Craig Sanders, the 6-foot-4, 235-pound four-star defensive end from Ariton, Ala., finished his junior season with 71 tackles, 32 tackles for loss, 12 sacks and five blocked kicks. He even rushed the ball for 1,057 yards and 16 touchdowns, although he’s primarily being recruited for defense.
“I have great speed,” Sanders said. “I also have a real good bull rush and just go hard. I try and go as hard as I can on every play.
“But I’m still working on my technique,” he said. “I want to improve my moves…my swim, strip…all of them.”
Sanders says he now has offers from Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, LSU, Stanford, Vanderbilt, Clemson, Tennessee and Georgia.
Although he emphasizes he’s still pretty open, Sanders says his top three are Alabama, Florida and Auburn. “They’ve been recruiting me the most,” he said. “Those are the ones I’ve gotten to know the best.”
While all three may be recruiting him hard, he says that the Crimson Tide are recruiting him the hardest. “They’ve been to my school a lot,” he said. “They’ve always got some coaches at my high school.”
The Tide were Sanders’ first offer last May and he says he’s been to several games in Tuscaloosa. “I really like it there,” he said. “The atmosphere is great. It’s electric.
“I also love their coaches,” he said. “I knew that coach Nick Saban would turn them around and I wasn’t surprised by how well they did last year at all. I knew it. They’ll be getting even better.”
“He’s a great coach and is recruiting really well,” he said. “He’s all about business. But he’s still a good guy.
The Tide will have to battle in-state rival Auburn for Sanders’ services. Although the Tigers are only one and half hours away, Sanders says he’s only been to a few Auburn games and admits he doesn’t know too much about them yet. “They really only started recruiting me like three weeks ago.”
He attended the Tiger Junior Day yesterday (March 7). “I like the atmosphere there,” said Sanders, who visited the Auburn campus with his mom and stayed for about four hours. “There were about 80 recruits there, it seemed. It was good. We met all the coaches and walked around the campus. They showed us all the stuff. Tracy Rocker (defensive line) is my favorite coach there. He’s a real nice guy.
“We had a meeting with (DE) Antonio Coleman and (WR) Mario Fannin,” he said. “They just said it felt like home to them. Talking with the players was the highlight for me but the visit didn’t change anything. My favorites are still about the same.”
Another school that Sanders says has “electric” atmosphere is Florida. “The Swamp is an incredible place to play,” he said. “That would be so much fun. I love how loud it gets, plus the weather is always great.
“I also got along really well with their coaches,” he said. “Coach Urban Meyer is a great guy and really down-to-earth.”
Sanders says another highlight of going to a Florida game was meeting Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Tim Tebow. “I can say I got to meet him,” he said. “But it was real quick. He had a ton of people waiting for autographs and interviews, so it’s not like we got to talk or anything.”
While Alabama, Florida and Auburn are Sanders’ favorites for now, he plans on taking several unofficial visits over the summer, including a trip to Stanford.
“I’d love to go and visit them,” Sanders said. “I’ve heard some really good things about Stanford and I’ve never been to California, so that would be fun. My parents and I are talking about going out there. I’m not sure yet.”
The other thing that has piqued Sanders’ interest in the Cardinal is that they want him for both offense (tight end) and defense. “They pretty much told me they’d let me try both,” he said. “They like me on offense too and they’re really the only school right now that’s saying that.”
Besides attending Auburn’s Junior Day, Sanders doesn’t have any other combines or camps planned yet, but says he’d like to make a few others.
He also says that he’d like to commit early, which means he could be very busy during the spring and summer. “I’d like to commit by August,” Sanders said. “Hopefully I’ll be able to see enough schools by then. If not, then I’ll probably wait until December.”
Sanders admits he’s doesn’t really know enough about the other schools to form any solid judgments yet, plus he’s still getting more and more offers. “Georgia just offered me on Thursday,” he said. “So that’s another school I need to check out and learn more about.”
As a kid Sanders grew up following Troy, but he admits it was only a proximity infatuation. “They were only 30 minutes away,” he said. “So we’d go to a lot of their games and I’d follow them.”
He says he can bench 350-pounds, squat 500 and claims a 33-inch vertical jump.
Sanders says he’d like to major in criminal justice and reports a 3.6 core GPA and a 19 ACT, which he plans on retaking.