South Carolina Football: Could Ace Sanders Blossom into a Star Receiver?

Alex RobertsCorrespondent IMarch 12, 2012

ATHENS, GA - SEPTEMBER 10:  Ace Sanders #9 of the South Carolina Gamecocks returns a punt against Derek Owens #20 and Blake Sailors #3 of the Georgia Bulldogs at Sanford Stadium on September 10, 2011 in Athens, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Ace Sanders is not a huge man.  At a generous 5'8" and 173 pounds, Sanders is one of the smaller men on the Gamecocks roster. 

His statistics aren't eye-popping either.  His 29 catches for 383 yards and two touchdowns won't make anyone stand up and cheer.  So why do I have a feeling that he's about to explode onto the college football world?

Sanders' numbers are deceiving.  On a run-centric team with a superstar receiver already on board in Alshon Jeffery, Sanders didn't get many opportunities.  However, he made the most of them when he got them. 

His 13.2 yards per reception shows that he knows where to go with the ball once he gets it.  He is possibly the second-fastest player on the team behind only the ridiculously fast Damiere Byrd.  He is explosive with his hands on the ball. 

Speaking of his hands—his are excellent.  He runs very solid routes and knows how to work to get open.  So, why aren't more people talking about Sanders being the heir apparent to Jeffery? 

He has every tool necessary to become Connor Shaw's go-to guy.  His insane speed, great hands, route-running ability and already-established relationship with the quarterback make him a threatening prospect. 

You need to look no further than the Capitol One Bowl victory over Nebraska to see what he's capable of.  Even with Jeffery having an amazing game, Sanders caught three passes for 45 yards and ran three times for 15.  In a secondary role for a running team, Ace managed to contribute. 

If you target Sanders 10 times in a game, there is no telling how great he could be.  So, instead of asking who is going to replace Jeffery, maybe it is time to ask who will be replacing Sanders as the second option. 

With his work ethic and skill set, he could very well emerge as the Gamecocks' top target.