Next Wednesday is college football's National Signing Day, a huge event for fans in Bulldog Nation. Between now and then Dawg Sports will be profiling every single player in Georgia's 2014 signing class. So far we've profiled walk on kickers, athletic tight ends, hybrid linebacker/defensive ends, and road-grading offensive linemen. Now we move to an area where the Bulldogs desperately need to find football players, the secondary.
'Tis the season for those late scholarship offers. The ones who very few saw coming. College football coaches are criss-crossing the country in this final, frantic run up to National Signing Day, like last minute Christmas shoppers with a list of items that they hope are still in stock. Only instead of a cool toy for Timmy or a shiny bauble for Mom they're looking for another will linebacker. The sad fact is that some of these last minute items (or as they call them at Auburn, "purchases") are going to go over like an LCD-equipped combo toaster/shower radio. Others are going to be a huge hit. And it's going to be a while before we know which is which.
One of those players who received a last minute offer from the Georgia Bulldogs was Tucker High safety/corner/kick returner/receiver/tailback Dominick Sanders. Sanders was previously committed to Central Florida (which only offered on January 18th) but decided to take some visits, including one to Auburn last weekend. Depending on who you ask this either opened his eyes to the full array of options out there (causing him to decommit) or caused UCF and George O'Leary to pull his scholarship offer. No matter what the case, his only SEC offer had been from Arkansas until the Bulldogs stepped up with one earlier this week and Sanders quickly accepted it.
Occam's razor being what it is, there's usually a logical reason why a guy like Dominick Sanders doesn't get an offer until the last possible moment. And there are some nits to be picked with Sanders. One is his size. At 5'11, 180 pounds he's not really ideally sized for a safety. Evaluated as a cornerback, his top end speed is good, but not necessarily elite. And he's not the most fluid guy in coverage.
That being said, Sanders has some real upside, too. One of the things I really like about Sanders is that he catches the ball with his hands, both on offense and defense. I also like that Sanders does a great job of "high pointing" the ball, that is, getting to the ball when it's just coming down rather than waiting for it to fall into his hands. Doing this allows Sanders to make up for his height which is okay for an SEC corner but certainly not ideal for an SEC safety.
Sanders's senior Hudl highlight video features him returning kicks, and pretty effectively. However, I'm not sure whether he'll do that in Athens. If he does, I'm hoping that he's taught to attack the ball and get upfield quickly rather than dancing around, giving up ground as he goes. That won't work against faster, more disciplined SEC kick coverage teams.
Sanders is most effective at this point as a free safety, and might see time at the nickel in college. With his hands and moves after the catch, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Sanders move over to slot receiver if depth concerns make it necessary. That's another common theme with guys offered this late in the process. They're usually players who offer a lot of versatility, so that the gamble on them is more likely to pay off in some way.
There's another aspect of Dominick Sanders's recruitment that I would be remiss to ignore. Yes, he is the younger brother of Chris Sanders, the Bulldog signee with a great deal of potential who was dismissed from the team along with Nick Marshall and Sanford Seay for their respective parts in a dorm room theft incident. No, that doesn't concern me. After being dismissed from both Georgia and GMC, the elder Sanders brother is now set to sign with Baylor, and seems to have gained some perspective on his past mistakes. I believe he'll make sure his younger brother doesn't repeat them.
So, do I expect Dominick Sanders to start from day one at safety in Athens? No. Do I expect him to become a first round NFL draft pick? Not really. But if he uses his solid instincts and good ball skills to become a solid contributor on either offense or defense, the late offer to him will have been worth it. Until later . . .