South Carolina Football: Ace Sanders Changes His Mind, Declares for NFL Draft

Alex Roberts@@alexCoAbassCorrespondent IJanuary 16, 2013

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 1:  Wide receiver Ace Sanders #1 of the South Carolina Gamecocks returns a punt 54 yards for a first quarter touchdown against the Michigan Wolverines in the Outback Bowl January 1, 2013 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

In a shocking turn of events, Ace Sanders decided late last night to forgo his senior season and declare for the NFL draft, much to the delight of every Gamecock opponent. 

After declaring that he'd be back for more, this comes as a major disappointment for a program trying to get over the final hurdle for the building process.  Sanders would have been a major part of the 2013  team.  Not only is he an incredible punt returner, but an underrated wide receiver. 

Which is why this is a good choice for him. 

He is striking while the iron is hot.  After a blazing finish to his year as a wide out and consistent excellence taking back kicks, he's going to be quite the prize for a team somewhere between the 2nd and 4th rounds. 

However, I have this feeling that a confident senior Sanders may have been able to boost himself into the first or second round with another good season at South Carolina. 

With the best receiver and punt returner on the team gone, who steps up?

The most logical guess would be Bruce Ellington.  While not as explosive as Sanders, he has a knack for big plays and can take back kicks as well. 

Shaq Roland may step into a starting role now.  The "underwhelming" freshman had to be disappointed he didn't light up the SEC in his first year wearing garnet and black.  I'm sure he hears the chatter, and I hope he plays with a chip on his shoulder. 

 Damiere Byrd has plenty of speed and could be used as a punt returner.  There are other players of course, but these three have the best chance of filling out Sanders' roles. 

If anything, Gamecock nation needs to remember how much Sanders did for the program, and wish him well.  He may have changed his mind at the last minute, but he has been a good player and good citizen for a team that could not have won some games this year without him. 

Good luck, Ace. 

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