Syndication: Beaver County Times

Colorado landed a major defensive commitment as Pittsburgh defensive end Dayon Hayes pledged to the Buffaloes on Sunday. Hayes provides some much-needed help in the trenches for Deion Sanders' squad. The Pittsburgh native took over a full-time starting job for his hometown program during the 2023 season and emerged as a key playmaker. 

Hayes led Pittsburgh with 10.5 tackles for loss as an experienced defensive lineman. Listed at 6-foot-3 and 260 pounds, he rated as the No. 20 available overall player in the transfer portal and second-best edge rusher. 

Hayes was expected to return to Pitt in 2024, but made headlines when he spurned a reportedly robust NIL deal in search of other opportunities. 

"It's just that I don't believe we can win now," Hayes told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "I believe we [were going to] win games, but I believe we are [in] a developmental stage. And I just can't do that right now." 

Hayes joins the Colorado roster as Sanders enters a pivotal season. The Buffaloes improved from one to four wins in the NFL Hall of Famer's first season on the sidelines but finished with an identical 1-8 conference record. Needless to say, Sanders and his staff have to make a strong case that Colorado is ready to win now. 

Colorado fielded one of the worst defenses in college football last year, finishing bottom 10 nationally in both total and scoring defense. Top defensive end Jordan Domineck notched 12 tackles for loss but is headed to the NFL. The Buffaloes replaced coordinators on both sides of the ball and ultimately replaced ex-Alabama assistant Charles Kelly with Cincinnati Bengals safeties coach Robert Livingston. 

Landing Hayes continues an impressive run of transfer success on the defensive line. Hayes reunites with former Pittsburgh teammate Samuel Okunlola, who started the final two games of the season next to him. Okunlola recorded six tackles for loss and five sacks in 11 appearances. Additionally, Houston transfer Chidozie Nwankwo, Alabama's Anquin Barnes and LSU's Quency Wiggins all add big bodies who should quickly give the Buffs more beef up front. 

Colorado enters a critical moment in 2024 as the program enters the Big 12. Quarterback Shedeur Sanders, safety Shilo Sanders and cornerback Travis Hunter could all leave for the 2025 NFL Draft, making this an important run for Deion Sanders' squad. The Buffaloes experienced a roster exodus last week, but have quickly moved to attract one of the top players in the portal.