Raven Saunders has put recruiting behind him and that has enabled the Palm Beach Gardens (FL) Dwyer linebacker to focus all his attention on his senior season. He believes that's paying off in the form of the best season he's had.
"We're looking good right now. We had a loss in the Kickoff Classic but we bounced back from that pretty good. I've been playing well. I've had a couple of good sacks. I'm stopping the run. I'm covering man to man a little bit. Doing a little bit of everything. I'm getting off blocks and I'm most definitely pass rushing."
Saunders (6-1) was a wanted recruit before he committed to NC State and well before his improvements this season. He had offers from North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Kentucky, Indiana, Florida Atlantic and Temple among other schools. Now he says he's up to 221 pounds which is the highest playing weight he has been at. He does not seem to be sacrificing any speed for that size either.
One of the things NC State's coaches like about Saunders is the way he can play all the linebacker positions.
"I'm playing a lot of different spots. I'm playing strong outside backer. Some weak outside backer. I'm playing Mike as the middle backer. Wherever they want me to play I'll play. I feel comfortable everywhere on the field but I think I like playing outside backer a little bit. I get to come off the edge. I get to stop the run. I get to play man to man coverage and do a little bit of everything."
Before each of Dwyer's games Saunders gets a message from one or more coaches at NC State wishing him good luck. After each game he gets another message with words of support and encouragement or congratulations.
That's one of the most effective ways the State coaches have stayed in contact with Saunders. He said it has shown him they are paying attention to his movements and what's happening on the field. In turn Saunders has paid close attention to how the Pack is playing.
"I watched the first two games and so I did watch them against East Carolina the other day. I thought they looked very explosive. I saw Shawn Boone out there and he's from my same school. He looked very explosive. He competed. They all competed. I liked what I saw from them."
Saunders said some other schools continued to try to recruit him in the days after his commitment to NC State. Over time he told those coaches that he is 'locked in' with NC State and now they only reach out to him every once in awhile.
Saunders says he thinks he will soon have his official visit to NC State on the calendar. He has been planning to enroll a semester early in January but that is not formally decided either.