Player Profile: Stephon Sanders

Scott profiles SMU outside linebacker Stephon Sanders, who is the leader of the linebackers with Randall Joyner's departure.

Stephon Sanders Player Profile

Position: Outside Linebacker

Size: 6-3, 250

Year: Senior

High School: Mesquite

Hometown: Mesquite, Texas

Recruitment: Sanders, a three-sport athlete, was just a three-star coming out of high school, but the linebacker was highly sought after and held offers from Arkansas, Iowa State, Virginia, Vanderbilt, Duke and Houston among others. Sanders Ranked No. 64 on the Dallas Morning News' Area Top 100 list while Registering 77 tackles (53 solo), 11 tackles for loss and four sacks during his senior season.

2013 Review: Since arriving on the Hilltop in 2011, Sanders has been a huge part of SMU’s defense, but the linebacker truly came into his own in 2013, racking up 86 total tackles (third on the team), 13.5 tackles for loss (first on the team) and 3.5 sacks.

On a defense that gave up 33.3 points per game, Sanders, despite his pass rushing struggles, was one of the few bright spots. The 250-pound rising senior was great when it came to stopping the run, but struggled some when dropping into coverage. Sanders did however show some glimpses of progress in his coverage ability last season, including a pick-six against UConn.

Personally and statistically, Sanders had a very productive season, but he is just one player. SMU’s defense as a whole struggled mightily.

Grade: B+

2014 Outlook: Now a senior and headed into his third season as a starter, Sanders will be the main leader on an SMU defense that needs to take big strides in 2014. The linebacker should know SMU’s defense like the back of his hand now and should be motivated to improve on a 5-7 campaign in his final season on the hilltop.

Despite losing Randall Joyner, SMU’s front seven will still return six starters, which should take some of the workload off of Sanders. And with Rice senior transfer Cameron Nwosu likely starting on the inside, the Mustangs will have a tone of experience to fall back on.

Sanders should have no problem defending the run, but the development of his pass rushing ability will elevate his game from good to great.

Sanders is going to get his tackles no matter what, but if Sanders can become the play maker most think he can be on third down, SMU’s defense will benefit in a big way.

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