South Carolina's junior wide receiver Ace Sanders is heading to the NFL draft.
Heath Cline, of 107.5 the Game in Columbia, S.C., tweeted the news:
SC WR Ace Sanders has decided to go pro after all. Today was the deadline - projected as 2-3 round pick by Pro Football Weekly.— Heath Cline (@heathradio) January 16, 2013
This announcement is a bit of a surprise. Sanders had a strong season, but he could have increased his stock with a more productive senior campaign.
At 5'8" and 175 pounds, Sanders is wildly undersized for the NFL. However, he is also wildly undersized for the collegiate game, and that hasn't slowed him down.
This past season he pulled in 45 catches for 531 yards and nine touchdowns. This led the Gamecocks in catches and touchdowns, and he was second in yards.
In South Carolina's 33-28 win over Michigan in the Outback Bowl, Sanders earned MVP honors by virtue of his nine catches for 92 yards and two touchdowns. He also added a 63-yard punt return for a score.
Sanders will be an excellent punt returner right off the bat in the NFL. This past season he was fourth in the nation in yards per return at 14.8.
His change of direction ability is insane, and he has a nice, low center of gravity. Check out this punt return earlier this season against Missouri.
Sanders is quicker than he is fast. Combine that with his size, and he won't be a terrific deep threat in the NFL. However, he is a big play waiting to happen. Get this young man the ball in space and he will gain some serious yards after the catch.
To have a long career in the NFL, Sanders will have to improve his route running and learn how to excel in the slot. If he can do that, this lightning-quick player can develop into a tremendous weapon on underneath routes when he can create some space on his defender or find holes in the zone.