game.”

If you’re a CU loyalist, that’s exactly the type of praise you want to hear in regard to a prospect as heralded as Hunter. Sure, it would be nice if Hunter was already a very nuanced, and technically refined wide receiver, but those are unrealistic expectations.

He’s new to the position, and is so phenomally gifted that he’s never had to rely on his technical skills. It would be miraculous if those funademental aspects were already polished to a high level. Plus, the development of his technique as a defensive back fuels optimism about his ability to make similar strides as an offensive weapon.

Fellow HBCU transfer Shedeur Sanders has also been turning heads.

When asked about the early standouts from practice, Coach Kelly responded by explaining it was too early to answer that question, and so he couldn’t offer up any specific players, but then, he just couldn’t help himself.

“I will say…I notice Shedeur on offense, just being a defensive guy. He flashes to me, because I’ve been around some really good quarterbacks in the last 10 years, and y’know, he flashes. I’m not coaching him, but he’s flashing to me. Travis [Hunter] has flashed to me.”

So, what quarterbacks has Charles Kelly been around over the past decade of coaching? Jameis Winston (Heisman Trophy winner, No. 1 overall pick), Tu’a Tagovailoa (second-place in Heisman voting, No. 5 overall pick), Mac Jones (third-place in Heisman voting, No. 15 overall pick), and Bryce Young (Heisman Trophy winner, projected top-three selection).

It’s safe to say Kelly knows what high-end college quarterbacking looks like.

Coach Lewis, has also been impressed with Sanders as he gets him integrated into his third offense in as many seasons.

“He’s doing a really good job. He’s done a really nice job with all those previous offenses he’s been a part of to be able to clear that terminology [and] learn this new terminology fresh, so that he can process quickly, and I think he’s doing a really nice job.”

And don’t worry, it’s not just the coaches who work under Sanders’ dad who have nice things to say about the CU Buffs’ projected starting quarterback. Sanders’ teammates are also loving getting to play with him.

“Man, Shedeur [Sanders] is ready,” Horn Jr. said. “Don’t let that HBCU stuff fool you, because when we was at USF, we played Howard and thought Howard might be sweet. Them boys hit just as hard as these boys in Power 5, and some of them kids in HBCU could’ve played Power 5, but [attending an HBCU] was the route they wanted to choose, so don’t try to throw them schools under the bus, cause they’re just as good as any players out here.”

“Shedeur’s ready,” Horn re-iterated. “He’s smart and he’s got great accuracy and every time he throws the ball it’s on point, and if he mess up on something he’s gonna tell you what he was thinking and how he messed up and stuff like that, and then he’ll actually go work on it.”

If the on-field results can live up to the billing, it feels very likely that Sanders might be the best passer of the football that Boulder has ever had.

2. Coach Prime is a one-of-a-kind head coach for the CU Buffs

In all of the best ways, the Coach Prime experience has been a unique one, relative to what we’ve come to expect from college football head coaches, and we were reminded of that fact again this week as spring practices got under way.

The most visible display of this was the announcement that every player would have to earn their preferred jersey number, rather than simply requesting it.

The mindset is easy to get behind, but it’s far from common to see a spring practice where none of the players have a number.

“I’ve never had it exactly like this,” Coach Lewis said. “I’ve been at places where the single digits, in particular, were earned, and there were certain things you had to do to do that. I think it’s great. I think it’s a great life lesson that, no matter what you do and no matter what you get, it’s gonna be earned.”

That sentiment was echoed by Charles Kelly, who said he watched little film before arriving at CU, because it doesn’t matter how good or bad these guys were last year. All that matters is what they’re able to contribute to the cause now.

Although that was the most obvious way that Coach Prime’s unique style showed itself, it was far from the only one.

During practice, whenever it was time for a kicker to attempt a field goal or an extra point, Prime would stand a few short yards away from the holder, and would begin yelling “Miss! Miss! Miss,” at his kicker, while the kicker lines everything up, seemingly in an attempt to test their nerves.

It’s unique, but again, from an outside perspective, it makes sense.

Kicking isn’t very physically demanding, especially relative to the other positions, but the ability to remain calm and to be unflappable in high-leverage moments is critical. In the spring, what better way to create a stressful moment than by having the head coach of the program try to psych you out?

“He’s high energy [and] very demanding,” Lewis said. “He’s a man that values work and he’s in the position he’s in because he’s one of the hardest workers in the room, and that’s what he demands from everyone. So, work works, put your hardhat on, and let’s go to work. He wears a cowboy hat.”

3. The talent overhaul has already begun for the CU Buffs

After delivering a 1-11 season that made the program look like one of the worst in all of Division-I college football, the CU Buffs football program was in need of a dramatic face lift.

It appears they’ve filled that prescription this offseason.

Along with Shedeur Sanders and Travis Hunter, Colorado added a ton of talent this offseason, and one of the early standouts is Jimmy Horn Jr., a transfer from South Florida.

When asked to compare the team speed in Boulder to what he was used to back in Tampa, Horn didn’t even hesitate to answer.

“Oh, we’re way faster,” Horn responded, before joking that he was finally around some people who could make him tired at practice.

Plus, Horn is an expert on speed.

“That he can run really fast and he can run by people,” Lewis casually responded with a smirk, when asked what stood out about Jimmy Horn Jr. so far. “He has that elite trait that, no matter all the techniques and fundamentals that we give him, he picked his parents the right way and he can go.”

“Oh yeah,” Horn said when asked if he was the fastest member of the team. “I think I’m the fastest. I know I’m the fastest. I’ve got about 10 different gears, only use three of them.”

Though, fans of the CU Buffs will be happy to hear that Colorado added more than just speed this offseason, as the offensive line — which was arguably the worst around a year ago — has taken large strides, according to Coach Lewis.

“They’re doing a good job learning their calls and then learning to play together as one,” Lewis said. “The biggest thing is, we’ve gotta put the five best guys out there that see the [defensive] front through the same set of eyes.”

Charles Kelly also highlighted the influx of talent Colorado has gotten this year, but made sure to emphasize that none of it will mean much until we get the pads on, and so the staff will have to constantly evaluate.

“We have some guys that have come in here and have boosted the athleticism, but one thing is, you’re constantly evaluating,” Kelly said.

We’re only one week in, but it’s hard to imagine the early returns from the Coach Prime era looking any better.