The consensus opinion amongst players is the presence of a renewed energy with the players. Sanford sees that and is ready to exit with a bowl berth and winning season.
"With Coach O, some people liked him, and some people didn't," Sanford said of the old regime. "Now, everybody has bought in. We are excited, and it is just a matter of working hard. You want to give your all for Coach Nutt and his staff. We know they can lead us where we want to go."
After suffering through three straight losing seasons, Sanford felt the team needed to gain continuity during the offseason. Thanks to the new staff's attitude, that objective has been realized. Everyone is on the same page, and the team is all the better for it.
"We had a great summer with everybody showing up to work out and working hard," the Batesville native said. "We came together as a team, pushing each other. We leaned on each other, and we are ready to go to war.
In the offseason, Sanford received the prestigious Chucky Mullins Courage Award. The honor highlights a defensive player, thrusting them directly into the spotlight.
Sanford prided himself a leader beforehand, but the award has solidified his status. The fourth-year defensive back must take charge in 2008.
"I have always talked a lot of smack, having fun and jumping around. You have to lead by example and not just talk about it. I need to be the one that does it.
Sanford will be in charge of heading up a group that consists of experience and inexperience. An influx of newcomers and mixture of upperclassmen make for a position that will be interesting to watch as camp progresses.
Sophomore Johnny Brown has been slowed by a hamstring injury, but the unit has stayed energized in his absence. All the names aren't yet commonplace, but Sanford feels comfortable with the athletes around him.
"The freshmen in the secondary look good, and then we have me and Johnny Brown and Kendrick (Lewis), Terrell Jackson, we have a lot of safeties that can come out and play. Our depth is ok at safety. I feel good about it.
"We need to be big on ball skills, it is all about ball skills this year."
Those are the instructions of the new staff, and Sanford has fully taken hold of the new system. Believing in the new bosses took a short amount of time. And the learning curve isn't terribly broad for his position.
Previous system mechanics can be translated to the new style and philosophy.
"It is different scheme wise, but a lot of the stuff, the names are changed," Sanford said. "In the old program, it is the same thing, but it is called something different. It is just going out and playing ball. I adapted things from one program to the other under different names. You can understand our system. It is just a matter of executing."
The drive to be perfect comes from multiple locations. Sanford is excited about the possibility of winning during his final season, and also, he wants the new staff to get off on the right foot.
His position coach, Kim Dameron, has worked hard to remove the mentality of pessimism, and the switch appears to have worked. Although Sanford has experienced just three SEC wins, confidence is not a problem with the season approaching quickly – for the unit and the team.
"I love him (Dameron), and he is a great coach. I believe in him. He is a smart guy and has us all communicating really well. I know he is the right guy for us to succeed. He can bring the best out of the entire unit."
Sanford Set for Final Season
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