The dice continue to roll in Lexington with Mark Stoops and his staff picking up their 10th member in the class of 2020. The wide receiver position was a main focus for the football program this weekend with three prospects at that position taking their official visits. The Wildcats got a verbal from Jordan Watkins on Saturday evening and now they will add Earnest Sanders to the class.
Sanders will be the second Michigan pledge in this recruiting cycle joining consensus top-50 prospect Justin Rogers thanks to the recruiting work of corners coach Steve Clinkscale. The man they call Coach Clink is slowly becoming the staff’s second most valuable recruiter behind Vince Marrow and in Sanders the Wildcats are adding a high-three star recruit who had a ton of Power Five interest.
It’s time to step into the film room to breakdown Earnest Sanders’ game. In addition to being a football recruit, Sanders also has the ability to play basketball at the D-I level. He has some great athleticism and has shown some solid route running potential. He will be an outside receiver at Kentucky who will play the position at over 20o pounds.
One of the staples of the Eddie Gran offense has been teeing up deep shots after hammering opposing defenses with the running game and some quick passes. In 2016, Stephen Johnson made a bunch of big throws with the deep post and in the spring game we saw Terry Wilson make some big league throws on that same route. When you watch Earnest Sanders, it’s clear that this route is one of the best parts of his game.
The receiver is a long strider who gets to the top of his route very quickly. He makes a sharp plant step to get inside and that creates separation between the corner and the safety he ran by. He makes the big catch that results in six. This is exactly what Kentucky likes to do and Sanders fits that mold.
Speaking of those short routes to help setup the deep shot, Sanders is also a very effective receiver in the quick game. The Michigan native provides a big target to his quarterback and some impressive run after the catch ability to convert a fourth-and-short into a touchdown.
Sanders shows a little bit of wiggle to make the first two defenders miss on top of the balance to recover after reeling in the high pass. Those are nice, but the acceleration that the wideout shows is what you should be excited about. He takes off down the sideline and blitzes by the safety. The long strider can hit a high speed once he gets a few steps to pickup steam.
The deep balls are nice and the quick game is an easy way to pick up receptions, but at the end of the day a true outside receiver is going to be judged on what they do over the middle of the field. To move the chains and take advantage of the gaps in zone coverage, you need your outside guys to go across the middle and make some plays in traffic. There’s no doubt that Earnest Sanders is comfortable doing that.
On the slant he shows his numbers and makes a solid reception in between a couple of defenders. He then gets upfield and fights through a face mask grab to get to paydirt. Beecher High School asks for Sanders to go across the middle on slants and crossing routes very often and he is comfortable with making grabs in traffic. He will be asked to do the same in college.
At The Opening this spring, Sanders was clocked at 4.72 in the forty-yard dash and is listed at just six-foot tall. That’s a surprise when watching his tape. The Flint, Michigan native plays much bigger and faster than that. He appears to have a very long wingspan to give him a very large catch radius and shows plenty of acceleration to make big time plays in open space.
At the high school level, Sanders is asked to do a lot. Beecher uses him in the wildcat formation, on reverses, constantly puts him in motion, and to do just about everything for them on offense. In addition to that, he plays safety on defense and has the ability to play that in college on top of his basketball skills on the hardwood.
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The receiver has been wanted by a ton of schools on the recruiting trail. Offensive gurus Neal Brown, Jeff Brohm and Mike Leach each wanted him in their offense. Big Ten powers Michigan State and Penn State have been in hot pursuit. This is another solid recruiting win for Kentucky. Earnest Sanders is a straight up football player who will find his way onto the field. Of all the tapes I have evaluated this spring, this one was the best I’ve seen in the 2020 class. Sanders has a ton of tools and is the exact type of player UK has struggled to attract. A playmaking outside receiver who can effect the passing game at all three levels. Give props to Steve Clinkscale for continuing to do damage in Michigan, but there are still some more big fish in that state remaining on Kentucky’s recruiting board.