Speedster Sanders fills need at WR

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Kendall Sanders (10) comes to Texas as the No. 13 ranked cornerback in the nation. However, he plans to play at wide receiver as a Longhorn. (Photo courtesy of Sandra Sanders)

Kendall Sanders caught two picks as a defensive back in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in early January. It’s hard to think a performance like that may jeopardize a player’s spot on a team, but to be sure, Sanders texted his future coach, Texas’ Mack Brown.

“He texted me right after the game and asked, ‘can I still play offense,’ and I said, ‘yes, you can, and you should have caught more balls instead of knocked them down,’” Brown joked.

But Texas’ lack of depth at wide receiver is no laughing matter to Brown or Sanders. Texas spent a great deal of energy adding to their receiving corps with this recruiting class, and it believed Sanders possessed the skill set to work with the offense rather than the defense. A four-star recruit out of Athens, TX, former cornerback Sanders — 6’ 1”, 175 pounds — committed to the Longhorns’ offer in December and made it all official on signing day yesterday. Sanders is a long, fast and ferocious player who runs a 4.4 second 40-yard dash, and has a 40-inch vertical. He’s been compared to current New York Giant Prince Amukamara, and he adds an immediate athletic presence at wide out precisely because he can play on both sides of the ball.

“I want to come in and work hard to prove I can play receiver,” Sanders told The Daily Texan. “I bring speed and more talent at that position, and I believe I can be that big playmaker when I’m asked to be. I don’t think people can count me out.”

And Sanders is prepared to step up when called upon by the Texas coaches. After all, he is extremely happy to be playing on the 40 Acres, especially since he almost missed out on the opportunity. Sanders was committed to Oklahoma State since late last spring, but was having second thoughts as more schools began courting him. Michigan State, Notre Dame, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, TCU and Baylor all expressed interest in him.

When Texas offered him a scholarship in November, Sanders really began to think he may have jumped the gun on his decision. His parents had urged him from the beginning to consider all his options out there.

“Us teenagers, we’re 17 and 18,” he said in an interview early last month. “We really don’t make good decisions all the time on the first try.”

But when it came down to it, Sanders made a gut decision.

“It was Texas and I’ve always wanted to go there,” Sanders said of the day he received his offer from the Longhorns. “So I had to really just do the pros and cons and pray and pick the place that fit me. And Texas fit the best, so I picked it. I want to stay in Texas; get my degree from Texas.”

Signing day yielded other top receiving recruits to play alongside Sanders. Wide out recruits Cayleb Jones and Marcus Johnson were also brought in to have their numbers dialed on offense when the Longhorns need a game-changing play. The three of them have kept in contact since they had known they would each pick Texas and Sanders is happy to join forces with them.

“We three are pumped about joining up at Texas. We talk all the time about [it] and we’re working hard right now to make sure we can compete,” he said.

They’ll have to compete amongst each other for the ultimate playmaker role, as well as compete as a unit against a Big 12 conference that has no shortage of high-octane offensive squads. Sanders said that latter will be his greatest focus during his time on campus, because as a lifelong Texas fan, the last few years have not lived up to what he calls Texas tradition.

“I want us to win it all,” he said. “We’ve got to get back to the old Texas.” 

Printed on Thursday, February 2, 2012 as: Speedster Sanders adds depth to receiving corps