'I want to be great'

Vince Sanders has a message for his teammates. He doesn't just want to be one of the guys when it comes to playing wide receiver for the Ole Miss Rebels.

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"I love my teammates, but I want to be the best receiver out of all of them," said the 6-foot-1, 190-pound redshirt-freshman. "I want to make All-SEC and be great. That's what Coach (Houston) Nutt and Coach (Gunter) Brewer and all the other coaches preach every day, that it's about being great. So I just want to be great."

There wasn't a bit of big-headedness when he spoke those words, either. Not any haughtiness, nor arrogance.

He was simply telling like it is from, well, the viewpoint of Vince Sanders.

"Vince had a great summer with the strength coaches," said first-year receivers Coach Brewer. "He put on weight. He wanted to develop his body. He looks good physically. He can run. He has the tools. He seems to be catching the ball well. Vince is trying to make an effort to do some special things."

Vincent Sanders
Chuck Rounsaville

Sanders has been making that effort for a year now. Sitting out last season wasn't always easy. To practice and not play never is for players so competitive and so talented to be able to play college football at its highest level.

The Noxubee County High School product said, looking back, it was all OK.

"My redshirt year was a real important year for me," said Sanders, who caught four passes for 96 yards in this spring's Grove Bowl. "I feel like it helped me out in every way it could have. Coming in I was like 176 (pounds) after I broke my jaw in high school and lost a lot of weight. By redshirting it gave me time to get my weight back up.

"It also gave me time to focus on my game. Coming out of high school, I was faster than a lot of cornerbacks. I didn't have to do too much off the line. By me going against the first team every day in practice (last season at Ole Miss), it really helped me out a lot. So my redshirt helped me out, and now I'm glad that I did."

Sanders, named the No. 1 player in Mississippi as a senior in high school by SuperPrep, had always been a player, always been one that took the field ready for action, to help his team win. Then last season he found out what sitting in the stands was like.

"During the week of practice, I didn't think about it," he said of not being in on game action all season during the Rebels' dismal 4-8 campaign. "But on Saturdays, that's when it would hit me. I wasn't out there playing, and I'm not used to not playing. So it was tough, but at the same time, I'm still glad I did.

"I dressed out the first game (the loss to Jacksonville State). But I really didn't want to do that," Sanders continued. "Being on the sideline, I might have run out there on the field. (The rest of the 2010 season) I sat in the stands and watched with the fans."

Sanders was not born to be a fan. At least not now. Not yet. He is a football player, born on Jan. 1, 1991, the day Ole Miss lost to Michigan in the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville.

He's ready to play again, and Sept. 3 can't get here soon enough. The Rebels host BYU in the opener, and Sanders, even though a redshirt freshman, wants to lead.

"I can be a leader, because I know what they're going through right now," he said of the talented group of newcomers to the receiving corps. "There will be some days where they go out and have a great practice, catch every ball, carry out every assignment. Then there will be some days where they drop everything, but you've gotta keep your head up. Last year for me, there were some days I had a great day and some days I had a bad day. I let myself get down some.

"That's why I'm here, to tell them to keep their heads up. It's not the end of the world. If you drop a pass, that play's over with. Move on to the next one. Keep your head up and stay confident."

Vincent Sanders
Chuck Rounsaville

With a limited number of players back, the receivers as a whole could be considered a question mark. But there is no denying the talent level that is there, much of it young. Sanders says watch out for this group.

"I feel good about the wide receivers corps," Sanders said. "I think we're going to be a lot better than everybody is expecting. Ja-mes (Logan) and Melvin (Harris) played last year. Everybody else is pretty much young. But if everybody has confidence in themselves, we can do great things. They know what they can do. They know they can catch the ball. I feel like they're very confident.

"We've got a great coach in Coach Brewer. He coached Randy Moss, Dez Bryant, Justin Blackmon. He's got a good list. So I think the wide receivers are in the best position they could be in right now."

Sanders said even though the quarterback situation remains up in the air as to a starter, he's happy with any of them.

"Last year me and (Randall) Mackey spent a lot of time together on scout team. So we've got a good connection. (Barry) Brunetti, this is his first year, but we had a good spring game. And (Zack) Stoudt, he's calm and collected out there. So I feel great about all of them. People ask me who is starting. My answer is any one of them can start to me, because I'm comfortable with all of them."

Sanders, of Macon, said playing in his homestate is important to him. He's hopeful of being a part of a championship team while in Oxford.

But he isn't looking down the schedule to the last one, against Mississippi State, as some fans and media have done. He said there is much work to be done before then.

"One of the main reasons I picked Ole Miss was to stay in state," he said. "But right now, all the focus is on BYU."

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