CU Buffs, Coach Prime recruiting stands out against Nebraska, CSU Rams

BOULDER โ€” Zach Hilbers has entertained saints, sinners, swindlers, senseis, sharks, sages and savants. But he’d never seen any coach do what CU Buffs defensive line coach Sal Sunseri did a few months back while he was recruiting Brandon Davis-Swain.

“He had Brandon do hand-fighting drills with him in my home room,” Hilbers, the football coach at West Bloomfield (Mich.) High School, recalled with a laugh. “He was just like, ‘Hey, Brandon, stand up. Let me show you something.’ He pops Brandon like five inches back.

“He says, ‘Try this.’ He has him doing all these block-shedding moves. He was like, ‘Look, I taught (former Alabama defensive end) Will Anderson this stuff.’ He went from this to this to this. It was like watching a karate or a judo teacher.”

Turns out Sunseri made an impression on multiple fronts. Davis-Swain, a 6-foot-3, 264-pound, four-star lineman and one of the top recruits in greater Detroit, committed to CU this past spring. In the process, the big man rebuffed offers from Notre Dame, Miami (Fla.), Auburn, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisville, Michigan, Michigan State, Mississippi, Penn State, Purdue, Tennessee, USC, West Virginia, Wisconsin and … Nebraska.

“I’d say there’s clearly a different level of energy (with their recruiting), and I would say it probably does come from Coach Prime,” Hilbers continued. “If it was a year-and-a-half ago, and someone from CU walked in, I think (kids) would have been excited, but it would’ve been different. Even though (Deion Sanders) wasn’t the one walking through the door, it (felt like) an extension of him, for sure.”

It isn’t that the Buffs coaches out on the recruiting trail are just different from say, the guys on Matt Rhule’s staff at Nebraska, who’ll visit Folsom Field on Saturday, Hilbers said. It’s that CU’s dudes are different from, well, just about everybody on the road right now.

“It was basically just the total package (in Boulder),” Davis-Swain’s father, Brandon, explained. “What they’re going to do with my son on the field and off the field. They’re committed to seeing him be great in the community and great in the field and to him getting his education and wanting to see him succeed in life.

“Just being around the coaching staff, they were really genuine people. That’s what swung it for me, just wanting to see my son be great in every aspect of life.”

Experts expect CU’s success on the field, and Sanders’ national cache, to keep swinging open doors in recruiting regions that haven’t felt the Buffs’ impact for years. And that exposure will be helped by future CU football games in the Big 12, which will be seen on platforms run by ESPN and Fox Sports and, with future away games, will feature some earlier kickoffs that will offer more Midwest and East Coast eyeballs.

“I think there’s some excitement that (CU) is recruiting the (Great Lakes) region a lot more, especially the state of Michigan,” Allen Trieu, 247Sports’ longtime Midwestern recruiting analyst, told The Post. “I think having guys like (Buffs linebacker and Michigan native) Marvin Ham up there, that means something (to recruits), especially in Michigan and Detroit. If kids can see there’s a place where (they) can leave the state and have some success and (they) don’t have to go to Michigan or Michigan State and compete with (peers) they know well — I do think kids are very open to leaving, so having guys such as Marvin go there and do (well), that always helps matters.”

Trieu sees at least one parallel train of thought running through both the CU and Nebraska staffs: an NFL front office mentality of getting the “best player available” for a slot rather than recruiting toward a specific need.

But for some, the similarities end there. Hilbers last year entertained Huskers offensive line coach Donovan Raiola, who had forged a good rapport with his senior lineman Amir Herring, one of the best blockers in Michigan for the Class of ’22.

“(The experience) was definitely different; (Raiola) is such a good dude,” Hilbers said. “Just a real down-to-earth kind of guy.”

Herring grew up a Michigan Wolverines fan and wound up choosing the Big Blue over the Big Red.

“(But) it went right down to the end, just because of who that guy (Raiola) was. There’s not a good way or a bad way. (With the Buffs), there’s just obviously a difference.”

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