South Carolina tight end and lightning rod for controversy, Weslye Saunders, has been dismissed by the team. The announcement came Wednesday after months of investigation and weeks after Saunders was suspended indefinitely after various incidents not related to the South Beach, Florida party NCAA investigations.
Saunders had considered jumping to the NFL last winter, but decided to continue with his education and play his senior season as a Gamecock. The latter of which will now not come to fruition.
Saunders was praised by South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier for his conditioning and work ethic in the offseason. He was also one of the highlights on field this offseason and was on the Mackey Award (best TE) watch list.
The Gamecocks will not allow the Weslye Saunders situation to cast a shadow over a bright season: This is South Carolina's best opportunity since the Joe Morrison era to be a factor from the beginning of the season until the end. One player will not change that.
The deep Gamecock talent roster, coupled with a new-found determination to compete, and an improved dedication to finishing more than make up for one player's lack of judgment. Instead of hurting the Gamecocks chances, he has simply hurt his own chances.
The Gamecocks have reached the 13th ranking in the AP poll without Saunders on the field. More importantly, with a running game head and shoulders above where it has been in the previous decade.
Where one senior leaves, an opening for two true freshman have seized the opportunity and gained recognition and results: Ace Sanders and most notably, Marcus Lattimore.
Lattimore has made an impact in two weeks that some thought may take two years.
Sports Illustrated and ESPN have each had an analyst compare Marcus Lattimore to a former Georgia player who won the Heisman once and had multiple opportunities to do so, Herschel Walker. He has also drawn comparisons to South Carolina's only Heisman Trophy winner to date, George Rogers.
Ace Sanders has been compared by Steve Spurrier to the wide receivers he had at Florida. Sanders is a small speedster, in stark contrast to the rest of the wide receivers, at least height wise. Spurrier has a wide receiving corp comparable to that of the NFL's San Diego Chargers in that it looks more like a basketball team with the number of players over six feet.
The size is there, even without the 6'6" Saunders. Instead of viewing the dismissal as a negative, though it is, it can be viewed as a positive: Giving younger talent that have years ahead of them to step up and shine in the place of the senior who had his opportunity.