Experience tends to be the link between talent and greatness, and for many high school athletes in the state of Texas, the talent is there.
When Kendall Sanders switched his commitment from Oklahoma State to Texas, the Longhorns knew exactly the kind of athlete they were receiving, and those talents may begin to unfold very soon as one of the more dynamic threats in the passing game.
The Longhorns' receiving corps have been depleted for some time, and the 2013 group appears to have the same knock hanging over it.
There are Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley, both with their specialities. But beyond the top two, there is little to distinguish as genuine playmakers.
Bunched together in a group mostly signified by inexperience or injury are Sanders, Marcus Johnson, Cayleb Jones, John Harries and Bryant Jackson, none of whom have properly taken the next steps to emerge as legitimate, consistent options on offense.
But where others have failed, by way of injury or inexperience, Sanders has flashed the skill set that can offer success. The only question that remains is, when?
Sanders Shows Off
The 6'0", 180-pound Sanders was a two-way player in high school, making plays on the defensive side as a cornerback but excelling more so as a receiver in open space.
Elusiveness and open-field speed immediately stand out after one look at his film, as his long strides allow him to get to his top-end speed pretty quickly. Although he lacks elite explosiveness and change in direction, his ability to evade tackles diminishes those shortcomings just slightly.
Sanders appeared most comfortable in the slot position, able to utilize the space in front of him to create separation after the catch. But it was his open-field athleticism that caught the attention of college coaches.
Finding the Opportune Moment
Cayleb Jones had been the immediate favorite to claim the starting position vacated by Marquise Goodwin, an athlete utilized for his speed in the open field. But with Jones' recent assault charges, his place at the table is definitely in question, paving the way for other young receivers to earn their shot, Sanders included.
With the competition thinning out, Sanders could be primed for extra looks when it matters most.
In Texas' spread offense, the touches figure to be distributed heavily, and with Shipley and Davis demanding so much attention from opposing defenses, other receivers will have to step up when their numbers are called.
Sanders has always flashed his athleticism, but his ball skills will have to catch up to the college level before he is ready to take on the world as the Longhorns' hidden weapon.
Absent is Marquise Goodwin and his explosive track speed, which was often the catalyst for huge plays last season for the Longhorns. And although Sanders lacks that same elite speed, he is definitely no slowpoke.
Sanders has the elusiveness, but his hands and route running need refinement before he can take the next step. While inexperience has held him back thus far, if Sanders can develop the finer points of his game, much to the way Shipley molds his skill set in finding pockets of open field, the Athens, Texas, product will have the offense at his fingertips.
It is only a matter of time.
What to Expect in 2013
If the season started today, Sanders would be on the long end of the stick in terms of playing time.
Sanders caught two passes for 15 yards as a freshman, numbers that are fully expected to increase with a comfortable position in the depth chart.
In an offense where quick passes figure to be a commonality, look for Sanders to create a little buzz about him as his career progresses in Austin. He will not lead the team in receptions, but by midseason, the Big 12 will know exactly what kind of player he is.
Lead photo courtesy of DailyTexanOnline.com