Size: 6-3, 230
High School: Mesquite Horn (TX)
2011 Review: Out of high school, Sanders was regarded as one of the top defensive ends across the country. Rated as a three-star prospect, Sanders held offers from major conferences such as the SEC, ACC, Big 12 as well as the C-USA.
As a true freshman, Sanders saw a considerable amount of playing time for the Mustangs after converting from defensive end to a 3-4 outside linebacker. As the season progressed Sanders began to get a great feel for the position and added some big plays on defense including two pass breakups against Rice and a diving interception against Pittsburgh in the bowl game.
In week nine against Tulsa, Sanders got his first opportunity to start as the strong side linebacker in place of injured Victor Jones on the Mustang defense and contributed right away with five tackles and a sack. Sanders proceeded to start every game after that.
2011 Grade: B+
2012 Outlook: Sanders is one of five projected starters on the defense that isn't classified as a senior, and he will line up as the youngest starting linebacker. After showing promise last year, Sanders must use the upcoming month of practice to continue to learn the responsibilities of a linebacker in Coach Tom Mason's scheme.
Fortunately, he will play next to seniors Cameron Rogers and Ja'Gared Davis as well as stud Taylor Reed. These three have made linebacker one of the more dynamic position groups on the team and could prove to be the best in the conference. They will continue to pour wisdom and encouragement into their young teammate and that will go a long way.
Sanders has the size and athleticism to match up well with opposing tight ends and running backs. As he continues to familiarize himself with the position, coverage might prove to be the area that is most crucial in his development while rushing the passer is more instinctive and natural already.
The upside for Sanders is not by any stretch limited, and he could end the season as one of the most productive young talents on the team. He has earned his starting role, now he must continue to get better. He could be a big sleeper for the Mustangs in 2012.
Player Profile Series: LB Stephon Sanders
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