Commentary | Ace Sanders should be one of the prize catches at the NFL Combine

adell@bradenton.comFebruary 20, 2013 

Don't expect Ace Sanders to break any stopwatches at this weekend's NFL Scouting Combine.

It's doubtful he'll approach the numbers Fabian Washington put up in 2005, when he ran the 40-yard dash in a blistering 4.29 seconds.

But scouts are saying never mind. Sanders is a hot commodity a lot of teams covet and at worst he'll go in the third round.

The best way to evaluate Sanders, the former Manatee High and University of South Carolina star, is to put 11 defenders on the field and watch him maneuver his way past them. It's why he was the nation's best punt returner last year and is a solid slot receiver.

The only negative you could find on his resumé is his 5-foot-8 frame, but, as Wes Welker and others have shown, height can be overrated, even at receiver. It's why Tom Brady is lobbying so hard for the Pats to keep his diminutive pass catcher.

Sanders is a shifty guy who can make people miss. He is quick out of his cuts and has surprising strength for a 175-pounder. He is more athletic and quicker than Welker and let's not forget his punt return ability. He is very strong on his comeback routes and rarely drops a pass.

Versatility is what makes Sanders a precious commodity. He is a jack-of-all-trades, a la Percy Harvin.

The Redskins have a particularly strong desire to acquire his services, especially with Santana Moss getting up there in age.

Washington did not return a punt for a touchdown last season and had only one return of 40-plus yards, despite leading the league with fewest fair catches (seven). The Redskins were tied for fourth with four fumbles and tied for 17th in punt return average (9.3).

Sanders led the mighty SEC with a 15.32-yard punt return average and was 20th in total receiving yards. He fumbled one punt in 53 attempts during his career.

The five bottom-ranked teams in punt return average last year were the Jacksonville Jaguars, Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants, St. Louis Rams and Oakland Raiders, which selected Bayshore's Fabian Washington in the first round of the '05 draft.

Bullish on USF

USF head coach Willie Taggart wasn't joking when he said there was more to come for his 2013 class after National Signing Day. The Bulls have since added Lakeland Gibson's Kennard Swanson, rated the nation's number two fullback by Rivals.Com.

Swanson was recruited by Palmetto's Ray Woodie, who was the Sun Belt Conference recruiter of the year when he was at Western Kentucky with Taggart. He has been chosen one of the top 10 recruiters in the Big East by Rivals.com.

"The Bulls should be very thankful Woodie was recruiting for them," Rivals wrote.

Woodie was credited for bringing in nine recruits, including Manatee High's four-star defensive lineman Derrick Calloway and Booker defensive end Erick Mayes.

The door is still open on the '13 class, and Taggart could add a prize this summer. One thing we know for sure is that the quarterback position for USF is wide open and might not be decided until the season opener.

Wright or wrong?

Need a good laugh? Check out Eric Wright's website: http://www.ericwright21.com/news/eric-returns-hopes-face-atlanta.

It's hysterical; don't know whether the defensive back is auditioning for a spot on Jay Leno's show or trying to see if he can pull the wool over an entire city.

Wright is trying to change the mind of the Tampa Bay Bucs' management, which figures to ship the troubled cornerback out of town at the most opportune time.

In what appears to be a delusional diatribe, Wright cannot separate fact from fiction and continues to portray himself as a victim instead of taking responsibility for his failed drug test, which got him a four-game suspension last season.

Wright continues to say he mistakenly took Adderall for health issues, without explaining those health issues or why he did not get a doctor's prescription or how he is medically qualified to know Adderall would cure his ailments.

He says being away from his teammates was hard during the suspension, but doesn't explain his tweet during one of the Bucs games when he noted how he was chilling in a spa with his lady.

Wright lauds Bucs head coach Greg Schiano and notes how the team struggled without him. We should all be concerned that this young man has crossed the boundary of common sense or is perhaps caught up in his own web of deception.

Sanction thyself

Critics have long held the opinion that the NCAA will ultimately destroy itself through its arrogance and unwieldy power. Their prediction gained quite a bit of credibility recently, though the organization that has an operating budget of more than $800,000 and is far from insolvent.

The NCAA's unethical conduct in its investigation of the University of Miami resulted in the firing of the organization's vice president of enforcement. It comes on the heels of the resignation of the NCAA's director of enforcement, Bill Benjamin, after less than eight months in the position. Last year, two investigators were fired and a third resigned.

Lack of institutional control seems to be running through the ivory fortress of NCAA Executive Director Mark Emmert.

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7080, ext. 2112. Follow him on Twitter at @ADellSports.

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