Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

College Sports

August 29, 2010

Jock Sanders seeking to get better

MORGANTOWN — Jock Sanders caught 72 passes in 2009, and 53 in ‘08. Fifty-five more and the West Virginia senior will have snagged more passes than any receiver in school history.

That mark isn’t on even Sanders’ radar.

“It means nothing as of right now, I haven’t played a single game yet,” said Sanders, following the ‘Eers’ third day of fall drills on Aug. 9. “I am not focused on that, I am trying to get through camp and just get better each and every day.”

He’s been doing that for four years. Having decided against turning pro after last season, Sanders has one last year to play for West Virginia, and he is excited about the prospects ahead.

“We’re on the course to have a good season,” Sanders said. “We can either have a great season or we can just have a good season, it is all up to us and how we pull together.”

West Virginia will get some idea where they’re at next Saturday when the Mountain-eers open the season against FCS foe Coastal Carolina at Milan-Puskar Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 3:30 p.m.

In comments earlier this week, Sanders said the preparation has begun. The Chanticleers, a Big South Conference school located in Myrtle Beach, S.C., finished 6-6 last season.

“I’m feeling good and I’m happy with camp being over,” said Sanders to MSNsports.net. “I can’t wait for everyone to get at it.

“We practice with the same intensity, but now it’s just more game planning for your opponents. We’ve started watching film like crazy already and game planning.”

There is little doubt Sanders will be in those plans. The St. Petersburg, Fla., product has had a significant impact for the Mountaineers, catching 137 passes over the last three seasons, averaging 9.1 yards per catch, while scoring 10 touchdowns.

He needs 55 catches to pass David Saunders on the all-time reception list, a mark set from 1995-98. His 72 receptions last season were the fourth most in a season for the Mountaineers, and his 12 catches against Auburn last year tied a mark for most catches in a game.

Yet, Sanders isn’t worried about stats. He just wants wins, and feels like the Mountaineers have the weapons on offense to put stats .. and wins.

It will start with sophomore quarterback Geno Smith, who becomes West Virginia’s third signal-caller in three seasons. While Smith had been hampered by a broken foot suffered last January, Sanders said the talented Floridian will be ready to go.

Not only can Smith throw, but he’s also dangerous with his feet, as long as those feet are healthy. Smith has said he is 100 percent, and Sanders sees no reason to doubt him.

“He is ready, there is no doubt in my mind, he is ready,” said the 5-foot-7, 179-pound Sanders, who makes up for his small size with speed and quickness. “He is just trying to read his right reads.

“In each and every defense, the defense doesn’t account for the quarterback so that is easy yardage for us when things break down at our receiving corps and he can run. Just him being able to do those things, that can help our offense a lot.”

What an offense it can be. West Virginia has the potential to be explosive, and it starts with senior tailback Noel Devine, who has recorded 3,381 yards and 23 touchdowns in three seasons, including 1,465 yards and 13 scores in 2009.

Devine is on the watch list for a pair of national honors, including the Maxwell and Walter Camp awards. Sanders thinks he’s deserving, but knows the Mountaineers must do their part to help him win either or both of those.

“He is a key player on our offense, without him it probably won’t move as crisp as it should move without him,” Sanders said. “Just him getting that honor, that is a big deal, but the team has to move forward and win big games.

“We have to win games for him to be thought about for that award.”

Sanders, who also on a watch list for the Paul Hornung Award — which goes to the country’s most versatile player — is excited about a wide receiver corps that will also include Bradley Starks, promising Tavon Austin, Coley White, J.D. Woods and Stedman Bailey.

He calls it the most depth the Mountaineers have had at the position since he arrived in 2007.

“We have got a lot of young guys, and it’s good just knowing they can come in and we don’t skip a beat, we stay on course,” Sanders said. “It is hard to say right now, but each and every practice we are getting on track to have that same beat, even when the veterans come out...

“It is good to just see those young cats out there just enjoying themselves and competing at a high level.”

It’s not just Devine, Sanders and the receivers. Smith will also have talented tight ends Tyler Urban and Will Johnson on his side, along with fullback Ryan Clarke and four returning starters on the offensive line.

If there is a question, it would be the Smith’s backup, which will come down to a pair of true freshmen, Barry Brunetti and Jeremy Johnson, who impressed Sanders early with their desire to learn their craft.

“They’re looking pretty good, learning each and every day,” Sanders said. “They make freshman mistakes, but I see in those guys at least they want to learn and each and every day they want to get better.

“They’re down on themselves when they make a bad play, but I know they are learning each and every day.”

 Sanders has been doing the same, working on learning the tendencies of Coastal Carolina, which the ‘Eers will open with Saturday. He knows the Mountaineers have many options when they take the field.

“It’s a run and pass each time. Geno has been so smart because he’s been able to get to the line of scrimmage and check off when the overhang or linebacker is there, then check it into the second play,”  Sanders said. “He’s been in the film room like crazy, as much as the coaches, and that’s given him the ability to do that two-play call system.”

That desire to learn and get better is how players at this level maintain their edge. Or their jobs, if Sanders is to be believed.

“We have a lot of guys that are hungry, everybody on the same level,” said Sanders, early in camp. “I think everybody came into this camp just knowing that nobody had a spot.

“I came into this camp saying, ‘I am not sure of my spot’ so I am working each and every day hard. I am going to try and give 110 percent every day I am out there.”

—Contact Brian Woodson

at bwoodson@bdtonline.com

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