Over the past few months much ado has been made about the newcomers to Lexington. Much attention has been put on Freshman like Ryan Timmons and Jason Hatcher and their potential year one impact. JUCO guys like Nate Willis, Javess Blue, and Za’darius Smith seem ready to play SEC football while providing help to the returning talent. However that returning talent has been somewhat lost in the shuffle. Yet don’t be surprised if those guys with all the experience are the ones making the big plays, especially someone like Raymond Sanders.
With Josh Clemons sidelined once again it will be on Raymond Sanders to be the anchor of the running back attack. He’s already in the 1000 yard club and as a senior will be called upon to be a leader for this young team. Lucky for the Cats that’s a role Sanders thrives in. Raymond spoke with the Cat Scratches blog about his position as leader:
In a normal system, the onus would be on Sanders to serve as a steady, veteran presence in fall camp. In Neal Brown’s Air Raid, running back becomes even more important.
Sanders and his fellow backs are called upon to work with the offensive line to call out protections, a responsibility that normally falls solely on the shoulders of the quarterback and center.
“We just have to be loud out there and make sure that with the different protections we remember how Coach (Brown) wants it done,” Sanders said. “Even if we’re making the wrong call, we have to make sure that we’re communicating with the line to make sure that we’re on the same page.”
Sanders was a quick study in the new offense during the spring, but is now even more comfortable with his expanded responsibilities. Not only that, Sanders has transformed his physique in the winter, spring and summer before his final college season.
“I think he has it all,” running backs coach Chad Scott said in March. “I think he’s really the total package. I think he’s done a great job taking care of his body to put himself in position to be as good as we need him to be.”
As demanding as the practices may be, they have served as an immersion of sorts for UK’s less experienced runners.
“They’re catching on, they’re getting it down pat and they’re studying in the film room,” Sanders said. “And they’re also asking questions, which is helping us. Once you see that they know they made a mistake, you know that they’re gradually understanding what they’re doing.”
One thing that has been easy to pick up on since Stoops’ arrival in Lexington is the sense of camaraderie amongst the players that just hasn’t been present in years past. They guys sounded like a team before but now they sound like they are all unified together towards a common goal. Sanders has been a solid playmaker during the three years he’s spent in Lexington and will no lead a solid group of young backs into the Air Raid. Don’t be surprised to see the senior have a big year and help lead young guys like Jojo Kemp down the path to being a big time SEC player